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Nov 04 2012

The Rage Problem

People are always saying that the internet has changed us for the worse. That we’re more violent than ever, more cruel than before, because we don’t see the immediate consequences of our actions–it isn’t real. We have a generation of children who will grow up to be adults who don’t understand how much the things they say and do can hurt other people. After what I experienced today, I would venture that it’s not the internet to blame–and that we’re going through a fall in our civilization already that will only get worse.

Case in point: the kids and I stopped at BJ’s Wholesale Club to get some gas on our way to a child’s birthday party. They have the best prices in town, but you can only fill up with your membership card–it’s an exclusive benefit that you technically pay to get (I’d like to think I’m still saving money after paying the annual fee, but that’s a whole other discussion). There are 8 pumps at this particular station, with hoses long enough to reach either side of the car, so you can pull up to any of them . No biggie. Sometimes there are lines, but the wait is never long.

I pulled up to the far right set of pumps behind someone else who was just starting to gas up, turned the truck off, and started searching my purse for my BJ’s card. Usually it’s right on one end or the other of my cards in the wallet, but today it was being elusive. I searched. I searched. And then the honking started.

Ignoring it at first, I continued on with my search. But as it persisted, I started to get flustered, shouting to myself (because clearly there was no one else I could have been talking to) that I was looking for the card. The honking didn’t let up and, for some reason, I felt I had to explain myself. I opened the door a crack to let the insistent driver behind me know that I was seeking my membership card and to ask them to please be patient.

Instead, the driver, an elderly man with a full head of white hair, opened the door of his bright, red truck, climbed out, and proceeded to throw a litany of profanity at me. Baffled, all I could reply was, “Please, there are children in my car!” He shouted that I should have had my card ready when I pulled up and continued to swear. Everyone was staring, but nobody offered any assistance.

Stunned and shaking, I got back into the driver’s seat, turned the car on, and pulled away from the pumps. I parked my car to the side of them, considering for a minute if this was something that should be reported to the police, or was I blowing it out of proportion?

And that, right there, is the problem. I wrote down his license plate number, but did nothing with it. I continued to shake as I drove down the street. And then the waterworks came as it hit me that I was just verbally assaulted, in front of my children, and nobody cared. They all looked at me, with mixtures of pity and god-knows-what-else on their faces, but not a one defended me. Nobody called out that man for blowing the whole situation out of proportion–since when was it okay to treat another human being in such a manner over having to wait 2 minutes at the gas pump? But apparently it is. And I enabled him by not doing a thing about it. What a horrible example I am for my children.

I sit here an hour and a half after it happened and I’m still shaking. Kindness to our fellow man is gone. Decency is out the window. And we only have ourselves to blame.

About the author

Carrie @ poet in the pantry

Carrie is a home baker and amateur photographer who dabbles in writing and poetry.

9 comments

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  1. Laura

    Ugh. I hate that. I have not experienced anything that extreme, but I did allow an old crochety sales lady to snap AT my child once–and my child was doing nothing wrong. It was a pre-emptive snap. And it shocked me so much I did nothing. My kids (ages 3 and 5 or so at the time) were big eyed and freaked out and I was shaking and I felt like an idiot for the longest time after. (((HUGS)))

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      I know that when my kids are around, I feel a lot more vulnerable. Instances when I normally would stand up for myself, instead I find myself slinking away like a dog with its tail between its legs, even if I did nothing wrong. Thank you for the support!

  2. Hattie

    I’m a newcomer to your blog, but I read this post with sympathy – its an issue I reflect a lot on. I don’t believe people are necessarily and better or worse than ever, but I do think boundaries of acceptable behaviour have been lowered for a number of reasons. The internet/texting/social media is amazing, but less and less often we don’t see the consequences/effect that our words have on others and as a result, people are less inhibited about what they say in “real life” – its not a good thing, I agree. A lot of people are so focused on their own immediate needs and happiness or their problems and stresses that they are too busy stamping their feet and pouting to interact appropriately with others. When I encounter courtesy and kindness and “the extra-mile” from strangers/customer service workers these days I gush with gratitude because it’s so unexpected. I tend to think the problem is compounded by the fact that I would hope I would, as I am sure you would, be the kind of person who treated others with care. Anyway, I just wanted to say I hope you are feeling a little better. If i helps all, I would probably have tried to show you some support at the time :)

    Diane

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      I keep telling myself that he clearly had something much worse going on in his life right now, that perhaps there was some urgent need that had to be fulfilled and that’s why he was so inconsiderate. I’m glad I didn’t engage, but it still is quite cruel. Thank you for the support.

  3. Jayne

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. Not sure what’s happening out there in the world but I agree, respect, manners, common courtesy whatever you want to call it is vanishing. I notice it most when driving, I actually drive the speed limit and every single day I get other drivers right up on my back bumper, they swerve, give me the finger, put on their brights etc. I have three sons, 21 year old twins and an 18 year old and even they are appalled at the other drivers and also intimidated by them. And I always hear people complain about young drivers, oh no, it’s a lot of older folks driving this way (and on their phones). So they are only thinking about themselves, not the driver in front of them (who could be a new driver and nervous) or the people out for a walk or bikeride or the animals crossing the street, just themselves and God forbid you get in their way…..
    Twice I have called the police and have no problem doing it, you shouldn’t have to be harrassed while filling up or driving with your children. That old man should be ashamed, same goes for the folks that just watched. But remember, you didn’t do anything wrong, that was all about him and his own misery and he took it out on you.

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      Road rage is quite scary–absolutely no consideration on the road anymore! It’s all me, me, me, and anybody who gets in the way will take the brunt of that force. You’re right, too, in that it’s not just young people–the elderly are, sadly, just as guilty.

      Thank you for the support!

  4. Aunt Linda

    Honey,You did nothing wrong,these days you don’t know if someone might have a weapon on them.

  5. Kate | Food Babbles

    That’s insanity! I can’t believe how people behave with no regret whatsoever. They believe they’re in the right. Common decency and manners are absolutely out the window. I don’t know why people get so bent out of shape over small things. I’m so sorry that this happened to you!! What a terrible experience.

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      As I’ve calmed down, I’ve invented a sort of backstory for the man. Maybe his wife was in the hospital and he needed to fill the tank so he could get there. Maybe a friend just passed away and he was upset. Maybe he just received some terrible news about his health and his is emotionally charged. I was very upset about how I was treated–still am–but I also don’t know what he was going through at the time. Maybe his isn’t just a jerk. Then again, maybe he is…

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