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The Kroger Incident

July 7, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
The man first caught my attention in the frozen food aisle.

As my 2-year-old daughter and I headed toward the ice cream, we passed him as he talked animatedly into the cell phone cocked to his ear. He was stocky but athletic, in his late 20s, maybe early 30s, dressed in a tank top and shorts, his skin over-baked.

I don't remember what he was saying, just that he was talking loudly -- so loudly that people two aisles over could hear. How obnoxious, I thought to myself. I mean, it's one thing to call home if you need to double-check with a spouse on a grocery item. But it's quite another to just blab away in public as if you're the only person around.

About 10 minutes later, we crossed paths again. Only this time, I did catch a few of his words. It was hard to miss them as he dropped the f-bomb, called someone an MF and sprinkled in a few other choice words. I had to say something.

"Excuse me, sir. Would you mind not cussing in the middle of the grocery store where there are kids?" I called down the aisle to him.

Phone still at his ear, he looked at me incredulously. Either he really was trying to impress the person on the other end of the phone, or he was just that stupid, but his reply was:

"You know what? No." He laughed. Then over his shoulder as he headed down the aisle, he called, "Why don't YOU go someplace else?"

Yeah. Sure. I'll just abandon my shopping cart and skedaddle, spiriting away my youngster so you can cuss up a storm and alienate more customers. I'm sure the store manager would love that.

I should have held my tongue. Really I should have. But instead I retorted with the worst insult I could think of: "You are a rude S.O.B."

Why didn't I just say "You are a rude man" or "You are a rude person"?

He picked up on my hypocrisy right away. "Oh, so you can say the letters and it's OK?" "Yes," I spat back weakly. He laughed contemptuously and, as he rounded the corner, I heard him telling his cell buddy about the idiot lady who cussed at him for cussing.

Feeling angry and defeated, I finished the shopping without further incident. I told the customer service person about the man, just as an FYI.

Recounting the incident later to my sister, she said I should have said nothing to the man and reported him to the manager immediately.

"I'm sure the manager would much rather risk losing him as a customer than you and all the other people he probably offended," she said.

I know I shouldn't have called him a name, but should I have said nothing? If someone bothers you, I believe you need to take it up with them directly. If you "tattle tale," then you're playing the victim and it's only going to make the situation worse.

Others might say you shouldn't confront anyone when you have your child(ren) in tow. They say, the world is so full of crazies, you never know what might happen. Again, to my way of thinking, that's a weak position, a victim mentality, a doormat waiting to be stomped on. I don't want my daughter to grow up being afraid to go to the grocery store and thinking everyone's out to get her.

If you say nothing to or do nothing about the rude people of this world, you are part of the problem.


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