Monday, April 8, 2013

Sometimes you have to speak up

This past weekend I had one of those moments when you find out what sort of person you are. Apparently I’m an interesting mix of brave and stupid. (But hey, I think we all knew that already)

It should have been a quiet run to the local (and quite small) grocery store for fresh local veggies. It should have been, but it wasn't  After gathering up my purchases, I couldn’t help but overhear a minor commotion coming from the front of the store. As I got into line, the fracas revealed itself to be a man of disheveled appearance complaining loudly and repeatedly over the store’s policy of limiting bottle returns. He had a shopping cart full of bottles and cans, and he was more than a little displeased that they were refusing to take them all. I know he was displeased, because he kept repeating himself like a broken record while doing a fine job of physically intimidating the young manager, who couldn’t have been more than twenty or so years old and likely weighed 120 lbs soaking wet. She was doing her best to stay professional, but it was growing increasingly obvious the man was not quite right in the head and was not going to back down.

By the time I was paying for my groceries he’d managed to get the young lady backed up until she was against one of the other tills, and everyone in the store was watching, including several grown man. Not one of them was doing anything. Not. One. I am still not sure if I was angrier over the bully trying to force the issue of the bottles, or the fact that twelve or so people were doing their diligent best to ignore what was going on, even side stepping around the ranting man to squeeze out the doors (which he was standing in front of.)

I got out my keys, picked up my bags and did what I had to do. There was no way I was going to walk out and leave that girl being harangued that way. Now I’m about as intimidating as the 5’2 marshmallow I resemble, so There wasn’t much chance I was going to single-handedly convince the man to back down, but at the very least I had to try. And try I did, and boy howdy, he didn't appreciate my interference. That’s alright though, because I got him to turn away from the manager and direct his anger at me for a few seconds, enough time for one of the other clerks to slip out the back and for the manager to get a bit of space from the ranting, rude lunatic.

I can’t tell you what happened next, because I said my piece and walked away. I learned a long time ago there’s no sense in arguing with a crazy man, but at the very least I did what no one else was willing to do, I stepped up. He followed me a few steps and then gave up, and I hope that was enough to end the escalation and give the clerk a chance to call the police. It’s a shame no one else wanted to get involved, because if a few more people had chimed in, then it would have been over for sure.

As it was I walked away with shaking hands and the ability to look at myself in the mirror. I wonder if the others, the ones who stood by and did nothing, can say the same.