[TRIGGER WARNING: I discuss ASSAULT in this post.]
It’s been a while. Again. But such is my life where blogging is something I have to set aside to get work and life done. Of course, there are also a dozen or so drafts in my folder that I’ve started but never finished and never posted and upon reading them again, don’t really remember the point of them. So.
That was very close to happening here. Me just starting a new draft and then forgetting about it as life happened. But this particular post is kind of important. It has to do with abuse, agism, and assault. I might drag on a bit because I have a lot of thoughts surrounding this, but there will be a link to a tl;dr at the bottom if you prefer.
It was Tuesday evening. I had just left one dollar store in my town to visit another. I needed a new mop. The handle on ours had broken to the point that even super glue would no longer keep it on. So, when the first didn’t have what I was looking for, I went to the next.
There were a few other customers there. As is usual with dollar stores, the aisles were packed with merchandise that still needed to be placed by staff that was overworked because of understaffing. I don’t mind it. I mean, it’s kind of annoying sometimes when there’s a big ol’ box directly in front of what you’re trying to reach, but with only two people working at any one time, I just shrug and move on. I get it. The work is hard, the pay sucks, and the company doesn’t really care as long as they bring home the money. Getting to that stack of boxes isn’t always going to happen as soon as it’s set there because there are other boxes to take care of.
I found my mop, picked up a couple other things, and looked around at their Easter and spring/summer stuff. It was the usual type of plastic picnic ware and such. Nothing really stuck out at me as interesting or necessary, so I set off toward the registers. In my meanderings, I passed a few other customers and apologized as I squeezed past them. (Side note, I apologize a lot which has a lot to do with “being a woman in society” and “learned behavior” but that’s a post for another time).
As the cashier scans my stuff, an older customer comes up and throws a carton of ice cream at her. As he does this, he says something about not being able to get to it, though I have no idea what it was.
Before I go on, I should tell you that I do not like bullies. At all. I’m terrible at standing up for myself, but I will gladly (and have gladly on more than one occasion) stand up for others.
So, I did what I do and I stood up for the young woman.
He walked toward the exit which was near me and started berating her for the state of the store.
I spoke up. I told him that his behavior was rude and unacceptable. I told him NO, I told him to knock it off. I took a step toward him to get myself between him and the cashier.
That’s when things took a turn.
He not only stepped up to me, but he full body pushed me back until I was trapped between him and the counter. He screamed at me, called me a bitch, told me to mind my own business.
I yelled back, told him he was going to jail, said the cops were coming.
He yelled that he didn’t care, I was a bitch, that he wasn’t going to jail.
The cashier called 911.
At this point, the other clerk working came up from where she was doing her job and trying to get things put away and pushed him off of me. She told him he would have to take it outside (him, not me *nods*). He was going to start yelling at her, but I think he heard the cashier telling the operator to send the cops. I can’t be sure why he didn’t yell at her. Instead he voiced his complaints loudly, but without yelling.
When I was in high school, I went riding around with a couple of friends. I lived in a rural community. A small town of only 3000 people with corn and soybeans everywhere. His was an old gray ’89 extended cab Chevy Silverado. I sat in the back as my friend drove and another sat shotgun. As we went from pavement to gravel on an often traveled road, we started to fishtail. My friend was unable to correct and we spun 180 degrees and tipped over into a ditch.
I smiled the whole time. I was unconcerned. I knew it would happen as soon as the truck started trying to go two different directions at once. The friend in the passenger seat commented on it after we made it out of the truck (we climbed through the driver’s side window).
“You were smiling the whole time,” he said. His eyes were wide with shock and maybe a bit of amazement.
I was still smiling. “I know.”
I was smiling. As soon as he stepped up and pushed against me, a smile split my face apart.
Maybe, as is common in animals, it was a show of force? An instinct to show my teeth in a threatening situation and convince the guy I’m not someone to trifle with? Whatever the reason, it’s automatic. It’s happened before, it will happen again.
As we waited for the cops to show, he left the store but the other clerk, the one he didn’t yell at, followed him out and stood by his truck talking to him. She wanted to keep him there until law enforcement arrived. I took pictures of his license plate just in case.
When he walked out the door, I turned to the people behind me. A young Amish woman was there with her children. I asked if they were okay. The mother replied that they were a little scared.
“It was a scary situation. I was scared, too,” I said as I looked each one in the eyes.
I paid for my stuff and stood by to wait for the cops thankful that my kids had insisted on going with their Grandpa when we saw him at the first dollar store instead of going with me.
I put their cart away for them after they checked out so they could leave as fast as possible.
The thing about entitlement is that it’s invasive. It gets inside you and it grows and grows until you think that you’re entitled to whatever you want whenever you want and how dare anyone deny that.
The cops eventually showed up. It took a while because they somehow heard that “the woman involved” had left? I don’t know how or where they would have heard that, but they showed up shortly after we called the town police department directly. Three cars, one with lights on and everything.
I stayed in the store for a while and let them talk with the man and the store clerk. Once they started angling toward the store, I set my things down and walked out to them. There were still customers that needed to be checked out and it was better to keep this out of the way of that.
I spoke to three cops, told them what happened, and gave them my ID. Another cop pulled up around then. They asked if I wanted to press charges and I said yes.
The man tried to challenge me. “Are you sure you want to spend time in [the County Seat] for a couple of days over this?”
I looked him straight in the eyes. “Yes.”
At this point I could see the fear in his eyes. I wondered if anyone had ever stood up to him before? A friend later suggested not, and I’m inclined to agree.
That night, after everything happened and his wife showed up in house slippers and with an oxygen tank, I worried. I worried that he was a bully to her their entire marriage. I worried that I might have made things bad for her at home. Or made things worse.
People who behave like that have a history of behaving like that. They’ve done it before, probably many times, and gotten away with it.
What if his inability to bully me into submission and his embarrassment at having the cops called on him sends him into an angry rant–or worse–at his wife? Could I be the cause of another attack of abuse against her? All night I worried that I might be the reason he causes physical or mental harm to her.
I worry about that “or worse”.
I do not know that he is violent or abusive toward his wife, this is only a “What if” that plagues me.
He didn’t realize everything was caught on tape. He didn’t realize that they have cameras every few feet because theft is a major issue in dollar stores. He didn’t realize, when he tried to tell the cops that I had pushed him, that his lie would be seen. He didn’t think about the eyewitness accounts of the cashier and the woman who was there to get an application.
He didn’t realize that his actions have consequences.
Now it’s up to the prosecutor to decide if a judge should assign consequences. I filled out the incident report and turned it in. The cops took a look at the video footage. The assistant manager showed up and informed the cops that she wanted the man banned from the store. I gave her my name and phone number in case she or the district manager needed anything from me.
He was an older man, as I mentioned earlier. In his 70’s. I’d never met him before, but his name is now burned into my brain. There was suggestion that, because of his age, dementia might have something to do with what happened. I said it was possible, but I didn’t say I doubted it. If it turns out that’s true, then I’ll let it go as long as someone steps up to take care of him and helps prevent something like this happening again.
But, again, I doubt it. Nothing else in his behavior suggested dementia. I’m not a big fan of armchair diagnoses anyway. Not to mention the agism involved in a statement like that. It doesn’t matter how old you are, behavior like that is unacceptable. Let the doctors decide that he’s got dementia, then let the judge decide what happens from there.
If there is a judge. If it gets that far. The prosecutor may very well throw the case away. It’s possible. It’s happened before many times. I’ve never had dealings with the county prosecutor myself, but I have friends who have and don’t trust him so I’m skeptical.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here living my life. I’ve got words to write, a novella to publish this summer, and a family to be a part of.
The only thing I can do about this situation is wait.
If you decided not to read the whole story but want the highlights, I’ve got a Storify of my tweets when it happened and my thoughts that night.