on senior citizens, respect, and the price of butter

So I was in the grocery store to get some fresh spinach and lentils (fine, I had a craving for powdered donuts and Baked Ruffles), and I overheard an older white woman complaining to one of the stock persons about the price of butter and cream cheese. No surprise there.

This stock person happened to be Hispanic.

After she was through talking DIRECTLY IN HIS EAR about how everything has changed, and you can't afford nothin' no more, and "they" are ripping everybody off, she took it a step further. She started throwing in lovely words and phrases like 'comprendee?' and "entiendo mexicano?' The stock person just stood there, restocking the Land 'O' Lakes Spreadable Product, half-smiling, saying nothing. (To be fair I had no idea if he spoke much English, but I'm positive he got the gist of what he had landed in.)

This went on for about 45 seconds, and by that point my blood was boiling. And me being an Outraged White American Citizen, I decided that Enough Was Enough, and something had to be said. I took a deep breath.

"Maybe cool it with the Spanglish, huh?" I uttered loudly (in case she was hard of hearing). She responded, "What was that?" 

"Never mind," I said, thinking that she actually didn't hear me and that speaking further would prove pointless. But she spoke.

"I was just telling the señor there that..."   

"Yeah, I heard you. Those things you're saying are offensive."

"Why?"  

I paused. Have you ever actually been flabbergasted? I was. I was flabbergasted. 

"Because it's racist." 

At that point I knew she heard me, because she started fumbling all over her words. 

"Oh, that's not what, uh... I didn't say any... I was just telling..." 

I was starting to walk away, so I didn't punch an old woman in the face. 

"Hey!" she said. "Who do you think you are? How dare you talk to me that way! Don't you walk away! I'm talking to you! Hey! You're crazy. He's crazy, he's a crazy person. You come back here and treat me with some respect!"

Ah, yes. There it is. 

Treat me with some respect.  

Because you're old? The mere fact that you're much closer to the grave than I am somehow entitles you to my instant, unquestioned reverence? I never liked that idea.

Yes, she's seen and done and experienced a lot in her life. More so than me by sheer virtue of how much more life she has lived.  She could be a war hero, or a decorated law enforcement veteran, or an amazing grandmother. And if so, those deeds certainly merit respect.

But that person in the grocery store dairy aisle, that rude, offensive, possibly slightly daft woman complaining about the price of butter while casually throwing out mildly racist remarks, did not deserve anyone's respect.  

I didn't turn around as she unleashed her tirade of How Dare You's at my backside. I kept on walking. Which is more than she deserved. 

She deserved a smack in the mouth. 

Not giving her one was all the respect I could muster.  

When you learn to respect people, grocery store employees, and those of other cultures, maybe you'll earn some yourself. Asshole. 

 

 

 

 

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Posted on August 9, 2013 .