Years ago, I saw a woman walking across the parking lot of the business I worked at trip on a piece of uneven pavement. After recovering – and displaying a shameful gob of theatrics – she stomped inside and began to shout down the clerk on duty, promising to sue.
Okay. I get the lawsuit-happy mindset our country’s society, anymore. I understand that every hangnail, fall, scratch, blister entitles the victim to the property owner’s property upon which the accident occurred. It’s only fair, right? After decades of workers having their lungs burnt out by asbestos fibers and corporations and military entities dumping toxic waste onto land that one day turns into residential neighborhoods and playgrounds, we’ve kind of become accustomed to the idea that whenever we’re hurt in even the slightest of ways, we are suddenly deserving of the monetary value of everything the company or individual responsible in our minds owns. They should’ve taken care of that pothole. Put up signs. Warned passersby of danger. While we stumble around with our heads in an increasing number of distractions and deeper so as the number of those distractions increases. It’s never our fault. Never our responsibility to mind our daily journeys about the dangers of life. We just shuffle from one point to another, with a thought in the backs of our minds that, if we do fall over an upturned barrel or get hit by a passing truck, somebody’s gonna pay.
On the other hand, there are those who note the infrastructure in their care, acknowledging its deteriorating state, who shrug “fuck its” with every example, gambling that nobody will get hurt by it as long as they’re on watch. Funds are tight. Who’s got time to worry about that shit? Or there’s always tomorrow. It’s always tomorrow. Quickly forgotten between now and then.
What bothered me about the incident I witnessed was that the victim – who was not seriously injured but could’ve been – chose to make a scene about it with an employee of the business who obviously had no responsibility in making sure the business’ parking lot was resurfaced and maintained to a degree pleasing to the complaintant, as if doing so would prevent this person from taking a spill in some kind of time warp. And the victim knew it. Knew the owner. Knew, I assume, the manager. A short time later, I became the manager of this business. And found that the title of “manager”, there, was more a title than a reality. Holding little power over getting anything but my paperwork done. Even so, I’d have rather had an angry individual who’d, maybe, walked into a pole in a dark part of the property or suffered an overflowing toilet in the ladies’ room seek me out for an outlet for their anger. Which, over time, I discovered they would. But in a manner that suggested theater. They wanted to put on a show. They weren’t interested in being taken aside or back to my office to discuss their issues, most any one of these folks. They wanted to perform. And when they couldn’t, the engagement was usually over quickly and after having threatened my staff and myself or at least treated us rudely, they’d return a day or week later with smiles and kind words as if the incidents never happened. But some would steadfastly demand satisfaction and on an elemental level, it was frequently deserved. Although it continues to sting me that I wasn’t always able to make things instantly right. If at all. It wasn’t my place, however. Beyond my pay grade. Certainly beyond the pay grades of the abused clerks who manned the front lines of these battles.
This isn’t about the resentment I still feel for having been put into a position in which I could neither help someone with a complaint nor fix what had caused that complaint. What it is about is selective reasoning. A little courtesy under fire. While in pain. While in anger and frustration. If one decides he or she has been wronged. It’s about grace. In a society that’s gone from being that “Cowboy of the West” to “where can I get the best lawyer?”. Lady, I felt your pain. I got it. But I also watched as you made sure everyone within earshot of you got it, too. I watched as you made sure everyone you could round up was made aware of what brought you down. That you were brought down. I heard you screech “lawsuit” a dozen times or more. Before you even got inside. Then, once there, you made sure the first person you could find on the lowest rung was cornered for best effect. A captive audience for your message.
Why didn’t you just seek out the management? Immediately? Instead of putting on a show?
Because it’s good for litigious purposes, this kind of showmanship. In the minds of those in this litigious society of ours. We want everyone to know we were hurt, we were wronged, that we will be heard, and that someone will pay.
It’s been within my lifetime that, if you tripped over something, you picked yourself up, brushed yourself off, prayed to God that no one saw you do it, and continued the fuck on. To do anything else was a slap against one’s pride. People don’t have that kind of pride, anymore. They’ll chuck it aside if it means attention or a quick buck. Although the attention they do get is often negative and the buck is often never realized.
What happened to us? And before some of you shake your heads with a shrug and point a finger toward someone like that you know, look out our window. Scoot your chair away from your desk, get up, and walk out onto the floor of what you’re responsible for. Look around. Walk outside. Wander the premises a bit. What have you let go to seed? And why? Are you cutting corners by shutting off the lights in a hall where the doors to employee parking are located? Are they safe when they leave the building at the ends of their shifts? Is there exposed wiring protruding from the walls? Broken glass? Metal shards? Do the security cameras work? Is the concrete outside unlevel? Uneven? You know what’s wrong when you see it; you shouldn’t have to receive complaints about it before you do anything about it. If you do anything about it.
You’ve gotta show some concern for the community you operate in. That you live in. That patronizes you, puts food on your table.
Either side of this is about one thing: selfishness. Lack of pride. It’s time to lift our eyes and look where we tread. It’s time to pave that path so that those who tread it may safely and surely pass back and forth upon it.
I think a lot of people are working on it. I really do. I see it every day. But, as soon as I’m filled with joy for what I see, as soon as I’m stricken proud with what I know humanity is capable of – at least in our society – some joker in the news fucks it up for me.