Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Society's Cowardice Plays Out in a McDonald's

The alternate title to this post could be It's McDonald's, Dude, It Won't Be a 5-Star Dining Experience.

I felt well enough today to bring my son to play with some friends at a new bounce-house place.  After playtime was over, we decided to go out for lunch.  A Playland McDonald's (the kind with a playground)  is nearby and we headed there so that the kids could continue having fun together.  Most of our pals ended up having to bug out to go to other things and it was just two of us who went out to eat.  My son hit the sack for a nice & long nap as soon as I hit the house this afternoon.

Sounds like a great day, right?  It was, but there was a dark moment.

A kid, a toddler to be specific, grabbed an ice cube and threw it while we were waiting for our orders.  I saw this happen and I kicked the cube to the baseboard so it wasn't in the middle of the floor.  No big deal, right?  WRONG!

A big-mouthed, middle-aged, @sshole used this non-event to act like an ignored attention whore.  He somehow thought he should also take it upon himself to educate others on how to be effective parents.  And by "others" I mean the entire restaurant because he was as loud as he was foul.

Interestingly enough, it didn't start off all that bad.  I didn't catch the entire exchange, but I did hear that he mentioned the ice on the floor.  The mother thanked him for pointing it out and apologized while picking up the ice. . .the ice that nobody was in any danger of slipping on because I had kicked it against a wall.

This was a block of ice that would eventually melt into a gigantic puddle of slipperiness, right?  WRONG!  It was an ice cube.  Note that I used the singular, not the plural.  One ice cube.  One! 

So he commented about the ice, she took care of it, and it was over, right?  WRONG!  Apparently emboldened, he started to harangue this young woman.  He even went there.  All mothers reading this probably know what there means, but I'll spell it out.  He spouted off with a why don't you watch your kids comment.  Really?  REALLY?!  Now it's on like Donkey Kong, motherf-----!  This woman had been perfectly polite and he had to go and say what he said.

For the record, no one can reasonably expect a parent to be happy with a criticism of their parenting skills.  Particularly a criticism that is stated loudly enough that everyone in a crowded McDonald's can hear.  And especially a criticism that is unwarranted and completely unnecessary. 

Did the kid throw a piece of ice?  Yes.  Was that wrong?  Yes.  Was it a safety hazard?  Not when he mentioned it and certainly not after she picked it up.  Was the mother being negligent?  No.  Was he out of line.  Yes.

Naturally, his comment escalated the situation; the situation that should have been over.  I know that she said something and I said, "She's doing the best she can.  Stop it."  He kept mouthing off and she kept giving as good as she got. 

I was hustling the kids out to the Playzone so that they didn't have to hear the scene because I figured that f-bombs would start flying at any moment.  I'll give this other mother some mad props because she really did a great job keeping her cool.  Had she lost it, the kids would have probably freaked out and I appreciate that she didn't let this bully provoke her into a major fight.  Goodness knows how she managed to hold her tongue because I don't think it was easy.

The entrance to the Playzone was clear on the opposite end of the McDonald's.  As I'm herding cats, I mean hustling 2 1/2-year old children out the door, this guy is still popping off from across the restaurant.  She was still giving it right back and I told him again that was enough and to stop it.  Once more, he mouthed off about watching our kids.  I finally said in a loud and indignant voice, "You are being very rude, sir!"  I honestly expected that the entire McDonald's would applaud at the bold truth, but is was as quiet as a church on Superbowl Sunday. 

Once our kids were playing outside and we were eating our lunches, we had a laugh over the whole scene.  We speculated about his masculinity, his need to get in the last word, and basically ripped him to shreds as only women can do.  But now I'm really bothered by the entire exchange for a couple of reasons.

One, no one else said a word.  Not even a peep.  The room was full of people, men and women, and not one person said a word when a man verbally harassed a young woman for several minutes.  However, everyone was abuzz about the scene when I returned to the restaurant a few minutes later and, yet, no one could be bothered to say a thing about it as the drama was unfolding. 

It strikes me that this societal cowardice is what allows tragedies to happen right before our eyes.  It's what allowed Kitty Genovese to be violently attacked, raped, and murdered within earshot of 38 of her neighbors in 1964.  It's what allowed countless people to ignore the 76-year old Norman Hemminger as he was dying in the middle of a street in 2009.  And it's also what allowed a group of people to ignore a man berating a woman in a McDonald's this afternoon.  Understand that I'm not comparing today's incident to a murder, but the same factors were playing out in the "audience" and I'd wager a guess to say that no one would have done anything had he pulled a weapon and assaulted her either.

Everyone is too apathetic or too frightened to get involved.  The real tragedy is that usually this type of bully will back right down when they realize that no one else is on their side.  The customers and employees in McDonald's today gave silent approval to his abhorrent actions.

I'm also disturbed that someone would walk into a Playland McDonald's at high noon and not expect to see children behaving like children.  I'll add that this bully took his food to go.  McDonald's has some of the fastest drive-thru lanes in the fast food industry and he chose to walk in to place his to-go order. 

He wasn't even planning to dine in so why didn't he just STFU and GTFO?  I'll tell you why.  It's because he's a sad and pathetic individual.  He needs to be in charge.  He needs to feel tough and manly.  It makes him feel better about himself when he tries to make others feel worse about themselves.  He takes pride in degrading women and humiliating them in front of others.  I'm going to suggest that this is related to some form of sexual dysfunction.  He's a loser and he will always be a jerk.  He will die, bitter and alone, wondering why no one cares about his passing.  And, he fact is, no one cares about him because he never cared about anyone else except himself.  He's a typical cowardly bully and I really wish now that I had told him all the things that I just wrote above because I don't think anyone has ever had the courage to break it all down for him.

So how was your lunch today?  Was it more exciting than mine?  Did it involve more armchair psychology than what I just tossed out?  If so, please share!

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