I'd shake my head and say I don't know what America is coming to, but that would be a lie. I know exactly what we're coming to-for all practical purposes we're already there. We've probably been here for years but it was harder to spot whilst people still went through the motions of basic manners. It is getting terribly ugly. I'm not naive, I've had slurs hurled at me by people that thought I should, "Go back where I came from" and have spent enough time on picket lines to know the threat of violence from people that disagree with you isn't something to be taken lightly. Still, I don't go out into the world each day expecting the worst. I know better, but I still give people the benefit of doubt, and I try to behave decently as well. Most people aren't horrible human beings, I tell myself that, but I'm running across more and more people that are horrible human beings. Earlier this week I tripped and fell outside the pet store. A man my age was walking out the door and he laughed at me as he walked by. Who does that? A normal person would ask, "Are you okay?" or offer a hand, but in Omaha 2016, you get laughed at. Ha ha, the old lady fell down. Hilarious.
I was walking to my car at the grocer this evening. I had Danny with me. A man in his late 50's that looked like your typical office worker, in a gigantic truck zipped past us at an alarming speed for such a crowded lot, and pulled into the space beside mine. He hopped out of his truck, stood next to me as I loaded my groceries into the car and demanded, "How are you?!"
It wasn't a friendly question-and I wasn't sure what he wanted, so I attempted to finish up, and leave. Again, he demanded, "I SAID how are you?!"
By this point he was well into what I consider my space, and I hurried Danny into the car and hit the lock. I was ready to hit the alarm, and I don't really know why I didn't. I closed the trunk and he demanded a third time, "ANSWER ME! I SAID, how are you!!!"
I looked up, and told him to fuck off.
I know in hindsight this was a stupid thing to do, particularly in Nebraska where practically everyone has a gun. At the very least, I could have ended up punched in the head. It wasn't smart, but something in my indignant old lady head was outraged enough that this idiot thought it acceptable to harass a woman out grocery shopping with a child that I reacted without calculating the risk. He stormed off, then turned around and came back yelling, "What did you say?!"
I should have locked myself in the car, or screamed, or hit the alarm but instead I shot him an angry look and said, "You heard me." Then, I climbed in the car and drove off.
My husband thinks I did the right thing, though I'm not sure I like his reasoning that even if I had taken a punch (or a bullet) it still would have been the correct thing to do. Danny certainly got a lesson on how not to pick up women. The anger this guy had for my refusal to respond to his demands was terrifying. In my younger years I would have been prepared for something like this, but at my age it caught me off guard. The bullying, belligerent, stance and the threat of violence that came with it if I didn't comply with his demand to be acknowledged, and provide whatever answer he was seeking isn't something I prepare myself for when I make a quick trip to the grocer for milk. Perhaps he was looking for an opportunity to see if I didn't speak English so he could scream about immigration. Maybe he thought that's how you meet women. Whatever the motivation, the situation escalated so quickly I didn't have time to think through any of the risks.
I'm still not sure how I could have handled it better, but I'm pretty sure I could have. Maybe.