Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The World We Live In

This isn’t the blog I was thinking of posting this week. I’ve been putting my thoughts together on my theories about alien visitation and I’ll get around to writing that at some point. But something happened this week that I need to report, because I may have dodged a bullet. Literally.

This happened at the cable TV office. I stopped in to pay my cable bill. I think I may have mentioned this in a blog a couple of years ago as one of the Things That Cheese Me Off. In a perfect world I’d hand over my check and be in and out in less than a minute. What usually happens is there’s one other customer in there, and they’ve got some kind of problem that takes forever to resolve. (This happens in bank lines a lot, too. I dare you to tell me it doesn’t.) I’m left standing there for five to ten minutes or longer for a thirty-second transaction. Yeah, it cheeses me off.

To make matters worse, I usually see the person who winds up holding up the line go in ahead of me, usually just by seconds. Which is what happened. I almost ran the woman down in the parking lot because she wasn’t paying attention. While I parked, she went inside. I knew what was going to happen before I even got in there.

I was partially right. They’d remodeled the office over the summer. Now you walk right in and they’ve got two service windows. Sadly, both were busy with people who had problems. The lady who’d gone in ahead of me was at the head of the line. I stepped up behind her.

During remodeling, the Payment window had put up a box labeled “Put payments here if you don’t need a receipt.” That box saved me a lot of waiting on more than one occasion. Pity I didn’t see it out in the new office. There’s supposed to be a drive-up window, but they’d parked a truck there, blocking it. Guess the window’s closed.

Well, I was there. Might as well wait.

Over the next five-ten minutes about four other people came in. One of the customers wrapped up her business and the woman in front of me took her place. Sure enough, she had a problem too. (The guy at the other window was there before, during and after my visit. He may still be there now, for all I know.) “How long have you been here?” the guy behind me asked me at one point. “About five minutes,” I replied.

We resumed our waiting. Two people behind me struck up a conversation. The woman who’d beaten me into the office got one question settled but then asked another one. “These people are so old they’re liable to die if they’re here much longer,” the guy behind me said (or words to that effect). I thought about giving a smartass response but didn’t bother. I just shrugged.

“C’mon, hurry up,” the guy starts growling. “Quit socializing. Wrap it up!” He’s not talking to me, or to himself. He’s getting quite belligerent, and he’s getting louder.

Fortunately the woman did wrap up her business and left. I went to the window, handed over my check and payment slip, suggested they put the box back out for people like me who just want to pay their bill, and left. I smiled and nodded at the guy behind me on my way out. Your turn, pal. Knock yourself out.

I kept an eye out while I got into the car and as I was pulling away. He didn’t come out. Guess he had a problem too. Sounds like he had several.

It didn’t occur to me until I was out of there and well down the road that he might have been armed.

# # #

We live in a strange and dangerous world today. A lot of people seem to be on edge, for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reason at all. I’ve had people go off on me for reasons I can’t determine. I’ve done the same to others. In one case I was overheated (it was summer and humid); in another I hadn’t had sufficient sleep for a couple days. The people I snapped at wouldn’t have known that, though. Want some celebrity examples? Check YouTube. You should be able to find the video of singer Bjork attacking a woman in an airport, because the woman had called out, “Welcome to England” (or whatever the country was) to her. Or Tyra Banks having a Chernobyl-level meltdown and reaming out a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. Somebody says or does something—or nothing—that just hits these people the wrong way at the wrong time and they snap.

Sometimes it’s just loud and harmless. And sometimes it isn’t. More and more these incidents happen while somebody’s holding a gun. And there’s no telling who, when, or where.

The guy behind me didn’t look like a nutjob. He didn’t fit any of the usual profiles. He was a white guy, tall, maybe in his 50s, either retired, off work, or out of work. How else could he be in a cable TV office on an early Monday afternoon? I don’t know why he was there. Maybe to pay his bill, like me. Maybe he lost access to ESPN. Maybe he had to be somewhere else and was pissed at the thought he might be late.

All I know for sure was that he was working himself up into a nice little tantrum. Getting to the service window probably defused him. Or not. Some people need the explosion. He could have been looking for an excuse to go off on somebody. Relieve whatever stresses were building up in his head. We can’t tell how people’s brains are wired, or miswired, just by looking.

Or maybe he was just an entitled, impatient a-hole with the emotional control of a spoiled-brat five-year-old. In which case, get over yourself. I was ticked at the long wait too, and I’ll bet so were the others in line. You didn’t see any of us getting obnoxious over it.

I haven’t heard any reports of violence at the cable TV office, so he probably just reamed out the customer service girl, stomped out the door and went home. This time. Next time it could be different. He could have a knife or a gun on him when something pushes him, or someone like him, that last inch over the edge.

The Vegas shooter didn’t fit any profiles either. He was white, older, rich. No criminal record. Nothing at all to suggest he’d smuggle a bunch of firearms into a hotel suite and open fire on concertgoers below. His own family was stunned by his actions. He suicided before the cops could get him, so we’ll never know what sent him over the brink.

Anyone. Anywhere. Any time.

I need to start paying more attention to the people around me. Just in case I have to hit the floor and roll under a desk or something. Maybe I should start mailing in my cable bill. It’s probably safer. And faster.

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