At first I didn't notice anything different as I pulled my car into a parking spot at the grocery store. The forecast was calling for rain, and the skies were already threatening. I wanted to get what I needed in pretty good time and get out--a daunting task at Marc's, which has a large closeouts section that bogs me down. In it, I can find anything from garden rakes to wall clocks, room-sized rugs to purses. But I was resolute as I grabbed my bags and started towards the door.
Suddenly, I saw the police car. It was pulled up parallel to the front of the store. Its lights weren't flashing or anything, so I figured they were probably grabbing a few things themselves. But as I came closer, I saw the back door open, and an officer had a young woman by the arm. Neither one looked particularly distressed, but it was clear that he was going to put her in the squad car. Another young woman, who looked nearly identical to the first one, was standing there calmly asking, "Do you want me to drop off the car? Do you want--?" and I stopped listening and looking.
That sort of thing bothers me, and I don't like to gawk. It's clearly None Of My Business, and no one needed my help, obviously. It wasn't Entertainment.
I'd like to say that everyone else had the same philosophy, but of course, you all know that's not the case. There was almost a traffic jam of people and their shopping carts trying to come out of the store, caused by the two or three Elderlies with full carts, standing stock-still, watching this unfortunate drama unfold. I had to almost thread myself through a few more just to get through the IN door.
Once I did, however, I was soon stopped in my tracks by a monologue spoken loudly enough for everyone at the front of the store to hear. A woman's voice, speaking conversationally but assertively, said, "Just cut their hand off, that's what I say. If they want to steal, cut off a hand. For a first offense, maybe a finger, but if they do it again, then cut off the whole hand. Maybe then they'd think twice."
Aghast, I turned around and was astonished to see that the speaker was one of my favourite cashiers, a woman about my age, maybe a little younger. She was always so pleasant and kind to me, making sure to pack my groceries so that the bags were light. She was unfailingly chipper and chatty, talking about weekend activities and even inquiring about my health when I hadn't come in for a while. To hear her speak so easily about such brutality was jarring.
This happened a week ago, and I'm still struggling with it. So much is so wrong about it.
With everything in me, I wanted to challenge that cashier. I wanted to ask her if that is truly what she believes, that maiming a young twenty-something woman for what may well be the one mistake of her life is really what she considers to be Justice. I wanted to ask her if she knew that she was advocating for Sharia Law when she invoked these penalties for theft. I wanted to know how she could find such bitterness and hatred in her heart for a stranger, and for someone who had done nothing to her personally. And I wanted to ask her if she had ever stolen anything--anything--in her life; and if not her, what about her kids? What about her friends or co-workers? Did she really want something ugly and primitive to be Justice In America?
But I didn't do that. I didn't confront her then and there. I decided to wait and go through her line, speak to her civilly and calmly, but then she wasn't there. And now I know my chance is gone; I won't go through her line anymore.
I feel lousy. I feel as if I didn't Stand Up For What's Right. Like I let her get away with a big load of crap and spread it around, unchecked.
These days, any little Inch becomes a Mile pretty damn fast. I hope that, by my silence, I didn't help start a superhighway.