We had a situation arise working today at Sam’s Club that got me thinking a bit. We had an employee who was struggling to get grocery store carts into the store when a man in a pickup for whatever reason decided to start verbally lashing out at him. The man in the pickup started calling the employee all sorts of harsh names because the employee was struggling to handle thirty some carts and get them lined up so that he and another employee could move them into the store. According to the two men working carts, the man in the pickup yelled obscenities and attacked the employee’s character. The employee tried to respond professionally to the man’s verbal attacks, but finally reached the point where the two men were close to blows. I saw the incident from about fifty yards away and based upon the non-verbals of our staff person I thought he was going to hit the guy.

I have had a similar case myself working at Sam’s with an individual because normally our prices don’t adjust until after nine am, but for some reason they went up soon after eight. We don’t have any kind of indicators in the shack at the gas station and have to rely upon checking the pumps to see if the prices have changed. In my case, a man was buying diesel fuel and was upset that our listed price was lower than the price on the pumps, because I was not aware of the new price and had not had the time to change the outside listings of prices. In my case, too, this person questioned my intelligence, demanded immediately to see a manager, and then called me an S.O.B. I tried to placate the man, but he continued to go off on me. I have heard of other employees being similarly accosted by customers, too.

The question that I have pondered when this has happened has been one of wondering if these verbal “bullies” think about the fact that if they are verbally abusive to people, somewhere along the line that someone will respond to them in a violent fashion? In the case today, the man who was verbally assaulted was a former corrections officer who knew the takedown tactics taught in the Nebraska Department of Corrections and other fighting techniques. He admitted to me that he was about ready to swing on this person. How do these verbal bullies know that the staff person is not violating company rules and doesn’t have a knife or gun on them and would use the weapon on them? How do they know that this staff person isn’t going through a rough divorce and is an emotional wreck ready to snap? How do they know if the staff person is about to get fired and figures that they might as well go out with a bang?

It seems the height of stupidity to be aggressive and rude to people whom you don’t know, who are working in low end jobs, who are under a lot of stress. They somehow think that the threat of losing a job is enough deterrent to keep someone from kicking their butt? I just wonder.

One, perhaps unfortunate aspect of our modern culture, is that we don’t allow the obnoxious people to get taught the hard way to show respect to others. We don’t enforce the moral codes like the “Golden Rule” of “doing unto others as you would have done unto you.” I was taught this as a child that you always treat others as or better than you would want to be treated. You speak to ladies whom you are not close friends with as “ma’am”, men whom you are not friends with as “sir,” older adults whom you are familiar with as “Mr., Miss, or Mrs.,” your parents as “Mom & Dad or Mother & Father,” and your grandparents as “grandma and grandpa.” You are to know their personal names, but never refer to them by their personal names. It seems we miss something when civility is not enforced.

It saddens me that politeness is not taught or enforced. The police have too much to do to take aside an obnoxious person and deal with them. Society does not allow individuals to take the law into their own hands, either. Perhaps we would have a better place if each person knows they need to act like a lady or gentleman, and that there were consequences for not behaving properly. Just some thoughts for now.

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