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Fear is not a license to be an asshole

It Started With a Punchy Old Lady

Are you familiar with the NextDoor app? It’s kinda like Facebook for your local neighborhood. Neighbors can use it to keep each other posted on local events, missing pets, items they have for sale, recommendations for local services, that sort of thing.

Yesterday, my Hubby wrote a post on NextDoor about his Coronapocalypse experience at the grocery store. He wrote how he saw people wearing Ziploc baggies taped over their hands and bandana masks as if they were wild west train bandits. He wrote about seeing pushy, entitled dickheads mobbing a stockboy and swiping food out of the boxes before the poor guy could get even get it on the shelf. The grand finale to his adventure story was describing how an 80-year-old lady body-checked him, literally shoved him as he was reaching for a bottle of alcohol. To be clear, this was rubbing alcohol, not the useful kind of alcohol that you can drink. Then he ended his post by giving a shout-out to all the grocery store employees for their tireless efforts at keeping the shelves stocked and praised their composure in the face of this insanity.

Within minutes, people on NextDoor started commenting — mostly adding positive feedback about the grocery store staff or jokes about the level of cray-cray that people are stooping to nowadays.

Then Came the Social Media Shitshow

Then it turned all social media sideways. Some unknown Angry Karen gave him a verbal dressing down for not being understanding of Old Lady’s fear. Karen lectured that because of Old Lady’s advanced age, she is more afraid for her life than my Hubby (whose age she has somehow determined to be less than 80 despite having never seen/met him), and how dare he be offended by her behavior.

Look, I get that she’s afraid. We’re all afraid; some of us more than others because of our risk factors. BUT FEAR IS NOT A LICENSE TO BE AN ASSHOLE. Being afraid doesn’t mean we get to be inconsiderate or rude to our fellow humans and it certainly doesn’t give us permission to initiate physical altercations.

Especially considering the full story of what happened with the bottle of alcohol: Hubby saw her reaching for that bottle on the very bottom shelf so he very thoughtfully picked it up to hand it to her. But of course, there’s no way she could have known that he was actually being helpful…

Oh wait, yes there was. She was an adult human with voice capabilities so maybe she could have USED HER WORDS like we expect every toddler on the planet to do and said, “Oh, could I please have that bottle, I really need it?”

Even if Hubby didn’t want to give up the rubbing alcohol, at least by asking she could have initiated a conversation — a discussion between civilized people about their need for rubbing alcohol — instead of a initiating a shoving match that she was ill-equipped to win if he had reciprocated.

He did not reciprocate. I’m proud to say that when Hubby was shoved, he kindly responded, “I’m sorry, I was just going to hand it to you so you didn’t have to reach down so low. If you need more, there are about 50 bottles on the endcap at the end of the aisle.”

She didn’t apologize, didn’t thank him, she didn’t make eye contact or even acknowledge his presence in any way. She just barged past him to get to the endcap.

And here’s the kicker: my Hubby has an autoimmune disorder which puts him at a higher risk for the virus. Possibly more of a risk than Old Lady. Like most autoimmune disorders, his is not outwardly visible, so again, she couldn’t know that about him. Unless she fucking asked about his health.

But at Least We Had Cabela’s

In stark contrast to the grocery store incident, Hubby and I had spent about four hours at Cabela’s the day before, waiting to buy two more little handguns. (Don’t go down a “guns are bad” rabbit hole right now, we’re Texans and this is what we do. Stick with me for the rest of the story). Three dozen would-be gun buyers were gathered with “take-a-number” tickets in our hands, striking up friendly conversations, sharing hand sanitizer and generally being calm, cool and supportive.

Like when the burly guy we had chatted with when we first arrived suddenly realized hours later that he had accidentally taken two number tickets. He came back to us and gave us his extra ticket, which moved us up the line by about fifteen numbers and spared us another hour of waiting.

At the checkout stand, we gave the last box of protein bars to a mom with two little kids perched on top of a shopping cart full of water filters, blankets and ammo. Her husband had overheard us saying we had mostly 9mm guns at home and he said, “wait here.” He came back a few seconds later with the very last box of 9mm ammo in the store – he had seen it mistakenly mixed in with the shot gun shells where we would never have found it.

People did these nice things for each other simply because we had formed small bonds by briefly talking to the people standing next to us. We heard each other’s stories and understood each other’s needs and were therefore better able to help and be helped.

Strangers Don’t Have to Stay That Way

Even in the best of times, none of us knows what the stranger beside us is dealing with. But when the world is turned upside down like it is now, maybe we could be more mindful of others’ needs and not assume they pale in comparison to our own?

Personally, I’m trying to remember that self-isolation and social distancing still allow me to engage with other humans and behave like neighbors – whether in person or digitally through a NextDoor app or social media. I’m trying to be more like my Hubby and less like an Old Lady or an Angry Karen.

P.S. A note to my privileged Boulder brethren:

We live in the #1 Most Educated City in America; Boulder is ranked one of the country’s healthiest cities to live and retire in, we are the #1 Happiest City in the US and we enjoy an average household income that is 30% higher than the rest of the nation. Most of us are really goddamn lucky. So let’s start sharing and showing kindness to each other like the fortunate fucks we are and stop being the greedy, entitled, douchebags everyone accuses us of being. Stop proving them right by plundering the shelves of Whole Foods; it’s embarrassing. If you can afford to do your hoarding at Whole Foods, you probably don’t need to be hoarding in the first fucking place.


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