On Ice

It's mighty cold around these parts. How cold is it?

Cold enough that when I went out yesterday I wore a thick sweater underneath my heaviest coat on which I zipped both the inner and outer zippers. I even deigned to pull the hood over my head to block the wind. For a girl who dresses to accomodate hot flashes rather than thermometer readings, those clothing choices totally reflect the bone chilling atmosphere.

Despite those heroic measures, I was still shaking in my boots.

It wasn't only the weather that was chilling. I witnessed an incident in the grocery store that really set my teeth on edge.

Like many supermarkets, our local store has a bottle return area just inside the entry doors. There are five bottle return slots, but there are still usually people lined up and waiting to recycle cart loads of plastic empties. (Personally, hauling empty plastic bottles back to the store and standing around feeding them into holes in the wall is enough to turn me completely against drinking soda or beer anyway, but that's a story for another day.)

There were only a couple of people waiting and I manuevered around them to pull an empty cart out of the queue. Suddenly, an elderly man with a basket full of bottles storms out in front of me and rams his cart up against the basket of another man who had stepped up to the bottle return.

"Just what the h#*$ do you think you're doing??" he shouted, right in the man's face. "I have been standing here waiting for the next available slot and you dare to just walk up and take it???"

The other gentleman (also an older man) was nonplussed for a moment. I honestly don't think he knew this man had been waiting. He said something that I couldn't hear, but, the first man wasn't giving up - in fact, he had escalated into full blown rage. He was physically quite a bit taller and bigger than the man he was verbally attacking, and was standing very close to him so that he towered over him. He was shouting directly in his face.

"You need to MOVE YOUR A&$ right now! Did you hear me?  It is not your turn! I have been waiting and waiting and you have NO RIGHT to go in front of me. You better just MOVE YOUR A*&!"

He was going on and on in this vein, and the other man was now getting angry and shouting back, although I couldn't hear what he was saying. A young mother with two small boys was trying to get her children away. I was trying to hurry my own mother out of the way (which isn't easy, because she moves pretty slowly these days).  When I finally got inside the store, I ran over to the manager's window.

"There are a couple of men out there involved in a nasty confrontation," I said. The manager, a strong, young whippersnapper, headed out to handle the situation, but I could still hear them going at it for several more minutes.

Finally, I saw the manager come in and go back into the store offices and I continued with my shopping. As I wandered through the store, I was shocked to see the aggressor in there shopping, still belligerently muttering as he shoved his cart through the aisles. I imagined he had been sent packing to take his business elsewhere - that was certainly what he deserved, if not a trip to the police station for a cooling off period of his own.

So I've been wondering ever since - is behavior like that considered acceptable enough that we simply slap people on the wrist and send them about their normal business? Or are people (like the store manager) fearful of repercussions if they censure customers who behave badly dangerously?

As I watched this man become consumed with rage over a virtually unimportant incident, I couldn't help but think that if he were carrying a gun there might have been some horrible, even deadly, consequences

And that thought sends the kind of chill up my spine that no amount of warm clothing will prevent.