There’s a scene in the film The Terminator when the human-looking robot played by the former Governor of California is asked an inappropriate question. From his point of view, there is a computerized choice of options on how to respond. This is it:
I don’t think I’m special when I say that I do this also. Years of working in the service industry condition one to respond politely and appropriately, even if the question or demand made is inappropriate.
“Hey, bartender, who have I got to wave my dick at to get another drink around here?”
a) “Sorry about that, sir. Same again?”
b) “It sounds like you’ve had enough, pal.”
c) “You’re cut off. Time to go.”
d) “Why don’t you shove it up your gaping ass, you rude motherfucker.”
One evening last week, after I had downed a couple of beers, I went to the Safeway to get some veggies. Before I could shop however, I needed to make a run to the supermarket’s restroom. The bathroom was occupied, and so while waiting, I checked my phone for hilarious Facebook updates. Then I heard a voice about 10 feet behind me say, “Hey, are you going to go number 1 or number 2?”
I ignored the man, partly because I felt 100% sure he must have been talking to his four-year old child.
Again came the question: “Hey, you, wearing the glasses, I said are you going to go number 1 or number 2?”
I slowly turned around.
There was no 4 year-old child, just a 40 year-old man wearing paint-splattered overalls and headphones. Much like The Terminator I quickly reviewed my brain’s “Response Options.”
Because of the nature of the man’s personal question, and the aggressiveness with which he asked, I weighed my responses carefully:
a) “Number I or Number 2??? What are you still in Kindergarten?”
b) “I’m going to take a piss. I’m British, and we don’t do the other thing in public toilets.”
c) “That’s really none of your business.”
d) “Oh my God, I’m going Number 2 and I’m going to destroy that toilet. Pretty sure I shouldn’t have eaten sushi from what looked like a Taco Truck that had ‘condemned by The Health Department’ warning stickers all over it.”
I went with c).
Which, under the circumstances, was a fairly well moderated response.
He came towards me and past me and stood by the bathroom door and said, “No way. If you’re going to go Number 2. I’m going first.”
This was quickly becoming like a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm: Awkward, confrontational, and the slight chance that fists might get thrown.
I said, “Take it easy, I’m just going to pee.”
The bathroom door opened and I claimed my right to occupy the restroom. As promised, I spent my time in there relieving my bladder. As I washed my hands, I wondered what was going to happen as I left; I could hear the guy badmouthing me to someone else.
“The guy in there’s got a smart mouth. Typical Cracker.”
“Cracker?” I thought. What the hell?
The man that confronted me was as white as I am…okay, I’m British, obviously he was not QUITE as white as I am.
I opened the door and he was slightly blocking the doorway and said, “Oh, can I use it now?”
“Sure,” I said. ”Enjoy,”
“I will,” he said.
I headed to the produce aisle in a state of stunned semi-amusement. Are we done? Or when I go and stand in line with my veggies to pay, will he try and push past me and insist that if I’m buying broccoli he’d better go first?
Thankfully I didn’t see him again.
Afterwards, I kind of felt emboldened for standing up for myself. The guy was obviously a bully, and years of service industry conditioning has made me kowtow to demanding people.
In situations like this, I invariably walk away thinking “I just wish I’d said…….this…….or that…..” Or later I would likely think of a response that would have been a clever and brilliant put-down.
But setting the man straight and letting him know that what he was asking was inappropriate made me feel pretty good. Plus, I didn’t get punched in the mouth, which is also a bonus when dealing with a bully.
I am compiling some of my stories into a collection called “Inappropriate Behavio(u)r” and this one may or may not make the cut. I already have a pretty good story about waiting in line for a restroom, and I surely don’t want to make it seem as if The Bay Area Brit spends his free time loitering around public bathrooms for material.
Or do I?
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