I had to run to the grocery store last week for peanut butter, orange soda, and blueberry muffins (yes, I know, random). I went in, found my items, paid for them, and headed out the door with time to spare on my "I have stuff to do and going to the store is a chafe" schedule. All was well.
In theory, anyway, all was well.
In reality, all was not even close to well.
Here's why: after I paid, I found myself walking behind an older couple. He was pushing their grocery carriage, and she was walking beside him. She had a really cool purse and I was about to compliment her when I realized that she wouldn't hear me because she was too busy being berated for having forgotten to pick up granola bars during their shopping.
Perhaps "berated" isn't a strong enough word.
Perhaps "verbally assaulted" is a better word.
As though she was the only one in charge of knowing what food to buy. As if he was only there to push the cart. As if they weren't still in the store and couldn't just turn around and get some. They weren't even out the door yet.
And also, as if she was a child in need of correction -- although, even though I don't have children, I don't believe that anything that he said would be remotely close to appropriate for correcting a child. "I can't believe you're so fucking stupid," he said. He didn't bother to keep his voice down. "We walked right by them and you couldn't just pick them up? Didn't I ASK you if we had everything? DIDN'T I?"
She said nothing, but I had a good idea of what she was doing. She was answering him furiously, but only in her head, where it would be safe.
That's what I used to do.
It made me feel ill. I wanted to be anywhere else in the world but right there. Unfortunately, because of the way that the store is set up, I couldn't go around them until we got outside. I finally passed them and could still hear him all the way to my car. When I finally got there, I sat down, put my head on the steering wheel, and cried for a few minutes.
I wept for her, because she deserved more than that. Everyone -- every single person on this planet -- deserves more than that.
I also cried for him, because he doesn't know -- or maybe just doesn't care -- that you CANNOT under any circumstances treat someone so horribly.
And finally, I cried some selfish tears for me, because I wanted to help her and didn't have any idea how. I wanted to say something but I also didn't want to make it worse for her. She looked so tired and defeated, and he was so ... revved, as though taking his rage out on her made his day even as it ruined hers.
I wish I had said something, anything, that could have helped her.
Even if it had been something as stupid as "I really like your purse."