Mom and I were at Aldi's, a local discount grocery store, on Sunday afternoon. This store is completely pared down: the clerk sits on a chair at one end of the conveyor belt, and tosses your stuff into an empty kart as she rings it up. How you get them home from there is your business; if you want a grocery bag, you buy one.
While we stood in line, a Middle Eastern man approached the clerk, to purchase a few grocery bags.
There happened to be a crazy old white woman at the check out, paying for her groceries. She was unhappy with the close proximity of the gentleman waiting, threatened by his presence...and as I said, crazy. She let loose a string of profanity toward him that would make a sailor blush, accusing him of lurking about to steal something from her.
We were as taken aback as he was. All eyes on him then, he stepped back to his groceries for a few minutes. Then he approached the woman again, and told her that he had no intention of stealing from her. The woman went ballistic then, shrieking and continuing with her derogatory remarks, before running from the store.
The gentleman approached the clerk, and, angry then, asked her "why did you let this happen to me? Why did you honor HER, instead of telling her she was inappropriate? You should never let her back in here." Alas, the timid clerk did a dear-in-the-headlights routine, merely staring at him.
Ohhhh, dear, I thought...this is going from bad to worse for this guy, who was becoming more frustrated with her silence. She finally freaked out and screamed for the manager.
By then, the Upset Customer was livid, and proceeded, at the top of his lungs, to repeat what Crazy Woman had said to him: "How can you just let her call me fucker? and Asshole?!!! And you do nothing?"...
It was then that I wanted to race and take his arm, and say, "STOP! Calm down. There's a little girl here, don't you see?
You are right.
You are justified.
But you've just let a crazy angry old woman transform you into what she is. You are crass. And threatening. She's left the building, and you've taken her place.
You've just given her power over you, don't you see?!
I am teased, among my circle, for being a bit of a pushover. I don't anger easily, and I tolerate a lot. I come off, sometimes as being more timid than I am.
I am, however, tuned in. Yes, friend, acquaintance, or coworker, I did hear your smart-ass remark. I acknowledge both your outwardly rude and your passive aggressive behavior, to me, or to others. I noted that roll of your eyes. And you communicate as much with what you don't say as with what you do.
I heard you. We all heard you. I'm amused you think we didn't.
And in general, I don't rise to it.
People say and do petty things because they need to feel better about themselves. They have so little going on in their lives that all they can do to find a sense of self-worth is to try to make you feel like shit about yours.
Let them feel better, I say; what's it to me, after all? You think I shouldn't have let my son pierce his ear, and you'll toss your own out if he does the same? OK. Toss your kid out; it's no reflection on me if you do so. I have a different mindset, and believe me, there's not a lot I do that isn't well thought-out.
That said, I do have boundaries, and I'm quite capable of rising to battle.
I will do so, usually only if I love you, or if I'm defending someone I care about. My God, how many times did I go round and round with my own son?! And often, as they will attest, in front of his own friends. If something needs to be said, or set straight, I'll speak my mind in no uncertain terms. Because I care. If I didn't, I'd walk away.
I did stop that gentleman, in the parking lot, on Sunday. "You were treated terribly," I acknowledged to him. He needed to hear it.
"What do you think about that? I am not an American. We would NEVER treat someone like that in my country, never!"
There was no time to say all I'd have liked to. I told him only, "Please. Write the letters you have to write. And then let it go. Don't let her hurt you. And know this: She does not represent us."
I hope he does let it go.
I hope to God he doesn't let his anger over the hateful words of a bitter old woman taint his opinions of Americans, of Midwesterners, of this town. I would wish on him that he wouldn't even let her ruin his afternoon.
He's worth more than that.
We all are.