My one encounter with authentic gypsies (Romani) was in a convenience store in Tuscaloosa, back when Melanie Jane and I were both students at UA. Whenever I finished teaching a writing class, and was walking back to our apartment on Reid Street, I would stop by this hole in the wall store named Charles and Company, and would stop and buy us a treat–a bag of M&Ms. The checkout guy got so used to me buying the same thing everyday that he would have it rung up on the register before I even got there.
This particular day was challenging. By the time I got to the M&Ms department, the tiny store was full of women–Gypsy women. I guessed there were about twenty of them, and the leader of the group was a strikingly attractive young Romani woman, who was all up in the cashier’s face, waving dollar bills in the air and yelling “Marlboro! Marlboro! Marlboro!” That was enough to distract any young man. By the time the guy was finally able to find the sufficient packs of Marlboros to satisfy her, the other ladies had walked off with a decent percentage of the inventory. When I got to the checkout, I thought the dude was going to cry.
As per usual for a Graduate student, I had just enough cash to pay for the M&Ms. I was still wondering how to relay this info to MJ, when I got to our third floor apartment. Our radio was tuned to a local station that was appropriately crappy for a college town, and as soon as I walked in the door, the DJ said, and I am not making this up, “Emergency warning–a Gypsy alert has been issued for the City of Tuscaloosa. Repeat–a Gypsy alert has been issued for Tuscaloosa. Be on the look out for packs of Gypsies.”
Packs? Wolves, maybe? All I could do was laugh, and share my pack of M&Ms. I barely resisted calling the cops, and telling them that all I had seen were packs of Marlboros.