Monday, September 25, 2006

"Old" Rage

I often have a range of blog topics in-mind before I sit down at the keyboard, but choosing one (or remembering them all) can be a little challenging. Luckily, I stumbled upon a bit of inspiration, this morning:

In Remants of You's latest blog entry, she mentions the highlights an example of how race seems to color people's perceptions. In other words, when the same situation is considered by different groups of people, the white people tend to interpret it one way, while the Black people tend to interpret it a different way.

That's just what I expected after (and during, to be honest) an incident that occurred at a local drug store, yesterday afternoon. As the incident unfolded, I kept thinking about how others would react to each stage. In fact, that affected how I responded, because I wanted things to be as clear as possible, when I shared this story, as I knew I eventually would.

That's enough introduction. Here's what happened:
Yesterday, my girlfriend and I went to a local drug store. After we chosen our items and we took a few minutes to flip through some magazines. While doing this, an elderly, sickly-looking white male slowly walked by.

I made note of his appearance and even mentioned it to my girlfriend because it was so distinctive and, to be honest, a little creepy. You know how you can kinda pull your bottom eyelid (for lack of a better term) down, exposing the pink, fleshy material beneath it? Well, this both of this man's eyes looked like that... on the regular. They just hung open like that.

Anyway, we eventually finished with our magazines and decided to head for the register to pay. As we did, we approached the same elderly man I mentioned before. I told my girlfriend to prepare herself for his appearance, as we'd probably pass him, soon.

We did. He was pretty slow, so we casually strolled by him. As we did, he turned left, so I figured he was going down an aisle to shop some more.

While waiting in line, I noticed a shopping cart headed toward us. It either would've hit us or blocked our path. I looked up and saw the same elderly man leaning against it with the same vacant stare. I thought he might've inadvertently pushed it toward us, but before it'd make contact, I reached out and stopped it.

I said, "Sir? You almost hit us with your shopping cart."

He responded in a somewhat muffled tone saying, "Well, you've gotta be quick, in this world," going on to say something else I barely made out. I think it was something like, "That's allright. I'll just get your number when you leave."

I responded saying, "I don't understand," but he didn't say anything else.

We waited in line a little longer and I just couldn't let it go (because I knew it'd bug me and leave a lot of room for interpretation, later), so I asked, "Were you joking?"

"No," he said. "You ran up here in front of me."

I corrected him. "No, sir. We passed you over there," pointing to the area where we'd passed him and he'd eventually turned. "We've been standing here for a while, now."

And we had been. It hadn't been fifteen minutes or anything, but it was long enough for the line to "uncurl" and straight-out along the length of the counter.

He didn't say anything in-response. I went on to say, "but you're welcome to get in front of us, if you like."

"No, no," he declined.

When we finished paying, I said good-bye to the cashier, then turned to the old man and said, "Have a nice day."

He didn't say a word, so I finished, "...or don't. Whatever."
Now, I'd like to know how some of you see that situation. I'll just tell you, now, that I wanted to give him the benefit-of-the-doubt and assume that his freaky-looking eyeballs were less functional than ours and maybe he really didn't see that we were in line, already.

But the thing is, at SOME point, he KNEW we were there and he STILL pushed his shopping cart up to hit us with it. Now, that's happened to me, before, at a local grocery store and, just like this time, I stopped the cart and spoke up to the old man. Again, just like this situation, the old man failed to apologize for almost hitting me with his cart.

That says, to me, that he did that shit on-purpose.

And, just like in that previous situation, I wondered if this old man would've been so quick to express his old-rage at us, if we'd been a younger WHITE couple, instead of a Black couple.

As you've surely guessed, by now, I'm all but convinced that this old man would NOT have played knick-knack paddy-whack on that white couple's bones.

Whenever I relate these kinds of stories to folks, the reactions are more or less split along racial lines: The Black folks think race was a factor and the white folk tend to think that it wasn't. There are always exceptions, of course, but this is how it usually goes.

My experience, though, makes me pretty confident that race was probably a factor. After all, I sure don't hear too many of these kinds of stories from white people.



So, whether you agree or not and whether you're Black, white, brown, or plaid, please free to share your opinion about this little situation. If you wouldn't mind, though, please let us know your ethnicity, so we'll touch on "Remnants'" point about how differently we tend to see the world, based upon our own ethnic background.

By the way, I felt comfortable with my departing bit of smart-assery, considering h0w uber-polite I'd been up until that point and considering how impolite he'd been.

27 comments:

Miz JJ said...

You were much more polite than I would have been. I don't care if you are old, you can still be a racist. I will call you out for doing that shit. Don't run your cart into me and then try to act all innocent. People like to try to tell you these things are not about race, but since I have usually experienced racism more often than a white person I feel that I am able to tell what is racist and what is not.

That last little comment wasn't mean. Telling him he better watch his cracker ass because you're going to get him would have been mean.

YouToldHarpoTaBeatMe said...

I can be a bit on the sarcastic side... like "No sir, it's that freaky thing you got going on with your eyeballs that clouded your judgment... but er uhhhh, you can get up front if you'd like"

That's just me tho.

I've been polite to people, only to have them act as if I BETTER do it. If I can see it coming, I do have a tendency of making that person feel small before they have a chance to take a shot at me, and yeah, they usually are non-black.

Again, that's just me tho.

chele said...

Wait a minute ... he pushed a shopping cart at you? What the heck is that? Do I think it was racially motivated? Probably. He may have been just an old fart who was bored and felt like being a bastard. It's hard to say.

West said...

Miz JJ & YTJTBM: I feel you (and am glad you didn't think that last comment was too rude).

It trips me out, though, how people of different ethnicities tend to see these things so very differently.

chele: Yes, ma'am. He pushed the shopping cart into me... and so did an old man, some years back.

The one from waybackwhen claimed that I was moving too slowly, when my friend was ahead of me and she hadn't finished checking out, yet.

This guy claimed that we'd run up ahead of him.

It's not as if either of these things would excuse hitting somebody with a shopping cart, but dayum.

I agree that it can be tough to say, with absolute certainty if race was a factor, but I never hear my white friends tell stories like these.

Maybe I don't have enough white friends. *shrugs*

Anonymous said...

Wow, I haven't had to deal with getting hit by a shopping cart. No, you weren't rude. Miz JJ's comment was great.

I have had my share of incidents though, and in my 20's I was oh so much more vocal, or prone to confrontation.

Stoяmy Dazέ said...

I definitely think race was a factor but even more than that...I KNOW he did it on purpose.

That old geyser is very lucky that it was you in the line up. You know alot of young people, probably due to similar situations would have struck first and worried about it later.

I commend you on the way you handled the situation. I would have given him a good ole fashioned tongue lashing.

Nice blog. I saved you and I will be back.

Meat Bag said...

You are assuming the worst. You assume he was going to hit you with his cart. You said you stopped him short of being hit by a cart. How can you expect him to apologize for something he did not do?

You claim that you were staring at his eyes. Do you not think it is disrespectful to stare at someone's infirmity? He probably noticed you and your girlfriend staring at him and thought you were disrespecting him.

Why do you assume he would have crashed into you? Did he display hostile behavior before? Even if he had crashed into you, how much damage could an old man have caused two healthy people like you? Minimal at best.

Also, you label the guy as having 'old rage'. I see no evidence of rage.

Luke Cage said...

Yo West. I think you know the answer to this before you even asked it man. This was clearly a case of dislike at the very least, so tack on these lil tidbits to the last sentence. Disrespectful, racist, mean-spirited, aggravated assault (or at least an attempt to) and what is this?

"Well, you've gotta be quick, in this world," - Holy shit! You know what? I think just on gp alone, I would've let that cart hit me and then I would've taken the same cart, rolled it down some aisle on the opposite side of the supermarket to make him go fend for himself.

I don't know what his mobility was like, but something tells me you and your gf would have been gone long before he came back to irritate you some more. Your last comment wasn't even mean enough actually. He may have deserved a bit more.

All and all man, you handled it as best as anyone could have in the same circumstances. Racist or not, the act and the words were totally uncalled for. 'Nuff said! Imperius Rex! -lol

West said...

re: remnants' "Wow, I haven't had to deal with getting hit by a shopping cart."

Looks like I took your turn! That's my second time.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
re: stoяmy's "I commend you on the way you handled the situation. I would have given him a good ole fashioned tongue lashing."

Hehe. Thanks. The way I see those situations, though, (especially as a Black male) has me thinking that people would twist it all around if I showed the slightest hint of aggression. HEADLINE: "Huge, bald Black man accosts poor, infirm, and elderly upstanding Tallahassee resident!"

"Nice blog. I saved you and I will be back."
Thanks and welcome!

West said...

re: meat bag's "You are assuming the worst."

Backatcha. Your entire response seems to assume the worst about me and my point-of-view in this situation.

That said, I recognize the fact that I will never know if racism was truly in this man's heart. But, between my life's experiences and the way that the man responded to my very polite and completely unthreatening questions, comments, and presence, there was certainly undue animosity on his part.

"You assume he was going to hit you with his cart. You said you stopped him short of being hit by a cart. How can you expect him to apologize for something he did not do?"

I'm pretty sure I said, "...the old man failed to apologize for almost hitting me with his cart," but whether he hit me, almost hit me, or would have hit me if I hadn't stopped him, I still think he was in the wrong. Obviously you disagree, as is your right.

"You claim that you were staring at his eyes."

Actually, I'm pretty sure I said, "I made note of his appearance..." I'm fine with someone disagreeing, but it'd be nice if it were based on what I actually said.

"Do you not think it is disrespectful to stare at someone's infirmity? He probably noticed you and your girlfriend staring at him and thought you were disrespecting him."

Perhaps you think that the proper way to respond to staring is by hitting someone with your shopping cart. I disagree.

And I notice that now you've got me AND my girlfriend "staring" at this man. Still assuming the worst, it seems.

"Why do you assume he would have crashed into you?"

The cart was headed for me and was close enough for me to stop it with an object in my hand. That seems uncomfortably close, to me.

Besides, if I were mistaken and he had no intention of hitting me with his cart, he could have corrected me when I told him he almost hit me. He didn't.

If you ask someone why he tried to step on your toe and he responded by saying that you wronged him in some way, wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that you were right about him almost having stepped on your toe?

I think so.

"Did he display hostile behavior before? Even if he had crashed into you, how much damage could an old man have caused two healthy people like you? Minimal at best."

Why are you assuming that we are two healthy people? Why do you act as if hitting someone, without causing major damage, is unworthy or an apology?

"Also, you label the guy as having 'old rage'. I see no evidence of rage."
I see no evidence of balanced consideration on your part, so we'll have to agree to disagree.

West said...

re: luke cage's "Yo West. I think you know the answer to this before you even asked it man. This was clearly a case of dislike at the very least, so tack on these lil tidbits to the last sentence. Disrespectful, racist, mean-spirited, aggravated assault (or at least an attempt to) and what is this?

"Well, you've gotta be quick, in this world," - Holy shit! You know what? I think just on gp alone, I would've let that cart hit me and then I would've taken the same cart, rolled it down some aisle on the opposite side of the supermarket to make him go fend for himself."


Sounds like an excellent response, but I think that the local paper would've had a decidedly different take on it... as well as the police.

Personally, I think you're right and they're wrong, but, as we know, the world ain't always fair... as a number of falsely accused and wrongly incarcerated people will attest.

"I don't know what his mobility was like, but something tells me you and your gf would have been gone long before he came back to irritate you some more. Your last comment wasn't even mean enough actually. He may have deserved a bit more.

All and all man, you handled it as best as anyone could have in the same circumstances. Racist or not, the act and the words were totally uncalled for. 'Nuff said! Imperius Rex! -lol"


'Preciate it, man.


Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

Meat Bag said...

I apologize if you believe I am assuming the worst of you.

However, I don't believe there is any evidence of rage here. Rage is when a man catches his best friend shtupping his girl. Rage is not when an old guy 'with a vacant look' pushes his shopping cart towards two others.

I believe the guy must have been sensitive about his eyes. His eyes may be dysfunctional or 'creepy' but it doesn't mean his hearing doesn't work. He may have heard you telling your girlfriend to look out for his eyes. I would personally find this quite offensive.

Additionally, I don't believe in apolozing for an action I did not take. Hence, I don't think he owes you an apology for coming close to hitting you with his cart.

I notice you did not answer my question of 'did he display hostile behavior before?'.

I apologize for assuming that you are healthy. I will now assume you are sickly. (Just joking here, westley)

West said...

re: meatbag's "I apologize if you believe I am assuming the worst of you.

However, I don't believe there is any evidence of rage here. Rage is when a man catches his best friend shtupping his girl. Rage is not when an old guy 'with a vacant look' pushes his shopping cart towards two others."


I'm not willing to debate the point of whether this was "rage" or not. If you believe it wasn't, that's fine.

"I believe the guy must have been sensitive about his eyes. His eyes may be dysfunctional or 'creepy' but it doesn't mean his hearing doesn't work. He may have heard you telling your girlfriend to look out for his eyes."

1) I've got enough tact and manners to speak quietly. He only heard me if his hearing aid was turned up to "11."
2) Again, it's fine if you disagree with me, but it would be nice if it were based on what I actually said. I said, "I told my girlfriend to prepare herself for his appearance..."

It'd be best if she wasn't noticeably startled when she saw his eyes, for the first time. I think that's in her and his best interests.

There's a big difference betweeen telling her to prepare herself and telling her to "look out for his eyes," loudly enough for him to hear it.

You apologized for giving me the impression that you were thinking the worst about me. Thanks. It'd mean more, though, if you'd just stop doing it.

Judge me, if you must, by what I say and by what I do, not by misrepresenting my actions or intentions.

"I would personally find this quite offensive.

Additionally, I don't believe in apolozing for an action I did not take. Hence, I don't think he owes you an apology for coming close to hitting you with his cart."


1) If the only reason he didn't hit me was because I stopped him, then he still wronged me.

Note that unsuccessfully attempting to commit a crime is a crime in and of itself.

2) If he didn't intend to hit me, then he could've and should've said so - even if he weren't going to apologize. He failed to do either.

3) You say you don't believe in apologizing for actions you didn't take, but you apologized "if [I] believe [you] are assuming the worst of [me]."
So clearly, the perception of wrong-doing is substantive and worthy of apology or clarification.

"I notice you did not answer my question of 'did he display hostile behavior before?'."
He displayed hostile behavior then. That was good enough.

"I apologize for assuming that you are healthy. I will now assume you are sickly. (Just joking here, westley)"
Just "West," please.


You're, of course, fully entitled to your opinion, but it seems to be based on clear misinterpretations of the evidence before you. Hopefully, I've clarified my position and shown why and how I disagree with yours.

Thanks for the discussion and have a good day.

Meat bag said...

Thanks for the discussion. I will now withdraw from this discussion. I suggest one look up the definition of rage and use it appropriately.

West said...

"Old Rage" was a play on words (i.e. "Road Rage") with just enough basis in reality.

If it'll make you happy, though,...

"Rage" is defined by "angry fury; violent anger." Hitting someone with a shopping cart is an act of violence. Doing so as a result of perceived wrong-doing suggests a degree of anger.


Now, this being a blog with the word "semantics" in the title and description, I can only raise so much sand on that point. Still, you really seem to be despereately clinging to the "rage" issue, without acknowledging the rather conspicuous holes in your own arguments.

That doesn't seem particularly fair or balanced.

West said...

err... That was supposed to be "desperately."

Hehehe. *puts on dunce-cap*

Meat bag said...

I should bow out, but I feel like I have to reiterate one point. I think the old dude might have heard you. You say you were not loud but do not discount the fact that he might have heard you and was offended. No one here is innocent.

As for my dispute with the word "rage", you say he came at you with a "vacant look". I don't associate a "vacant look" with rage. I think a vacant look is seen in a distracted person who is not paying full attention.

Anyhow, I enjoy reading your misadventures and thoughts. I often disagree with your conclusions but I think you are very thoughtful hombre.

Since you are considering the race issue, do you believe you would have reacted differently if this was an elderly black man?

Stoяmy Dazέ said...

...See I told you I would be back :).

Your right...Your probably would have got the shit end of the still being your that size.

But sometimes our RAGE, gets the best of us. Sometimes we just get tired of being the bigger person, sometimes we just get tired of being belittled, and sometimes we just get tired of being tired.

Like I said I commend you!

Stoяmy Dazέ said...

...Seems I can't stay way. Lol

Whats really sad, is although we know how the paper would read...So does the old guy. That is why he had the balls to push that cart and a big, tall, bald, black guy.

It's pretty sad when people can justify their wrong doings, (Whether the cart hit you or not, whether he meant to hit you, he pushed it towards you...WHY?)Because they know they are going to come out smelling like a rose!

West said...

re: "I should bow out, but I feel like I have to reiterate one point. I think the old dude might have heard you. You say you were not loud but do not discount the fact that he might have heard you and was offended."

My point was that he couldn't have heard me unless he had a 007 super-spy hearing-aid turned up to the max. So no, I don't think he heard me, at all.

None of the evidence suggests that his beef with me had anything to do with my whispered comments to my girlfriend.

re: "No one here is innocent."

I was minding my own business when a stranger apparently attempted to hit me with his shopping cart. I'm feeling pretty innocent.

re: "As for my dispute with the word "rage", you say he came at you with a "vacant look". I don't associate a "vacant look" with rage. I think a vacant look is seen in a distracted person who is not paying full attention."

I said "the same vacant look." In other words, he looked just like he did when he was pushing his shopping cart, earlier... something he was apparently doing quite purposefully.

Again, if he had not been trying to hit me, he probably would've said so.

re: "Anyhow, I enjoy reading your misadventures and thoughts. I often disagree with your conclusions but I think you are very thoughtful hombre."

Disagreements and compliments, both, are welcome. Thank you.

re: "Since you are considering the race issue, do you believe you would have reacted differently if this was an elderly black man?"

Reacted differently in what way? I ask because I think I reacted in a very polite manner up until the very last moment. There'd be less reason to assume that his actions were racially motivated, but it was his actions, that prompted my responses, more than anything else.

West said...

re: Stoяmy Dazέ's "Whats really sad, is although we know how the paper would read...So does the old guy. That is why he had the balls to push that cart and a big, tall, bald, black guy."

I'm not a big guy (despite what my scale says). I just meant that my features would get twisted when the story was told, later.

That was my mistake. I forget that there are newer commenters around here.

Meat bag said...

"I said "the same vacant look." In other words, he looked just like he did when he was pushing his shopping cart, earlier... something he was apparently doing quite purposefully."

So he was looking at you in the same way that he was looking at the Q-tips and Listerine he was picking up...

Maybe he thought you were a cardboard cutout...

West said...

re: "So he was looking at you in the same way that he was looking at the Q-tips and Listerine he was picking up..."

Ha!
No, he was pushing his shopping cart down the aisle in the direction of the pharmacy.

re: "Maybe he thought you were a cardboard cutout..."

If so, I probably scared the shit out of him when I reached for his cart. :p

Luke Cage said...

Geez West. I'm going through something similar on my blog today also.. what in the world is in the water today????

Anonymous said...

Sounds like one of those cases where old people use their age as a excuse to get away with being rude. They think becuase they are old that they have the right to say anything. Whose going to beleive you over some old geezer.

For those of you who seem to disagree with West or atleast present an oppossing veiw consider for a moment that West had pushed the basket at the old man?

West said...

re: luke cage's "Geez West. I'm going through something similar on my blog today also.. what in the world is in the water today????"

That's pretty freaky. I'll have to check that out.

re: raiden's "For those of you who seem to disagree with West or atleast present an oppossing veiw consider for a moment that West had pushed the basket at the old man?"

I don't understand. I didn't push a basket at him.

YouToldHarpoTaBeatMe said...

Wow. Is there a broken gas main or radiation leak somewhere? Sheeesh!

No, point blank, he was being difficult. Maybe (or maybe not) racist, but difficult. He's not Mr Miyagi, discharging a lesson, and you're not a Grasshopper, in need of checking your reflexes.

Now, had you busted a cap in his old azz for disrespeckin' you, I could see the need in all the quips and crap. It's not like you turned into "Hank" on the man.

I'm just SAYIN'!