28 March 2011

I'm Down with Ghandi

It was an average Saturday morning; I was shaking the lint from my filthy reusable shopping bags on my way to the market.  Caroline always comes to Stop & Shop with me because she likes to use their EasyShop device where she can scan and bag the items herself as we go along. And she knows she can always sneak in a few extra 600lb Gorillas in along the way with zero protest. I like the bonding time and appreciate a shopping experience that affords minimal interaction with the deli counter and cashiers.  I hate small talk.

Aside:  EasyShop is also the milieu of (mostly) unintentional shoplifting, which is a post for another day.

Next to the scanning kiosk, a young woman and her daughter from the Unitarian Church were collecting items for the local food pantry – pretty successfully, considering the towering assortment of groceries stacked around them.  Also hulking over them: a 60-ish burly gent who was decked out in burnished denim and enormous white sneakers.  His neon white hair was shaking beneath his Sox cap as he spoke with animated gestures. From a distance, he appeared non-threatening, like someone’s grandfather who would jokingly shoot at you with a pricing gun while stocking shelves.

But after a few more steps we realized this man was ranting in the woman’s face, telling her, in no uncertain terms, that she and others of her ilk were going straight to hell.

Caroline and I joined the semi-circle of onlookers who kept their distance, eavesdropping, exchanging glances:  Who is this guy and what is his fucking problem? 

We were all fidgeting.  Do we say something?  I have my daughter with me. This kook is probably armed to the teeth! 

FOOD PANTRY WOMAN: "With all due respect, sir, what do you think happens to peaceful, God-loving Buddhists, Muslims, Jews?"

BIG WHITE SNEAKERS:  "They all go to hell too. It’s in the Bible!"

At this point, I was convinced John Quinones from “Primetime: What Would You Do” was lurking behind the Cheez-It pyramid with a camera crew.  It was hard to believe that a real person could be this mindfuckingly backward.  Or so unabashedly obnoxious.

The woman’s daughter was tentative, but unfazed.  She handed Carrie and I a list of items the food pantry needed, which included baby formula, school snacks, and juiceboxes. Heathens!

FOOD PANTRY:  "With all due respect, sir.  I disagree. I don’t believe God is religion. He’s larger than that." 

BIG WHITE SNEAKERS:  "No! This isn’t a matter of agreeing to disagree! You are wrong!  Get it through your head! You’ve been brainwashed!"

Aside:  This is a huge pet peeve of mine.  The moment someone tells you you’ve been brainwashed, they should be immediately disqualified from any debate.  What they’re saying is they’re too arrogant (or naïve) to believe that they could ever (ever!) be unduly influenced, regardless of how long they've been stewing in their own broth. You could be brainwashed, of course, but not them. Never them. They are right. You are wrong. There is no other side. In a situation like this,  a true exchange of ideas is impossible.

The Food Pantry woman continued to hold her own while this buffoon raved on about the fire and brimstone that await her.

I realized this guy is exactly the type of person who Ghandi was speaking about when he said: ”I love your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."

FOOD PANTRY: "With all due respect, I disagree."

It was probably the frustrated pacifist that lives inside my soul, because the words "with all due respect" made me dry heave a little. My words were projectile:

“Excuse me, please stop staying that! He’s not worthy of your respect.  He’s not trying to have a conversation, he’s just yelling in your face."

She smiled and said thank you. "It's ok." 

Then I turned to Big White Sneakers. My actual words are in quotes, my thoughts in parentheses:

“What is wrong with you?”  (Dickhead).  “You are harassing a woman and a child who are collecting food for the poor! “(Is this how you get your ‘Christ on’?)  “What else are you doing today, beside harrassing people?”

BIG WHITE SNEAKERS (he's got black eyes, lifeless eyes, like a doll's eyes): “I support what’s she’s doing, just not what she stands for.”

ME:  “Did she ask you?" (You narcissistic pig)

SEMI-CIRCLE BYSTANDER: (chiming in, thank Christ!) "Maybe your time preaching could be better spent besides, you know, screaming at people collecting food for the poor."


A decent pile on ensued, but we stormed away in search of John Quinones, almost overturning an Entenmann's table in blind rage. 

Caroline said, “Mom, that man was a butt.”

Indeed he was, Sweetpea (with apologies to the butts). 

By the time we were checking out, though, I was still seething, determined to EasyShoplift a juicer and hurl it at Big White Sneaker’s head if he were still there. (also very Christ like).

But he was gone -- probably off to deface some “Coexist” bumperstickers in the parking lot.

We donated some juiceboxes and gorilla cookies to the food pantry box. 


Roving Lemon said...

You go, KJ. Way to speak truth to ignorant, bigoted blowhards. Gandhi would be proud of you, being the change you want to see in the world.

KJ said...

Thanks, RL. I was relieved and thrilled to see that most people were just as horrified by this behavior. Being the change! And being anti-asshole :)

jal said...

Well done and well said!!!

sbfish said...

You are my hero. You AND your mothering skills!! What an example you are to those children. Wish I had half your strength and your ability to form well thought out speeches in a pinch! I would have just spurted out some profanities much like your (thoughts). My son would have repeated them the whole way home and gotten little from the exchange in the form of a lesson!

KJ said...

Oh, dear Shan, it was not nearly as heroic as it sounds. Very shrill, almost cried and would have if others hadn't chimed in. I'm just proud I didn't use the word motherfucker, which just rolls off the tongue. And where do you think Caroline learned, "he's a butt!" Hahaha!

Anonymous said...

LOL! I loved reading this! BTW I cry when I get mad too. I hate it it steals my thunder...Rock on, KJ!!! K.R.

Alex said...

Well done! I'm torn between Christopher Llyod, Jon Voight and the guy who played Gandalf as White Sneaker guy. Glad it turned out well. If you were in Hoboken, Mr. Quinonas would have been there for sure.

Paul Reen said...

I loved this!!! You are my hero! And what a great example for your daughter to stand up for yourself and others! I enjoy the easy scanner thing as well and am always looking to minimize interpersonal contact (cashiers, deli, bank tellers, etc). I also love your use of the word "mindfuckingly". Bwah ha haha ha haa!

KT said...

Awesome, KJ! And a great big thank you from all of us brainwashed, rational (gasp!), UU's. Live and let live, baby!

KJ said...

Thanks, guys.

@Alex-now that you mention it, he did kind of look like a hybrid of Gandalf and an evil Leslie Neilson.
@PR-Mindfuckingly is my favorite modifier!
@KT-UUs finest! Need a meeting.

That said, I think John Quinones is really doing a public service, not unlike Chris Hansen did with the pervies. I really was expecting him to pop out from behind the Cheez-Its. If I hadn't been looking for him, I'm not so sure I would've said a word. Not sure what that says about me, but I know I would've been ashamed to just walk away -- and that is largely based on the Primetime factor!

Pam from SC said...

I cannot believe it has taken me this long to realize the PU is back!! I saved the link not willing to give it up and low and behold some mindless surfing on a rainy day led me back, I AM THRILLED!! After experiencing a very tough past two years, I finally feel like I am getting my mojo back and finding your blog again was the icing on my cake.