So, I’m at the health food store, buying my expeller pressed coconut oil and generally browsing for random shit that might catch my eye, when something grabs the attention of my ears instead.
I’m standing near the check out counter, and this grizzled old lady – like beef jerky in a mismatched sweat suit – starts giving the counter girl a loud, hard time about a product.
(Turns out the old battle axe was returning a product because she had not read what was on the ingredients label before buying it.)
Anyways, this wrinkled old drain-stopper is giving the poor counter girl down the road, but it’s not the direct, personal attacks that so many of us who have had the misfortune to work in retail are accustomed to, no. I’ll quote here, because, why the fuck not,
“This has propylene glycol in it. I can believe you even sell that here.”
Yep, that kind of passive aggressive bullshit.
Like it’s the counter woman’s fault that you didn’t read the fucking label first you frayed, old, mismatched sock of a human being.
Now, me, being me, this sets me off a little, and here’s where the epiphany begins to take shape;
I spoke up. I said, “You know the FDA ruled that propylene glycol was safe, like, back in the fifties or sixties, right?”
To which she begins some strained and louder appeal to authority about why, even that being the case, she was still right. As if I give a damn, and as if being louder will make her point somehow more reasonable and correct.
Well, I didn’t cause a scene, but those out there that know me will have some good idea how I tend to handle irascible assholes like that.
None of this is the epiphany, but it is what leads directly up to it.
Here’s what I realized, not five minutes after:
I didn’t give a shit about whatever junk science informed this dried-out slim jim of a human being’s opinion. What bothered me was the way she was behaving towards the clerk.
As if any of it was the clerk’s fucking fault.
I’ll admit it, I got a bit mad at myself.
What I wanted to do, deep down, was dress the old gristle-bucket down for treating another human being so shamefully and without any reason much less a good one.
So, why didn’t I?
Why didn’t I just lead off with that as opposed to arguing with her delusional assertions?
It’s not because I was afraid. Giving people a good, sharp piece of my mind has never been too frightening to me. (or maybe I’ve always just been too angry to notice.)
It wasn’t because I was afraid of making a scene. The week-old shark-bait-chum in a jogging suit was already doing that.
I don’t know.
I can only think that it was some kind of conditioning that says it is more appropriate to speak to the argument than the character of the person.
And that could just be me, and nothing to do with the wider culture.
But – and this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for – maybe it is okay to start calling people out when they are behaving badly.
Maybe it’s time to resume the practice.
For too long, too many people have been getting away with treating others as objects – not well-loved objects at that – and getting away with it because they don’t yell too loud, or in some superficial way they are, or can consider themselves in the right, or because they don’t cuss at a person.
This has never made sense to me. How is it that I, and everyone else, can clearly see the intention, but because someone doesn’t use certain words, or keeps it under a certain decibel level, that somehow it makes the behavior okay, or at least, beyond public reproach and ridicule?
Does one have to have one’s own news show in order to be justified in taking someone to task for their poor behavior towards others in public?
Shit, I hope not, or I’m going to have to hire a camera crew to follow me wherever I go.
So, in the end, I wish I had just told that stringy sack of aging protoplasm that she was behaving disgracefully, was a discredit to Western Civilization, and was giving the whole of humanity a bad name. Do I think she would have listened and taken it to heart?
But everybody else would have seen it. And maybe the next time they were in a similar situation, maybe it would be just a little easier for them to step in and speak up. Maybe. Oh, and maybe that counter woman would have felt like there were still decent human beings left on the planet.
So, that’s my epiphany for the day.
How’s your Friday going?