Occasionally, I like to check out resale shops for surprise treasures. Today I went to my local shop, looking for a certain type of Asian bowl to replace the one at home that has a big chip in it. Nothing of that sort sat on the stores’s housewares shelf, so I turned to inspect some of the clothing aisles. Just then, a woman’s loud voice made everyone’s heads turn.
There were at least twenty other shoppers in the store—all women— and we all tried to watch but not watch. The angry woman at the check-out counter was berating the clerk and using terrible language, too. I wouldn’t have been more scared if the woman had been replaced by a bison!
I kept peeking out from behind displays to see if the woman would become violent, praying she didn’t have a weapon. She was right by the only exit I could see and I’m sure none of us wanted to try to slip by her during this altercation. The sales lady informed the woman that the police had been called, which prompted more angry gestures and even worse language. The woman’s two companions tried to steer her out the door, but she was having none of it.
All the shoppers huddled behind displays near the back of the store. And it wasn’t until a police SUV pulled up and the crazy lady, still ranting about her supposed bad treatment, met him in the parking lot. Before I left, I approached the poor sales lady, who had kept a professional demeanor the entire time, and told her how sorry I was that she had to experience that.
I hopped into my car and pulled slowly around the trouble-maker and her two companions still standing in the parking lot, while she gestured and shouted at the policeman.
In retrospect, I hadn’t seen anything that would have made the lady go ballistic. But she was sure she had been singled out for special scrutiny, and it wasn’t fair, and she had always paid for anything she bought in this store and so on. Later, during her harangue, she said she’d never been in this store and why was everybody watching her.
The day before, I had attended an inservice at the Pregnancy Clinic where we had our annual go-through-all-the-government-procedures-and-policies class. One of our sessions covered what to do if a dangerous or angry person comes into the Clinic.
I have to say, the sales lady did everything right. She singled for another clerk in the back to call the police, kept her voice and body language low-key, listened, and spoke respectfully. She stayed behind the counter while gently informing the angry lady that the police would arrive soon.
Good job, Mrs. Sales Lady, I think we could all take lessons from you.
There are two quotations that spring to mind: “Speak softly but carry a big stick (the police).”
The other is from Proverbs: “Angry words stir up strife, but a soft answer turns away wrath.”