My mother was notorious for getting into fights with strangers. It was a constant source of embarrassment as a child. We’d be out somewhere, she’d spy some injustice or slight and find herself incapable of not speaking up, and suddenly security would be rushing over.
I was never very sympathetic until I found myself doing the same exact thing. I don’t even know how it happens. I am usually a polite, retiring person in public. I believe in saying please and thank you, holding open doors for everyone, excusing yourself when necessary, and yet I’ve been in more verbal altercations than I wish to admit.
My favorite happened at a grocery store. I was in line for customer service when the woman in front of me asked if I would save her place, saying she would be back momentarily. I agreed and she was back in flash, but not before a church lady sidled up behind me.
“Oh no, no, no,” she said as I let the woman in. “She gets in the back, behind me.”
“She’s with me,” I replied, unlikely though it was that an elderly African woman would befriend a weird looking white girl with a buzz cut. This was noticed duly noted and commented on by the church lady. Next I uttered words that I can’t believe even came out of my mouth.
“Where’s your humanity?” I asked, completely sincere. If you ever want to piss off a church lady just ask her this. Her already protruding eyes bugged out of her head even further.
“Are you saying I’m not human?”
“No, I’m asking why you have to be so inconsiderate.”
We went back and forth for a while. At some point she threatened to hit me, which put me in a rather strange position. It was a no win for me; either I pop her one and become the sort of person who would beat up an old lady in public, or I take the punch and become the sort of person who gets beaten up by an old lady in public. Finally security was called. When the guard arrived I apologized immediately, saying it was all my fault and wouldn’t happen again, just to diffuse the situation. I’d come to my senses. The church lady had not.
“I’m a southpaw, what are you?” she asked as soon as the security guard was out of ear shot.
“I’m a goddamn psychopath,” I replied. That was the last I heard from her.
I experienced a similar incident today at a fast food drive thru, except this time I was the one serving as line sentry. A woman in a huge SUV was attempting to slide in through the back entrance, despite the row of cars already lined up. I thought about letting her pass, but then that devil on my shoulder, that Larry David-esque follower of societal norms started shouting.
“Who the hell does she thing she is? Everyone else has to enter the drive thru in the prescribed way, but oh no, not this woman, she’s ever so special.”
You can imagine where this went. I refused to let her in, she flipped out and started screaming, I screamed back. She was still screaming at me when it was my turn, requiring me to yell my order into the speaker just to be heard.
“You’re an awful person! Rude! Rude!” she yelled as I passed her by. Yeah, that’s me. I’m just a social Jekyll and Hyde, there’s no telling who you’re going to get. Some days I’m a protector of the little guy, fighter of injustice, bleeding heart liberal. Other times I’m a despotic stalwart, dedicated to upholding arbitrary rules and regulations. It really just depends on how much I’ve had to drink that morning.