Confronting Stupid

Posted on: 2020-08-29

This morning I was in a big box store. The chain from the get go of the pandemic had required patrons to wear a mask. At the entrance today there was a new sign. This showed that you have to wear your mask correctly over your nose.

Walking around the store the mast majority of people were wearing their masks and wearing them correctly. Far more so than other times I had been there. Then I saw this guy walking around with the mask apparently purposefully not over his nose. Inside I thought "look at this guy" but I walked on.

As I wandered around the store I thought more about it and found it all the more stupid especially when the vast majority of people were doing the right thing. Eventually I got the point where I thought if I saw him again I would confront him. A few minutes later there he was, so I walked up to him and said

Me: "You have your mask on incorrectly - it needs to be over your nose"
Him: "What do you care how I wear my …"
Me: "Because it dangerous to you and other people in the store."

I'm not really sure what he mumbled next but I followed up with

Me: "So you are just being a dick then".

As I walked off and from behind me I heard

Him: **** you.

Somewhat later I was standing around waiting for my wife. I look over a bunch of tables and see the same guy with his mask on the same way. So I'm looking at him and he looks over and sees me. So what does he do? He looks straight at me and pulls his mask totally down. Because... of course.

I instinctively laughed at him, raised my hands above my head and loudly slow clapped him. As I continued to clap he then decided to pull his mask up and walk off. I guess because attention was being drawn to him.

After the first encounter I could feel adrenaline pumping. At the second encounter it was worse.

I waited for my wife, and eventually we moved on. Unfortunately on the other side of the store as she turned, there he was there again right in front of her.

I could feel the adrenaline pumping yet again. So as to not cause yet another escalation I decided best if I left the store. So I walked outside, and txt'd my wife where I was going. When I came back she was loading the car. Not far behind her was the guy walking away in a different direction.

As we drove away I could feel I was still fairly wound up, and still am as I write this sometime later.

So why write about this? I suppose because I'm conflicted. On the one hand people should call out other people who aren't doing the right thing. By doing nothing it enables the bad behavior. This of course applies more broadly to our political environment. That not pushing back on racism, misogyny, corruption, fascism, ineptness, inequity, cruelty makes those things increasingly normal and even acceptable.

On the other hand I have seen the videos and read stories of similar situations and it escalating to violence. Recently a young store employee asked a couple to wear a mask and was punched in the face so hard it fractured his jaw.

There is real risk, but doing nothing is also a risk of slowly and inextricably strengthening and empowering the worst in people. On the other hand I completely understand not wanting to be directly in the line of fire.

So perhaps I wouldn't recommend doing what I did in general. But what I would say is if all you're doing, and all you are prepared to do is vote, then that's not enough. Voting is super important - but it's the minimum, the lowest bar. If you don't like what you see going on, you need to do more than that - give money to candidates, protest, put up signs - DO SOMETHING. If you don't I'm afraid you and the majority of people who act similarly are part of the problem.