It was just me and the good folks working at my local Dunkin Donuts during an unusual lull in the morning rush. My head planted firmly down looking at my phone, I became aware of three adults standing around the table next to me, speaking loudly, initially their words just noise. I tried not to, but the louder and more animated they became I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation. Apparently, a kid had somehow messed with one of these men’s kid at school, the details never mentioned. The father was, with each word, growing increasingly agitated and aggressive about whatever had happened, and said, more than once, “That’s my fucking kid we’re talking about…” his anger and volume steadily rising.
His companions were aggressively agreeing with him, goading him on, encouraging his fury. As their voices and ire continued to increase, I kept my head down, allowing them whatever privacy they might believe they were owed. The conversation turned from the offense of the child to his parents who, for what it’s worth, were spoken of with as much distaste as their progeny. At precisely the moment I happened to look up and to catch his eye, the male friend spit out, “He’s a Jew dog.”
Our eyes locked. Neither one of us looked away. “Don’t say anything, don’t say anything, don’t say anything” I advised myself as we continued to hold our gaze…yet it slipped out, I couldn’t stop myself: “Did you just call someone a Jew Dog?”
He lit into me. He asked me why it was my business (because you have loudly and aggressively overtaken the place), what was it to me (I was offended and, frankly, wondering what the expression Jew Dog actually meant) and then, with as much charm and class as your local neighborhood thug, he told me to fuck off. It all happened so quickly. The looks on the faces of the employees that stood behind him, mouths agape, said it all. We all knew that this could get ugly and fast.
Seconds later, the three made their way to the exit, but not before leaning into me and issuing a threat: something about coming to my house, “getting” my husband and a long string of expletives, none of which made any sense. The only thing that was entirely cogent and clear was abject anger. Rage. Fury. All of which, I suspect, had less to do with my inquiring about his word choice and everything to do with the state of our world.
As my coffee buddies began to arrive, I shared what had happened. Each of them, as had the employees, asked if I was okay. I was okay insofar as feeling, or not, as the case may be, safe. I was saddened, however, at how quickly and fervently this man lost any semblance of propriety or maturity he might have had. His anger was rightthere waiting to be unleashed at the slightest provocation.
Aren’t we all feeling that way; that at any given moment someone will say or do or think or believe something that is just enough to have us flip our lids? That we are all thisclose to losing it over something that perhaps has merit, but might just as easily not?
This happened several days ago. Being a woman-of-a-certain-age, I often forget experiences I had ten minutes, let alone days, ago but this has stayed with me. There is so much anger out there in the world.
I’ve always tended toward “sad” before “angry”, yet lately, there have been a few instances where I’ve gone to the dark(er) side and felt like the possibility of letting loose on the first poor soul to cross my path was never out of the question. (Aside: I haven’t. Yet.) And here’s the thing about anger: it is a terrible way to feel. My body, breathing and headspace change. My limited sense of having control is null and void. It is really bad. Worse, however, is what it must be like to feel that way allthetime.
I still don’t know what, exactly, a Jew Dog is but I think it is reasonable to assume that the goal was to malign, disparage and insult. At the time this happened I’ll cop to engaging, in part, for the fight. But, not seconds later I realized that this seemingly made-up epithet spoke more to a pervasive need to release anger with little care as to who it is directed toward than anything else.
And in the end, it just makes me sad.