Sunday, June 2, 2013

Incident at Market Basket

On September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were kidnapped and bullied by a group of aliens piloting a UFO outside Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

While shopping this morning at our local Market Basket I witnessed an incident of bullying. There was no abduction, although I was mad enough at the perp to briefly contemplate carrying one out for the purpose of fitting him with cement shoes.

Apparently bullying is Universal.

I was bullied as a skinny, weak-acting kid by my father. In elementary school a bully named Dana would hound my brother and I and slap us around. He would pin me against the back of the school building until Roland, a sixth grader, came along and rescued me. We transferred elementary schools and I remember bigger kids on the bus hoisting me in the air and cracking my head on the bus roof. In Junior High School a pack of girls, accompanied by a boy, roamed the hallways. I was a daily target of name calling and books dashed to the floor.

Kids not given a strong sense of self-worth growing up, especially by a father or other strong male, grow up unsure of themselves and easy targets for bullies.

Douglas J. Boyle, PhD of the Violence Institute of New Jersey reports roughly 6 million children between grades 6-10 were either victims of, or perpetrators of bullying. Workplace bullying happens frequently, as does bullying by aggressive motorists on the highways.

The incident I witnessed was minor, but telling regarding the over all mental health of American society. Former House Speaker Tip O'Neil once remarked that "all politics is local". So is bullying. But it is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to measuring how we treat one another in 21st Century America.

I was loading groceries into the trunk of my car. The space next to me opened up. An older woman in a white car drove up to take the space, her turn signal flashing. She had to jump out of the car to remove the shopping cart from the space the prior occupant thoughtlessly left in the way. She moved the cart, got back in her car and prepared to drive into the empty slot.

A Jeep Wagoneer drove into the lot at high speed, cut her off and drove into the spot. Two guys, early thirties, bearded, rough necks were laughing. I heard the lady shout "Hey!" in anger. I saw red.

Without thinking I was instantly around to the Jeep driver.

"She had that spot. She had to move a cart to get in..."
"Cart!" he snarled. "What cart?"
"She moved a shopping cart so she could drive in. Take my spot; I'm leaving."

All the while I'm negotiating with this guy, the lady's in the background yelling at him from her car window.

He shrugs, throws into reverse, explaining that if she hadn't been so slow making her turn into the parking spot he wouldn't have taken it. "Good thing you're as old as my mother," he yelled at her as he left. "Or I'd still be sitting there."

It didn't matter to the guy someone had claimed a spot. What mattered to him was he wanted that spot so he wouldn't have to walk a hundred extra feet to the front door of the building.

In his world, HE came first, and most likely displayed a pattern of bullying others his whole life to get his way.

Yet if the prior car parked in the spot had put her cart away properly, instead of just leaving it there for someone else to deal with, the incident would never have happened. Or if I had been alert enough that a cart was blocking her path and moved it for her, it wouldn't have happened.

There were three individuals responsible for adding stress to a woman's life today through no fault of her own: two thoughtless folks and a bully.

I hope she has a forgiving heart.