Third in line at the takeout counter at the local cafeteria. My wait shouldn’t be too long. As I arrive, a gentleman is collecting his food and settling his tab, preparing to leave. In the corner to my left, a woman peruses the menu, deciding. She is well-dressed, lots of red and black, large golden hoop earrings swinging, catching the light in the cramped room that adjoins the dining room. She asks the clerk if her food can be packaged in tall, lidded containers. “We’re traveling,” she explains, “and I don’t want any of it to spill.” The clerk nods, scribbles down the woman ‘s order and heads off to fill it.
Well-dressed woman turns to me, flashes a smile, asks me what I plan to order. “Excuse me?” I reply, smiling, not sure I’m hearing her right. Her smile fades. “I’m just trying to make conversation. Where I come from, we do that. We make conversation.”
“We do that here, too,” I say, continuing to smile. “We’re a friendly town.” (I’m thinking, what is her problem?) The woman turns away, silent. The clerk returns with her order, and the woman pays and leaves. Minutes pass as an older woman enters, leans her cane against the counter, picks up a menu and studies it. Just as the clerk returns with my order and I reach for my wallet, the door opens behind me.
“I just want you to know that I don’t give a rat’s ass what you order for your dinner.” The clerk, the older woman and I all stare, mouths open. The well-dressed woman is back. “You were rude to me,” she continues, “and you can kiss my ass!” She turns and heads out the door and is gone as quickly as she came. “I hope you have a merry Christmas!” I say as the glass door closes, and mean it.
The older woman smiles. “We all have good days and bad days,” she says. I agree. We don’t know what personal issues might have prompted the angry woman’s outburst. Perhaps the stresses of traveling, hurrying to grab a bite of dinner along the way. I shrug off the personal attack. No one got hurt.
But here’s what I do worry about. Her sudden hostile reaction to a perceived slight could have led to a far more serious outcome. What if she’d gone to her car and returned with a gun? So many people now carry a firearm, for their own protection, they say.
Such a scenario is not far-fetched. Guns are routinely used to settle arguments, to enact revenge for perceived slights. People are shot and killed for changing lanes in traffic. The prevalence of shootings, often fatal, dominate the news every day.
It’s true. We all have bad days. I hope that the woman reaches her destination safely.