A few days ago, I stopped at a small, corner-side Dunkin Donuts for some coffee. I placed the order at the speaker, then drove around to the pick-up window. The window clerk (a young lady in her late teens or early twenties), leaned forward and asked, “What’s your order?”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear myself think or answer her question due to the shrill ruckus taking place inside the franchise. Neither, it seems, could she. Another young waitress or clerk behind the counter section of the little bistro was screaming at the top of her lungs at a customer who also appeared to be in her early twenties. The counter clerk’s four-letter expletives resounded so loudly, one would think she was using a megaphone.
The customer returned the favor, yelling and bobbing her head as she jabbed a finger in the air toward the clerk at each syllable of “f*ck you!” with all the panache she could muster. The customer then threw a few coins at the clerk and stormed out of the place.
At that same moment, the window clerk walked toward the counter section. Seconds later, the counter clerk appeared, briefly, near the drive-up window. She quickly removed her apron and left through the glass door leading to the small parking lot.
The customer was standing near her car -- a black SUV – that was parked in the lot near the drive-up window. The clerk slammed the customer against the car, grabbed her hair and slapped her across the face. A nasty cat fight quickly ensued. As they tousled to the ground, the customer yelled, “This is assault!” (Acutally, it was assault and battery.) There were only a few customers inside the franchise. One was a younger man who had been standing behind the customer at the counter, grinning at the verbal tirade. He walked outside, leaned against an exterior glass wall, and ogled the fight with obvious glee as if he had a ringside seat at Madison Square Garden.
Keep in mind, all of this had taken place in about a minute's time. The window clerk returned to the drive-thru with a sour look on her face. “What’s your order, again, lady?” When I asked if the manager was there, she replied, “No, but I just called her and she’s on her way back. That woman’s just pissed ‘cause the tuna in her tuna-melt sandwich wasn’t hot.” She continued to glare at me. I looked back to see a car pull up behind me, asked the clerk to cancel the order, and edged my car forward.
As soon as my car was adjacent to the fight, I beeped my horn and called out through my window, “Please stop this!” Judging from the way the fight had rapidly accelerated, I was worried someone would get hurt. The girls ignored me; a few seconds later, I yelled, “The cops are on their way!” They immediately stopped the brawl and broke away from each other as if the other’s body had suddenly caught fire.
As the customer began to repair her wildly disheveled hair, she said to the clerk, “Okay, now -- you got that out of your system”? The clerk’s face appeared to be a stiff, pale mask, rigid with anger. She quickly stalked back into the restaurant. When I asked the customer if she was okay, she nodded and thanked me before retrieving her cell phone from a pocketbook that was lying on the asphalt. The male spectator who had been leaning against the wall scowled at me and returned to the bistro.
By this time, I was waiting for a camera crew from some absurd TV reality show to magically appear and thrust a release form at me through the car window. The few people present appeared to be intent on neither seeing nor caring as if this was all “business as usual.”
As I drove out of the parking lot, I equated the bizarre occurrence with the “Twilight Zone” before realizing that I was insulting the memory of the late, great Rod Serling. Someone could easily have ended up in the hospital. Over a tuna-melt sandwich.
I wanted to relay this sad incident to my fellow hubbers and friends. What lesson or message do we learn from this – except to perhaps forego any complaints about the tuna being cold in one of their sandwiches, or avoid small, out-of-the-way Dunkin Donut franchises altogether? At this juncture, I’m at a loss for words...aside from the obvious: "As a society, in general, we seem to be becoming a bit more resolutely unhinged."
With the holidays upon us, this altercation hit home with a weighty thud. Perhaps we should become more involved in what goes on or happens around us. When does life become “none of our business,” and what does it say about us when we accept this behavior as the norm and walk away?
© 2012 Genna East All rights reserved.