Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bagels and Bullies

Many mornings, after I drop the kids off to their respective schools, I sneak over to the local bagel store and grab a hot bagel and a glass of iced tea. It is my favorite treat of the day and gets my morning off to a good start.

I've been going to this bagel stop for at least 5 years off and on, but my visits have become more frequent this year since all four have school every morning. The employees at the shop are familiar faces. They exchange pleasantness with the patrons as they prepare their bagels. When they see me, they don't even ask what I would like. They know. They simply grab an everything bagel, toast it, put a moderate amount of butter on it and pass it to the cashier who looks at me and says, " Ice Tea?". I say "yes" with lots of ice...and whallah! It's mine! My bagel and tea....sweet harmony.

But today was not so harmonious in the bagel store. In fact, it was quite disturbing.

As I walked into the store this morning, I stood in line behind a decent looking man about my age. He was wearing khaki shorts and a tan shirt. Very normal looking. He was waiting for his order to be finished. All of a sudden he yelled at the female manager of the store who was working behind the counter and said, " Don't be a smart-a**!" At first I thought he was joking around with her, but he then said, "Yesterday you were a smart a**, and I don't appreciate it. Do you understand me?"

He was obviously NOT joking with her at that point. I saw her face turn 4 shades of red. She turned and spoke quietly to a co-worker, and then turned and calmly asked to help the next customer. I could tell she was shaken up by his tone and embarrassed at his comments. Even so, she continued to work as he waited for his order...all the while glaring at her. She asked for the next customer in line and so I approached the counter, smiled at her and asked for my everything bagel. (She didn't remember my regular order, understandably.) I moved down the line to pay for my order and then he started in on her again. Loudly. " I want SALMON on it this time and don't mess it up! Do you understand? Did you HEAR me?" She just kept working. There was so much anger in his tone and attitude. Everyone in the store was silent...customers as well as employees. No one was saying anything...NOT ONE of the men in line with me said ONE WORD to this man. As I checked out I asked the cashier what the deal was with the guy, and he just mumbled, "Who knows."

My heart started thumping faster as I contemplated speaking to this jerk, wondering why any human being would ever treat someone else in such a disrespectful manner and WHY no one else was saying anything. I mean, after all, it was JUST a BAGEL. Not worth the bullying he was giving this woman. I gathered my things and had decided to forget all about it, but my feet decided to do the opposite. Before I knew it, I was at the side of this man. I touched him gently on the arm while he was waiting for his order, leaned into him so that I did not make a scene and whispered, " Why are you bullying that woman? Why are you doing this?" He turned and looked at my me and at my baby belly, his face softened and said, "Well, SHE was RUDE to me YESTERDAY!" His volume was up and by now everyone knew what I was doing. I leaned in closer to his face, stared into his eyes and said even more quietly, " But it's only a BA-GEL. It's not worth all this energy. " Well...he was not too happy with that little comment and barked, "Why do you think this is any of YOUR business anyway?" I said sternly,(as if I were speaking to one of my children) but still quietly, "You made it everyone's business in this shop when you started yelling expletives at her for everyone to hear." With that he turned and walked away from me and yelled, "*uck off." I responded, "Bully" and walked away to my car.

Nice. Great way to start off the day.

OK, now many of you are thinking that I'm crazy for even approaching this man. Even my husband was mortified to hear of what I did. "Georgie! He could have had a knife or a gun. What were you thinking?" Yeah, OK, point made, but there were at least 20 people in the store...I did not get the vibe that he was on drugs or "dangerous" man. I knew he was just being a jerk and could not stand one more minute of his abuse. I mean, at what point, as Christians do we act when we see an act of injustice? At what point do we walk away and do nothing? All I know, is that if I were paid minimum wage, had to get up at 4am to make bagels for strangers only to be hassled by a jerky patron...I'd have wanted someone to stick up for me. Honestly 9 times out of 10, I admit I walk away...but I could not this time. It was just too harsh, too blatant, too inhumane.



Amy Caroline said...

Oh Georgie!
Once in awhile I get the same gumption. Suddenly I am standing before someone and politely telling them off. I don't know what makes me do it. I get shaky and feel my blood pounding in my ears... but if I don't say something, who will? Maybe no one and that sometimes scares me more than speaking up.
I would have been scared to do it, but I just want to say I am proud of you. You did the right thing. People treat retail workers like they are sub-human and it is not right or fair.
You go girl!

Michael said...

The Catholic rubber meets the road. This is a great story of faith in action.
Take care.

Jennifer F. said...

Good for you!! I guarantee you made the clerk's day. I worked in retail for a while (3 months before quitting in disgust) and I had a couple people treat me like that. I wish there had been someone like you there when they pulled that!

Georgie Tamayo Clemens said...

Amy, chris and jennifer,

Guess what? This morning I went into the bagel store and asked about the rude man and whether he stopped by this morning.

The employee behind the counter said, "yeah, he came in and he apologized to everyone for his behhvior."

Can you guys believe that? That is so awesome! It just goes to show you that we cannot give up on people. I would have NEVER thought that man (in all his pride) would be able to apologize to anyone for anything...but he did. God doesn't give up on us!

Chad said...

I suspect you had quite a bit to do with him apologizing.

But I have to admit I agree with Chris's reaction (surprise, surprise)...

Have fun in Raleigh this weekend!

annie said...

I just happened by your blog. What you did was brave and good. A God moment. Bless you.

Georgie Tamayo Clemens said...


BIG, BIG, Surprise! Heh.

Georgie Tamayo Clemens said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mom Nancy said...

Good for you! I admire anyone with the guts to stand up to bullies. I pray that if I were faced with the same situation I would react as you did, but I fear I wouldn't. Thank you for your example!