*Let me preface by saying the story is real and I can’t really filter it. Also, my mama and daddy, did not allow me to use the word shut-up so that speaks to the frustration you are about to witness.
Last week, I was recovering from working several days in a row, with a ton of apprehension with licensing, and exhausted from trying to find creative ways to train our new staff. I also had a pretty intense reflection paper to write for a previous school and I couldn’t seem to un-jumble my thoughts. I decided I was going to hide myself in a small booth in the corner of a coffee shop, knowing a cup (or twenty) of hazelnut coffee would be just what I needed to rejuvenate myself.
It started out great! It was quiet and reflective. Then the dinner crowd starting funneling in, but although the noise level rose a bit, the peacefulness was still there. I continued working, deep in thought, only looking up when someone walked into my direct line of sight.
That’s when I first noticed the two middle aged ladies setting a few seats in front of me. I could hear their catching up, which sounded an awful lot like gossip, as they walked by my table. As I watched them set down, I noticed two young men setting in the lazy seats in front of them. I thought nothing of it, too focused on my own things to observe much.
Unfortunately, the lady in front of me was not as focused. My head immediately jerked up, of its own accord, when I heard, “he has it out and playing with it.” As I looked up, the younger kid (the one who had gained this lady’s attention) was, well let’s say adjusting his pants and walking out the door, oblivious to anything she was saying. The older kid, who looked to be about 14, stopped at the ladies’ table, apologized with an embarrassed look and stated, “I’m sorry, he’s slower.” Then as abruptly as his brother, he also headed out the door.
Uncertain of what to do, I went back to my writing, thinking it was all over. However, the lady in front of me was not done. Apparently, the apology did not appease her. She began to proclaim throughout the restaurant, “That’s disgusting, he was masturbating.” Now, I already mentioned both boys had left and had even offered an apology, so I’m not really sure what the purpose of the yelling (and I do mean yelling) was.
There were shocked looks all throughout the coffee shop, not necessarily because of the boy. Most of the disturbed looks and rolled eyes, including my own, were directed at the lady who couldn’t let it go.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. The younger boy, probably around 10-11, must have realized he had forgotten something. He came back in and started looking around the chair. And…she was off. She started yelling at this child that “he should be ashamed of himself,” over and over again. I kept thinking to myself, “this can’t really be happening. I just wanted coffee and quiet.” But it was happening.
She just kept repeating herself. And the boy, well I don’t know what the brother meant by “slow” but as she was yelling at him he didn’t respond. The lack of response wasn’t out of defiance or ego, but out of a lack of comprehension. She kept yelling and he kept ignoring, even when she was in his face.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.” I watch this scenario unfold, all the while thinking, he’s not the one that should be ashamed.
Before I could get up and do something (what I’m not really sure), he was back out the door. I returned to my writing but there was no longer peace and quiet, because my mind was spinning with the injustice toward this youth I had just witnessed.
Again, I was startled, as what now only be labeled as an attack, is directed at the staff at the coffee shop. They apparently “should have done more,” were “useless,” and “didn’t care about the hygiene of the place.” I’m baffled. I’m not sure what I’m more disturbed about, that there was a young man obviously being watched by his older brother masturbating, or the fact that a woman became so irate that she is now to the point of hysterics and the cause is no longer present.
And…you guessed it…the story doesn’t end there. While everyone in the establishment, patrons, staff, management, stare in disbelief and shock. The lady, I’m assuming not getting enough attention, decided to follow the kids outside. She continues to share her disdain as they get on the bus.
She no longer had an audience, so assumed it would be over. Instead, she began flagging cars down as they were pulling into the parking lot and recanting the whole story, loudly so everyone would know what she was doing and providing glances over her shoulder just make sure.
Unreal! I’m still processing what happened days later. I can’t fathom why someone would go to such extremes to shame and humiliate a child. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not justifying the behavior, but also don’t think I can offer an opinion without understanding.
Perhaps, I could say that about the lady, as well, but she’s a grown up. She never offered assistance or forgiveness or guidance. She simply yelled, and humiliated both boys, as well as the staff, and disrupted.
She took an unfortunate circumstance and made it even more unfortunate by making it about her.
How much empowerment would there have been if she would have accepted that apology from a teen boy? How much understanding would she have demonstrated if she would have walked to the counter and quietly informed the manager? How much grace would she have shown if she would have simply let them walk out the door and left them alone?
But there is also me…why didn’t I offer assistance? Why didn’t I step in and offer understanding? How powerful would it have been if I would have confronted her bad behavior. But I didn’t. I let it place out as I sat in my thoughts of inconvenience and why me.
I think about it days later because in my tiredness or inconvenience or apathy I simply watched it play out. Our indifference, my indifference, so often allows injustice happen. What will it take to change that?