I went to the store today. It was an emotional roller coaster. Joy bounded in my heart when I saw that toilet paper was available. Resignation when my mom’s favorite brand of tortillas were still not available. And then anger.
I was waiting in line. The man behind me decided not to maintain his space.
He inched within a couple of feet of me.
Now, I never like having my space violated by strangers, but I normally keep up a facade of polite acceptance. That was once upon a time, though, before the harsh reality of our Brave New World.
In the age of Covid-19, I don’t make any pretense of politeness.
“Back up,” I told the man.
He looked at me in surprise. Dude was about a foot taller than me, at least, and built like a linebacker. I guess he’s not used to petite women telling him what to do.
“You need to back up,” I said, raising my arms, my fingers almost brushing his face. “There’s a sign on the floor that tells you where you’re supposed to stand. I suggest you stand on it.”
He still hadn’t moved so I raised my voice. “BACK UP!” My voice not only got louder, it went down an octave.
I turned back to the cashier. A younger petite woman, she looked horrified.
So far, I was irritated but not angry. People are idiots. This is a part of life. And, frankly, people have the right to be stupid when it comes to their own lives.
But someone else’s stupidity should not put my life in danger. Or anyone else’s. This is where we draw the line, where personal freedom intersects with social responsibility.
As I left the store, I heard the young woman, the cashier, apologizing to the man for my behavior.
That is what turned my irritation into anger.
How dare she apologize for me?
I had done nothing wrong. In fact, I had stood up for the rights of all of us to be safe, and enforced the store’s own rules. She should have been on my side.
But here’s the thing. She’s a young woman confronting a large man who might now be irritated. So she appeases him. This is reality.
It’s the reason that women will get into cars with drunk boyfriends who drive them both to death. It’s the reason a woman will make excuses for her brutal husband’s violent dog, and then watch in horror as that dog maims her child.
This is reality. That doesn’t mean I’m OK with it.
I’m angry that this kind of thing happens. I hope you’re angry about it too.
Previously Published on Medium