Yesterday, Hayden (my youngest son) and I spent the day running some errands while my daughter was at soccer camp. (My oldest is enjoying some time as an "only" grandchild with my parents this week.)
After a trip to the bank, the library and the grocery store, we headed to Kohl's to return some shorts I had purchased for Hayden that were too small. As we got on line in the customer service area, I immediately sensed some tension in the air. Then I heard the voice. And the words. And the tone.
A man two places in front of me wanted to pay off his balance. The young girl helping him explained that for customer safety, associates were unable to access account information. So she was unable to tell him the exact amount he owed. She told him that he could get that information by using the courtesy phones located a few steps away. This man proceeded to go up one side of this young lady and down the other. He called her nasty names and talked to her like she was worthless.
And I did nothing.
I'm not usually the type of person who does nothing. I've got a big mouth and sometimes get involved in things that a 5'2" house frau shouldn't get involved in without back up. Or a gun.
Yet, I did nothing this time. None of us did anything. All of us on line looked uncomfortably at the ground. We didn't make eye contact with the girl, with the man, or with each other. Probably because we were ashamed. And scared. This man scared me. I sensed violence beneath his surface. His reaction was so out of proportion to the issue at hand, that I sensed his grip on sanity was tenuous at best. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
Eventually, he stormed off and the young lady burst into tears. She held herself together quite well up to that point. She called for someone to come help her with the line that had quickly grown as the yelling man took up a good amount of time. I returned the shorts and walked out of the store with my son, who kept asking why that man was so angry.
When I got to my vehicle, I recognized that the feeling in my stomach wasn't just the start of adrenaline from the tense situation. Is was shame for not intervening in some way. I imagined that young lady was my daughter and how I would feel if I knew she was intimidated and embarrassed like that while a bunch of adults stood around and did nothing. I imagined how scared that young girl was as the target of such anger by a man that triggered my spidey senses as dangerous.
I called the store and apologized to the young girl shortly afterwards. I also asked to speak to the store manager to inform her of what I witnessed and how well the young girl handled the man and his anger. I felt that it was the least I could do, and I hung up feeling that my call made her feel a little bit better. But it did little to assuage my guilt.
I wonder if I would have intervened if I didn't have my son with me. I'd like to believe I would have, but I'm not certain that I would have done anything differently. I don't know why I did nothing; I don't know if I ever will know. And I really hope that I am never put in another position like that and that I never have to find out