Bullies: not just a school-age problem

Ask Erin is a feature of Kitsap Week. Have a question? Write Ask Erin, Kitsap Week, P.O. Box 278, Poulsbo, WA 98370 or email - Richard Walker
Ask Erin is a feature of Kitsap Week. Have a question? Write Ask Erin, Kitsap Week, P.O. Box 278, Poulsbo, WA 98370 or email
— image credit: Richard Walker

I was waiting in a store check out line when a raised, gruff voice caught my attention.

A man in his late 70s was angry. Overhearing the conversation (and it was hard not to) I deduced his anger had something to do with an out-of-stock item. Two clerks were patiently trying to help him. They were pulling out store fliers, writing things down and calling over their walkie-talkies, trying to track the item down for the man.

They also both happened to be of Asian descent and spoke with slight accents.

“I can't understand a (bleep) thing you are saying,” the customer grumbled.

He continued to berate the very people who were trying to help him. This continued for about three minutes until he stormed out of the store in a flourish, yelling something about the store being a nut house.

Those of us in line stood by silently.

Now if you've ever seen the television show “Primetime: What Would You Do?,” you could understand why I looked around for hidden cameras.

The show goes undercover, setting up moral-dilemma scenarios to see how people react. Does a passerby help a man who falls? Does a diner intervene when a waitress is rudely treated by an irate customer?

After checking out, I drove away disgusted with myself for not saying something. But what should I have said?

“Maybe if you clean out the wax from your ears, you'll be able to understand them.”

“Try shutting your's easier to listen.”

But that just would have fueled the fire.

Would he have settled down if I spoke calmly and told him the clerks were trying to help?

Probably not. But at least the clerks would have felt validated and supported.

What is it with bullies? School curricula have been created to address our nation's growing bully problem. According to the website, in a 2007 study Washington ranked as the fifth highest state with a bullying problem for kids in grades K-12. (The higher ranking states, in order, were California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania.)

But it's obviously not just a school-age problem.

Watching a recent Mariner's game, I was saddened to hear fans booing a player who fumbled a hard-hit ball.

Are folks not allowed to make mistakes?

I'm sure the third baseman felt cruddy enough for the error, without a stadium full of  HIS OWN FANS booing him.

Where did our kindness go? And more importantly, how do we get it back?

Rather than wallowing and complaining, I can take the pledge to pass along kindness and set a good example for the young uns.

I'll hold open doors and smile more. I'll wave to motorists who let me in line. I'll not talk on my cell phone while ordering coffee, checking out at the grocery store or in the library. Those are all  little acts, but added up, spread kindness and help demonstrate that we are all in this world together.

And I'll be prepared the next time I need to stick up for someone.

Because even if hidden cameras aren't rolling, it's the right thing to do.

— Ask Erin is a feature of Kitsap Week. Have a question? Write Ask Erin, Kitsap Week, P.O. Box 278, Poulsbo 98370 or email Questions can range from advice to practical issues.








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