Being spat at can be humiliating. Being spat at in the face can be terrifying. Humiliating and terrifying in the moment where you are unsure of yourself.
It was like any other morning in the office – checking emails, getting ready for the day, conducting interviews. My first candidate showed up early. A white male in his 30s. His name was Oscar.
Oscar carried with him a binder of at least 30 certificates, which he had collected between 2014 and 2015, all from the same San Diego University which he attended online. He was also on a path to get his Masters. His certificates ranged from project management, to programming, leadership, accounting and teaching. My question to him was “Why the variety? What was his goal in career?”
It did not take long to feel the tension in the room. Had I offended Oscar with the question? I really was not sure, but he abruptly muttered “Just leave”. Unsure with his responses, I changed the subject to his experience teaching in China, and with that I had mistakenly pulled the trigger point.
He was very unhappy. He was angry with the way the Chinese were a “communist”. How he felt it was a country that treated outsiders with hostility. Noticing that he was spilling his feelings to the CEO, a small petite Asian lady, he stopped his rant and demanded to know if I was from China. I calmly told him I was not, and he goes on to question if I was Philippines, to which I responded, I’m Burmese.
Out of the blue, I felt the wetness of his saliva hit my face. I was stunned. I saw the saliva all over the table, but most of it was running down my left cheek and glasses. My hair, hands and blazers also streaked with the goo.
I was left in complete shock. What did I do wrong? This felt very personal. By the time I snapped out of my daze, Oscar was gone. All that was left of the encounter was the chair that he toppled as he rushed out.
My administrator urged me to call the local police. I very reluctantly did so. A Jasmine from the station picked up the call. She asked me what happened, to which I did my very best to explain.
“Did he get violent and hit you?” she asked.
“No” I replied. I was feeling stupid for even calling.
She goes on to explain that being spat at was not considered assault and that he was just a very rude person. And with that nothing was ever documented and my encounter became non-existent.
This morning was humiliating and terrifying. It took a few hours for me to recover, to not doubt or question myself.
Oscar was the one with the issue, not me.
Oscar was the one that felt threatened and insecure, not me.
Oscar was the one that stepped out of line, not me.