December 7, 2010

Part 1: Showdown at the Dollar General

Disclaimer: This is kind of a long one. You may want to grab some coffee and a snack.
Disclaimer #2: If you are my mother, one of my mother's friends and/or someone who is easily offended by colorful language, please forgive the quotes below. I try not to bring that side of my vocab to this blog very often. But sometimes there's just no way around it.

I've always been of the belief that most people are basically decent. Basically polite, basically respectful of others, basically...NICE. Or, at least they will be if you're decent, polite, respectful and nice to them.

And most of the time, it works. And maybe it's because I don't work in the food industry or in retail sales, but I choose to believe it's the Golden Rule or karma or whatever you want to call it making the Universe right.

But every once in awhile, I have an experience that challenges this theory. And Saturday was a humdinger.

On a quick Kroger run, I overhear a woman saying that Dollar General is having a huge sale on all manner of things. So, I'm thinking, what the heck: I'll stop by, pick up some cheap shampoo and see if I can find any stocking stuffers for my niece.

The store is packed, and I see several people with baskets piled high, so I grab my shampoo and a $1 Tinkerbell puzzle and I hit the checkout lines.

Two lines, each with at least four people in front of me. But, no big deal. I don't really have anywhere to be. I choose a line with three elderly patrons in front of me, capped off by a woman who's currently checking out a cart filled with food. We will call this woman Psycho Lady. (A moniker that will make sense soon, dear readers.)

Old Man, Old Woman, Older Woman and I (each with only 3-5 items in our arms) wait patiently. We wait while Psycho Lady stacks item after item on the conveyor belt. (Hey, it's a sale -- who can blame her for stocking up?)

We wait while she roots in her purse for additional coupons.

When she leaves the line to retrieve something she forgot from the other end of the store, and it takes her five minutes to return, no one complains. Old Man rolls his eyes, but continues to wait patiently. I sigh. Older woman reads about Kate Middleton's wedding dress in US Weekly.

PL finally finishes checking out, grabs her receipt and bags and heads for the door. We all breathe a sigh of relief. Old Man checks out, and heads for his car.

But lo, PL intercepts him on his way out. "I saw you got {Coupon XYZ} when you checked out. I left mine at home. Would you mind if I used it to buy {XYZ product}?" Old Man, being lovely and patient, says "Sure" and hands it over.

At which time PL darts over to the register (where Old Woman is now being checked out) and demands that the cashier check her out. Again.

"Ma'am, I'll be glad to let you use the coupon, but you'll have to get back in line," the cashier says, a little wearily. PL stares at him.

"You've got to be kidding me," she snarls, her voice dripping with venom, and she eyes the rest of us in line like we're vermin. Vermin preventing her from saving 30 cents on a bottle of detergent right.this.minute. "WHY can't you just do it NOW? You want me to go stand in line behind all these people AGAIN?"

The cashier looks uncomfortable, and Old Woman looks panicky as Pscyho Lady tries to edge her back in line. Older Woman, who is at least 85 and has now been standing in line for 15 minutes, just shifts her weight uncomfortably. "This is ridiculous!" PL is now saying, getting louder by the second.

As she continues berating the cashier, I find myself doing something I never, ever do.

"Ma'am, the rest of us have been waiting a long time," I say -- politely -- before I can stop myself. "The people in front of me have easily been standing in line for 10 minutes. We waited patiently while you finished, and now it's our turn."

Instantly, Psycho Lady turns on her heel. I swear I can see delight in her eyes as she lights upon her next victim: Me.

"Well, I was already finished checking out, MA'AM," she says sarcastically. "How about you mind your own business? This doesn't concern you." She dismisses me by turning back to the cashier, but when it becomes clear he's not going to budge on the cutting-in-line rule (which we all learned in kindergarten; I mean, really), PL storms to the back of the line. Older Woman and I breathe a sigh of relief.

But PL is not finished. Oh, not by a damn sight.

As soon as she gets to the back of the line, she starts in. "I hate this g--damned town. Stupid bitches like you up there. Sticking your nose in my business. What the f--k do you care? I'd never let you cut in front of me in line, you know that? Stupid bitch. Look what you're buying -- looks like you have a really exciting life to rush home to."

I turn to look at her and make my first mistake: I engage. "Ma'am, under any other circumstance, I'd gladly let you go in front of me," I say, and I mean it. "But the rest of us waited patiently while you checked out and did whatever you needed to do, and I'd appreciate it if you'd extend us the same cour-"

"Shut up, you dumbass bitch," she says, and I blink in surprise. "I shop in here all the time, and I've never seen your fat, stupid ass in here before."

"I'm sorry, how is that relevant?" I manage to say, still completely stunned by this verbal barrage.

"Shut up. Just shut up," she spits. "Turn around. I don't want to look at your stupid, ugly fat-ass face."

At this, I immediately realize three things:
  1. This lady is psycho.
  2. When the other person has nothing to come back with but "Shut up," it usually means you've won the argument, so, go me.
  3. I am really not cut out for this type of confrontation.
And how do I know that third thing is so very true? Because after I finally pay for my shampoo and puzzle with shaking hands, make my way to the parking lot and finally sit in my car? I burst into tears.

Oh, and also: My hands are still shaking as I'm typing this, two days later.

People like Psycho Lady represent something that I can't reconcile with the universe as I know it. I don't understand entitlement -- thinking you are OWED something just because you think you deserve it -- and I don't understand bullies -- that desire to tear into another person simply for the sake of making yourself feel big and making them feel small. I'm far from perfect, but I'd rather tear off my own arm than think I made someone feel the way Psycho Lady made me feel on Saturday.

I would certainly consider myself a religious person, but I don't even think it matters if you believe in a higher power or not. I cannot imagine worshiping at the Altar of Me at the expense of everyone else in the universe.

I get frustrated, I get annoyed, and sometimes, yes, I find myself feeling entitled to something. I've worked hard -- I deserve this! But I have to draw the line at infringing those feelings on the rest of the world. It's no one else's fault that I am frustrated or annoyed, or that I feel entitled to something. And even if I'm frustrated or annoyed by someone else's actions, only I can control how I react to it. Only I can decide whether to perpetuate the problem or stop the chain of nastiness and handle myself like a rational adult.

If I had it to do over again, I'm not sure I would have done the same thing. I'm glad I stood up for what I felt was right, but in the grand scheme of things, was it such a big deal? Was it worth the verbal abuse and shaky hands?

It's entirely possible that I'm just too sensitive. This has bothered me now for nearly three days, and I'd be surprised if Psycho Lady gave it a second thought once she made it out of the store. But I think -- well, I know -- I'd rather be overly-sensitive than make someone feel that small.

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of this story, which I'll post on Thursday. It's both more positive and much shorter than Part 1. Doesn't that sound nice?

15 backtalk:

Summer said...

Oh, S, this made me laugh and cry.

Bravo for you for taking one for the team and standing up for what was right in that instance. Seriously, I'm giving you a standing "O". You. are brave, amazing, and awesome all wrapped up into one package.

I would have never had the guts to do what you did. If, however, I had. . . I would have done the exact same thing and burst into tears with shaking hands and super fast heart rate. What drives me nuts is PL probably didn't give it another thought. . . such selfishness makes me sick.

You, my dear, are incredible and I absolutely adore you.

George & Missy Herrera said...

Way to go -- I could feel my blood boiling as I read this! People like that, sometimes, need to put in their place. They don't own the world.

You did the right thing! Don't let her words get under your skin -- they mean nothing. Absolutely nothing! ;)

the grumbles said...

i don't think you are too sensitive. or at least, altercations like this always leave me feeling the same way. my hands shake, my heart races, i hate HATE that feeling. you did the right thing, but i totally know what you mean about the aftermath.

people (like PL) boggle the mind. how do they GET like that??

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think you did the right thing! It's not even worth getting shaky hands over, but I know I woulda too! I feel sorry for her actually...she must have a sad sad miserable life.

Trophy Life said...

WHOA!!! i felt my heart-racing just thinking of this verbal altercation. wow. i am just speechless. i would be having the EXACT same reaction as you - STILL shaken up about it several days later.

karma really does have a way of coming back around. this woman clearly has no room for anyone else and is most likely so miserable because of that. so sad.

Maura said...

Oh, S, I'm so sorry someone said such hateful things to you. You didn't deserve a single one of them, and I'm so glad you stood your ground.

She sounds like an unhappy woman coming from an unhappy place. She may have hurled insults at you, but in doing so cast the worst possible light on herself. Be cheered by the fact you're a beautiful person, inside and out, who has character and integrity and intelligence and grace.

Wendy said...

OH MY GOD! Wow. I would have had the same reaction as you did! For sure. Mentally ill people are so hard to deal with - because, for us sane people, we can't comprehend why it's even okay to say such hurtful things. It's like our normal filter. They don't have a normal filter. They're crazy nuts and think they've been wronged, therefore everyone else must pay. And pay dearly you did, from her wrath. I'm sorry you had to deal with that whole situation but know that it's good that you were trying to be rational with her.

I can't wait to read more!

Sassytimes said...

Wow. I'm impressed that you said something to her; good for you! People like that make me sick. Nothing we say or do will ever change the way they are. It's sad.

I would have cried too.

Oh and some teenager (or maybe early 20s) girl was being ridiculously loud in Target the other day, which made me look up. Just glanced at her; no expression (maybe a smile?) and she said, "What you lookin' at you ugly hoe". Yep. Speechless. I just walked away. The "Mom" in me wanted to grab her by her shirt and drag her into time out. ;) I can't imagine EVER talking to someone like that...

Written Permission said...

Sassy, I can't believe she said that to you! Absolutely horrid. People amaze me. And often not in good ways. (She should have gone to time out, for acting like such an infant. I mean, really.)

So glad I'm not alone in my shaky hands and tears. You guys are making me feel less like a Weepy Wilma. :)

Erika Jean said...

Omg I think I've met that EXACT phsyco lady before! There were looong lines at the grocery store and this lady thinks she can just leave her cart in line and continue shopping. Doesn't work that way in my book. She was gone forever, obviously grabbing more than "just one thing" and the line was moving so I moved ahead and left her cart where it was. She came back and went all ape-shit crazy on me calling me a "fat bitch"

I just reminded her that you get in line AFTER you are done shopping. I really wanted to send my fists a'flyin' though!

Ky • said...

Oh friend, you're not too sensitive at all. You're a lovely, kind person.

I'm so proud of you for speaking up. However, I'm so not proud of that PL.

Shirley says you should have hit the woman with your car when you left. (Yes, I just read your entire post out loud to her and C.)

We feel that your comments were justified and that woman has personal problems.

wrestling kitties said...


I can't (and sadly can) believe this. What a HORRIBLE and disgusting person.

Good for you for standing up not only for yourself but for the lady in line. You know that the older lady wasn't going to say anything. It makes me SO angry when people think they can take advantage of other people like that and that they think they are entitiled to stuff. (Don't get me started on entitlement. grrr)

I am SO sorry you had to go through that. I was getting angry and tearing up for YOU while I read this. But no matter what you did the right thing and that is something to be SO proud of!

Abbe said...

holy schnikes. talk about being at the wrong place in the wrong time! PL was totally looking for someone to unload on, and you got lucky. but handled it so well.... shaky hands and all. that totally would have been me. and the moral of the story? sales at dollar general DON'T pay. :)

Biscuit said...

holy shit now MY hands are shaking. my heart literally started racing reading this. i want to meet this hooker in the parking lot and FINISH HER.

see, i'm cray-cray, and I actually DO wait in p-lots and FINISH SHIT. well, until i had a baby and stuff...until he learns how to use them nunchucks mommy got him properly, we have to shelf the p-lot rumbling.

Lacie Irish Oatmeal said...

I've been thinking about this post for a while. It was just such an intense confrontation, and I'm so sorry it exploded on you. I was actually a little relieved to hear you talking about it, trying to understand and process, because I honestly believe that it was it comes down to. Some people innately aspire to be better versions of themselves, to learn and understand, and take lessons from what doesn't work. It seems that others seem to spend a lot more time in autopilot mode. I wish I had more insight, but like you, I've had these experiences that leave me reeling, trying to understand what the hell just happened, but with the sense the other party is not doing anything of the like. The best I can try to describe it is like trying to apply knowledge of natural science and physics to a tornado. It is an intense, real like physical threat sort of moment, but you are a rational, curious DECENT person, so your brain will likely never be able to turn of the whats and whys. It kind of scares me that there are people out there operating at such a base level, but it makes me feel alright with the world that there are more of us who aren't.

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