When Is It Okay?
A Public Display of Antipathy
By: Shira Bethea
*previously published in Formation Magazine
A recent trip to the grocery store left me questioning my moral compass. It has been days since the incident and I am still wondering if I did the right thing. I arrived at the store just minutes after it opened. The store was practically empty. I passed only one other customer my first few minutes in the store. Then I passed an elderly couple. The couple was stopped at the end of an aisle. They appeared to be in the midst of a quarrel. It happens. No big deal right. Then I saw it. My peripheral vision caught the man swat the woman across the face. By the time I processed what I saw I had already passed the couple. I was, however, heading towards a store associate. I told the associate what I saw. She without even so much as looking at me told me I need to tell a manager. She clearly was disinterested.
Instead of looking for a manager as I was told. I went looking for the couple. The woman spotted me and started to make her way towards me. She grabbed a hold of my cart and began pleading with me. The problem was I did not understand a word she was saying. I was not even sure of what language she was speaking. When the man saw that she had left his side and was now with me, he began to yell in a language foreign to me. At that point I decided to find the manager. I found another associate at the front of the store. When I asked if she was the manager, she replied “no.” I proceeded to tell her anyway. As I told her what I saw another customer interrupted, “The older couple? Yeah, he hit her. That woman is demented and he has no patience.” My facial expression must have said my thoughts because she began to back pedal. She followed up with, “I mean, not that it’s okay. Just tell him not to do it if he does it again.” I was stunned.
The manager did finally make his way over. Just as he did the couple got in line behind me. The cashier whispered to the manager. The manager just stared as the woman continued to talk to no one in particular. I had no idea what she was saying but her tone was that of someone pleading. No one paid her any mind. I watched the manager to see his reaction. He had none. Even after I checked out I lingered in the front of the store just observing. I left when the couple left but I didn’t do anything else. I still think about it because I just don’t know if I did the right thing. It still bothers me.
I had good intentions. Though the feeling I was getting from the people around me was I should mind my own business. I questioned myself the entire ride home. I wondered what was best for both of them. I have heard stories of people coming to the defense of people being abused only to be attacked by the very person they were trying to defend. I wondered if what I saw was a one off moment or did it happen often. Was the woman actually “demented” and if so how would the customer that suggested it even know? Did that even matter? I know being a caregiver is no easy task. I also know what I saw was not okay. I couldn’t help but wonder what would have been the outcome had the authorities been involved. Would the man have gotten the assistance he likely needs to be a proper caregiver? That of course is assuming that he was a caregiver. Would the woman have been completely removed from the situation? Would her new environment even improve her situation. As you can see I still have not come to anything conclusive on this one. This one may bother me for a while. One thing I have learned over the years is to take a lesson from every situation. Instead of coming down on myself for decisions I have made, I try to use the instance as a lesson. That is precisely what I intend to do. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw that day in the grocery store. I had never considered what I would do if ever presented with such a situation. Now I am giving it a lot of thought. I am spending a lot of time thinking about domestic violence, elder care, caregiver support, and even immigration. Even though I still have not come to a concrete conclusion, I feel talking about the situation will better prepare me (or anyone else participating in the conversation for that matter) should I be in a similar situation again. I am curious to get your thoughts on this one. Feel free to share with me how you think you would have reacted had you been in my position. Email me at WhatWouldShiraDo@gmail.com I may share your thoughts in a future article.