I'm getting along in years now and it isn't uncommon to look back and examine things that might have been done differently. I've never met someone that didn't take a mental stroll back through the years without wincing here and there. Sometimes I push it out of my head, sometimes I try to learn something from it, and then very, very rarely, I'm gutted with regret. I'm always going to regret not punching that neo-nazi at the Cheese Castle when I had the chance.
It was 2018 and we were visiting Chicago so Danny could go to a couple Cubs games. We had some extra days, so we drove north, as people from Illinois do, and stopped for lunch at Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha. It started as a cheese shop, but it has gone far beyond that now. I have great memories of the place from childhood when I'd occasionally ride along with my dad when he'd make deliveries. The owner would find out I was sitting in the truck, he'd yell at my dad to bring me in, then he'd make a big fuss over me and ask what I wanted. He knew what I wanted-I only ever wanted to hear the life-sized model cow they had on display "talk." He'd go turn on the recording and while my dad made his delivery, I learned about the history of cheesemaking from a talking cow, I adored that damn cow. I'd usually leave with a container of King of Clubs potted cheese because it is the best stuff in the world. They always sent one home with my dad for me at Christmas. So the point is, I have some strong emotional attachments to the Cheese Castle, and as I was standing by the door waiting for Danny who had been in the toilets for a good long while as IBS doesn't take a holiday even if you do, I spotted the nazi.
You have to understand, he was standing there in full nazi regalia, without shame. In the 21st Century, in one of the most ethnically German areas of the United States, this asshole is standing there waiting to buy his beer in full view of people that aren't exactly comfortable with talking about the war, decades after. The last thing they need is someone parading about dressed as a nazi.
Looking back it feels like it took a long time, but I'm sure it was only a couple minutes as I did the actions=consequences maths in my brain. I was carrying an obnoxiously heavy wooden handbag with sharp corners and metal feet that could probably do some real damage to his head whilst I drop kicked him across the floor. I'm five feet tall, and he was big, but I was pretty confident that I would have taken him by surprise and been able to inflict some damage. I knew he'd beat the shit out of me if he could, but I was also confident someone would grab him, and if not, it would be worth it. Assault charges for punching a nazi would be completely worth it. I thought back to the family that owned the place years ago. Would the old man be cool with me punching a nazi in his cheese castle? Absolutely. Would Junior be OK with it? Probably, as long as I didn't make a mess, or god forbid damage the cow.
I've only thrown one punch in my life, mind you, and she deserved it and I'm still not sorry. I was in fourth grade and new to the school. I had to ride the bus every day with a girl named Barbara that would torment me over my red Hudson Bay blanket coat. "Little Orphan Annie", day after day, after fucking day, until one day I had it with her shit, turned around and swung. I can't remember if I hit her nose or her lip, but there was blood. Not a lot, but enough that she got off the bus wailing and by the time I got home Barbara's mother had rung mine. Mum drove me over to apologise, acknowledging that I really didn't have anything to apologise for, but that etiquette demands that you at least make an insincere apology when you swing hard enough to draw blood. I mean, that's fine, even a ten year old understands society has rules.
Society has rules. Rules like not wearing fucking nazi crap out in public. You'd only do something like that to get a reaction...and I was reacting. My husband was already outside in the car, which was good because he's thrown less punches than I have. As the nazi made his way through the register, I saw Danny coming toward me and knew I'd lost my chance. I suppose you're reading this and thinking that's all for the best, but it isn't. A couple years later we all saw what these little nazi shits did in Kenosha, and I know punching one of them probably wouldn't have done much to dissuade them, but it would have sent a message that people aren't OK with their crap. I personally would have felt better had I acted on it. Punching Barbara in the face wasn't exactly satisfying at the time, but it did put a quick end to any potential bullying from anyone else and I went on to go through school without any further incidents. It wasn't random violence. I don't make a habit of going about punching people and a once every 45 years or so smack upside someone's head that deserves it seems like a small price to pay, etiquette or not.
I will always regret not punching the nazi at the Cheese Castle, but more, I really hope there comes a time when they won't be so confident that they can display their hate in public.