What the hell is wrong with people these days?
I finished up my grocery shopping and stood behind a young lady with a cart who was between ten and twelve feet away from the checkout. She had sent her little brother down the length of the store to see if any of the other tills were less busy. After probably fifteen seconds I saw someone else step into the line so I also stepped in front of her. Another ten or so seconds went by and I was solidly punched on the shoulder from behind, a man’s voice telling me that they were in line and that I had butted in. I turned and this apple-cheeked very clean little-but-chunky “gentleman”, probably about my age and a foot shorter, was glaring at me.
I suggested they weren’t in line…that they were almost to the other side of the aisle. He called me an old man without manners. I told him I didn’t waste my manners on insipid little cretins then I saw the look on, what I assume, was his granddaughter’s face. She was embarrassed, no question. She had her head down and was looking away. I also saw the young lady in the next checkout unlock the till so I grabbed my basket and gave up my spot third back in line and took first spot at the next checkout. Another man with a basket followed and got behind me. He congratulated me on my self-restraint. He’d seen the whole thing and said that the old man was lucky that he hadn’t punched him as he would have punched back. That thought had crossed my mind.
I was through the till and heading for the door when I gave a little nod and wave to my adversary who had not yet managed to start unloading his cart. He glared at me again and tossed a finger my way. I won, he lost.
It was a shallow victory as, and I hate to admit this, my gut feeling was still to circle around behind this jerk and give him a solid punch on the shoulder but the look on the girl’s face somehow washed that all away. And I don’t know why.
In my mind I was clearly in the right but even if I hadn’t been I object to anyone thinking they are entitled to punch me without some sort of retribution. I now find myself angry that I didn’t lash out at him, give back a little of what he gave me but this is, and always has been, against my nature. Of course the fact that other than a couple of incidents in my old school days nobody has ever actually punched me makes it easy for me to make this claim.
And so this apple-cheeked, squeaky-clean little bully got away with one…or did he? I keep thinking of the girl pushing the cart and how she probably knew they weren’t really in the line-up as such. She saw her kindly grandfather punch someone then give them the finger. Was this a shattering of his image or was this something she was used to seeing? I think of how my kids or grandkids would react if I had been in his position and done what he had done. It would be so out of character for ‘Grandpa’ that I think it would shock them and perhaps taint the impression they have of me. I wouldn’t want them to see me assault another human being no matter how minimal the aggression was.
On the other hand if I was the one being assaulted I’m pretty sure that all my kids would have thumped the guy before I’d had a chance to turn around. Of course whichever one of them had done it would definitely receive a stern lecture on kindness and peaceful co-existence from me…over a celebratory drink or two.