i went to town because i needed snacks for cramming for an exam. I needed a bag of chips…something i could just be mindlessly shoveling into my mouth one by one so that i was always chewing while i was memorizing. It helped the information stick in my memory and the tasty food kept me happy so that i wasn’t upset i had to cram for 6 to 8 hours straight. However, the kind of chips with 40 percent less fat were sold in town, not at the gas station where i lived. It was a thirty minute drive there and another thirty minute drive back. It had to be done. I didn’t want to go to the grocery i worked at because originally i was supposed to work today but my comrade took my shift so i could study for this exam. I felt it would be disrespectful to her to show up now as a customer when she’d sacrificed so i could be at home. So i went to walmart. I gathered a couple snacks and headed for the checkout. I wasn’t sure if the self checkout was on at the other side of the store. I couldn’t see that far without my glasses. I had parked at the other side of the store so i contemplated walking over there to check out on the other end, but i didn’t. I went to the self checkout in front of me. There was a man ranting at the walmart attendant standing near the self checkout. He was talking about how walmart didnt want to spend the money to put more registers in the self checkout even though there was room for one more because they were so cheap they were saving money. At first i thought he was just a disgruntled customer being an ass. I figured he probably tried to checkout and the registers were full and he was mad he had to wait in line….but there were several registers available. He was shouting and every muscle in his body was tensed. He was very animated and wired. He was babbling on about random things, switching from one topic to another without warning and throwing his hands in the air as he spoke. I quickly recognized narcotics were likely at play here. The city nearest my town was known for drugs. Nearly everyone i knew had had a problem at one point in the past. They were easily obtainable in an area that made and sold a wide variety of stimulants. So here he was on a likely drug fueled rant throwing his arms in the air and dancing around the walmart self checkout area shouting in what i’m sure he thought was an indoor voice in the state he was in. His clothes were faded and had dirt and sweat stains on them. His hair was disheveled. I recognized that it was time for me to go. I was disappointed with walmart’s response to the situation. Had we been in the grocery i worked at, we were all trained monthly in what to do in a situation such as this. The employee nearest to him would remain and try to pull the man over to the side, hear what he had to say, empathize with him, put some distance between him and the other customers, try to validate his feelings and defuse the situation. The employee would signal discretely to the employee nearest him or her to call the manager. in order to refrain from further upsetting the animated person causing a scene, the employee attending to him or her would not be the one to make the call. The manager would arrive and offer to speak with the customer privately and represent that the store valued them as a customer and wanted above all else to come to a resolution that would benefit all and ensure that the customer was a continued customer. The animated customer would be further shuttled away from the other customers bit by bit. Either the manager would be able to defuse the situation and bring about resolution or the customer would be spoken with by the manager until the police arrived to further handle the situation. Walmart employees apparently did not receive this same training. The attendant stood still and tried her best to ignore him. When she became uncomfortable she crossed the checkout area and stood on the other side for a bit before returning to her post but nobody was called. The customers were on their own when he began interacting with them. Void of all weapons i made a decision to check out quick and get to my car. In my opinion the man was on a stimulant…rash behavior, copious amounts of energy, and an artificially high tolerance for pain could be expected. I wanted no piece of this.
Out of the corner of my eye i noted an elderly gentleman in suspenders assisting his wife on her scooter to ring items up. She appeared to have some cognitive difficulties but he was still letting her scan the items. He put them in her hand one by one and motioned as she followed his gesture and slid the item across the metal platform to be scanned. He had turned around and said to the animated man, “why don’t you just calm down a bit okay?” I cringed. I wanted to help the elderly man but i wasn’t willing to take on a 6 foot man on stimulants without any weapons at my disposal. I wished the man hadn’t said that. In all honesty, i wasn’t sure what i was going to do. I wasn’t sure if i would be able to stand by and watch him harm the old man. I might have to get involved. As i turned around to face the situation i was hearing the young man shout at the elderly man as he bounced on his feet, “you wanna go? Come on lets go! You’re a yankee, i already know it! I can feel it! You’re a yankee, you wanna run your mouth, let’s go!” The elderly man waved his hand in the air, “no, no, i don’t want any trouble.” The younger man said, “well then maybe you should shut up!” The elderly man, in a voice full of complete and utter defeat said, “you’re right. You’re right.” The young man bounced back to the walmart attendant who was standing stoic next to a pole, “i know i’m right! At least i hope i’m right. You think i’m right?!” The woman in the walmart vest nodded her head that she agreed. i was heart broken for the elderly man. I understood what had just happened. In his day he would have smashed the younger man’s face in or at least pinned him to the ground until the cops arrived to cuff him; depending on how many drugs he had done, maybe just given him a good fight…but now, hunched over in his frail state, with his wife depending on him for cognitive function, he had neither the means nor the luxury of taking on this unruly young man. He was reminded of that by the pompous drug crazed idiot and he had to hang his head and admit that he couldn’t take him at this stage in his life. I knew from my years spent treating the elderly that this was a knife wound far deeper than any physical object could inflict. My female patients always envisioned themselves being crotchety old grandmas giving everybody heck and doting on grand babies in their golden years. My male patients somehow always envisioned they’d remain 20 forever, even when they knew they were in their 40s. They still felt and thought they were 20 year old men. I could see that it had taken all the wind out of the old man in suspenders and he was ashamed that he had no choice but to back down. In his day he would have said something different. I wanted desperately to right the situation, to punish the guy for the hurt he’d caused the old man. However, i was not going to take the guy on myself. If you want to fight somebody, just for your knowledge, picking someone on stimulants is not the right way to go. They develop super human strength and they feel no pain. You could literally break a chair over their head and they’d keep coming like it was a gentle breeze that barely registered. I gathered my groceries and left for the car as i heard a middle aged woman telling her earpiece to her phone that there was a crazy man on drugs flipping out in the walmart self checkout.