« 2005: The Year That Sucked Immediately | Main | the price is wrong, bitch! »

wouldn't you like to be an asshole, too?

Yesterday on a website I frequent, someone asked the following question: Anyone ever get into a verbal or physical altercation with another customer while shopping or standing in line? To which I replied: This seems like an odd question to me, as it happens to me more often than not. Either Long Island has more than it's share of idiots, or I'm an asshole. Immediately a couple of instances - all blogged - came to mind. And then I started going through my archives and saw just how many times this has happened to me. Now I'm wondering if I really am an asshole or if all these stories are just a combination of my lack of patience with idiots, my being-anywhere-outside-my-home anxiety and my intense dislike for most of humanity. Which, when combined, pretty much make me an asshole. But it's not my fault I'm that way. Really. I'm sure there was a time when I was pleasant and smiling and courteous to strangers. I'm sure if I dig back a few years (more like twenty) in my mental archives, I can remember when I had more patience, when I didn't let the abject rudeness and surliness of complete strangers bother me. It all takes a toll, eventually. The places I've worked in up until now afforded me a hefty daily dose of dealing with the public. I reached my saturation level and decided at some point that I would no longer stand there and let random strangers walk all over me. I would fight back. I would no longer hold in my frustration or silently mumble insults or curses when I should be saying them out loud. I don't know exactly when this happened, but I'm pretty sure it was right around the time I realized that standing up for yourself does not make you a bad person, despite what other, dominant people would have you think. But is it all really necessary? Could I just have ignored the rude woman in Target? The rude men in the restaurant? The food hoarder at Price Club? The waitress who hit on my husband? Would I have been better off just walking away from all those situations without saying a word or doing anything that could later be construed as evil? No. I don't think so. To do so would be enabling the idiots of the world. If you let some loud, annoying woman get away with terrible behavior, you're giving her the signal that it's ok to do that. And who wants to be an enabler to that kind of person? Not me. If some day the world is overrun by the bitchy and the rude, you won't have me to blame? Why? Because I know how to be an asshole when the situation calls for it. Sometimes you just have to embrace your inner obnoxiousness in order to combat someone else's. How else will we balance the good and evil in the world? What have I learned here? That yes, I can be a real asshole. But I'm doing it for your benefit, buddy. So either join me or thank me.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference wouldn't you like to be an asshole, too?:

» God, Was I Like That? from Mr. Blonde's Garage
I didn't get a chance to write about this earlier, but Michele's post here reminded me. I will never go to a movie again on opening weekend. On the weekend of December 10, me and a few others went to see 'Ocean's Twelve.' I enjoyed Ocean's El... [Read More]

» 5 @5 from Running at the Mouth
Unlike James Lileks, I resent very strongly that I can't use music that I've purchased from iTunes in any manner that I see fit, because I am not a follower in the cult of iPod. Thomas Slattery must share my [Read More]

» Why I'm a homebody from Maladjusted - Fair and Balanced
Michele of ASV posted today about rude people you run into when you venture into the real world. While I haven't had anything quite as funny as the manly men encounter, and sadly nothing as stimulating as playing kitty kat with a lazy waitress, I have... [Read More]

» Around The Blogosphere In 80 Seconds #13 from Diggers Realm
The unlucky thirteenth installment in interesting and thought provoking news from around the web. There's sure to be something you've missed around the blogosphere. See if you can get through these in under 80 seconds -- or 80 minutes for... [Read More]


Officially... THANK YOU. You are a goddess and my inspiration.

I have the same problem when i go anywhere. I get slammed in the ass with grocery carts all the time, I've had people yank loaves of bread right out of my hands so I in turn, become the asshole shopper.

The waitress who hit on your husband entry, you got some spam comments down in there girl. Just letting you know.

A big part of it may be cultural. Do most other Long Islanders "confront the idiots", as you do?

I know in my part of TN, politeness is THE number one virtue. Sure, we backstab and steal and cheat, but we do it with a smile on our faces and a cheerful "bless his heart". We still make sure the jerks get their comeuppance, and it's much more fun getting revenge while the jerk thinks you're being nice to him. All and all, the place is less stressful.

I don't know your favorite NFL team, but you can wear their colors to a Titans game without fear (except for a little good-natured razzing). There are not many NFL stadiums where that's true.

Alas, that culture is slowly dying out - too many people moving in who don't understand "the code" (Long Island, maybe?). My wife and I are doing our part. From the moment we decided to adopt, we swore our kids might grow up to be serial killers, but they'll be POLITE serial killers. My son appears to be on that path, but at least he says "yes m'am".

Kat, thanks. Got rid of them.

Slart - nothing says good parenting quite like a polite serial killer. I always say that may son may end up with dead hookers in his trunk some day, but at least he knows how to say please and thank you.

Sweetie, I have been to Long Island. It's not you; it's Long Island. Any sane person would react that way.

Miami was the same. I remember saying to a clerk, "Excuse me, but could you be more rude to me, or is that just not possible?"

I also actually shoved two large strangers in separate hitting-on-me incidents during which I was completely sober, thank you, and threatened to harm another guy if he did not go away. He did.

Since moving away from Miami, I have been perfectly civil. It is not you.

"Sweetie, I have been to Long Island. It's not you; it's Long Island."

Didn't you spend most of that time with my family?

There's a joke about my family in there somewhere.


bless your heart...

Ugh - don't come to Northern Virginia - we are swarming w/shopping assholes and traffic assholes.

My husband is literally a magnet for these - for a long time I thought it was him until he started pointing out people cutting us off for no reason, not wanting us to pass, etc. when I was in the car with him. It's like they feel a pull towards his car...

And the shopping - I can be in Target looking for some obscure thing in some dark corner and some asshole will come stand shoulder to shoulder to me and look at the same damn thing. The other day in Wegman's some woman was running to chat w/her friend in line in front of me and barreled into me as she went by...I had a few choice words said just loud enough(nothing nasty) and she actually came by and apologized! BUT, why did she
a. not watch where she was going in the first damn place?
b. not say "oops, excuse me" when she did it? Why only after I said something to her?

Lots of times we'll see women w/children completely behaving inappropriately (not that this behavior is limited to people w/children) and say something like "that is a fine example you're setting for your children".

So, it's not you or Long Island...to make a short story really too long.

Anyone ever get into a verbal or physical altercation with another customer while shopping or standing in line?

Not once that I can remember.

Ditto Allah.

But I guess living in Alabama makes altercations more like Slarti's. We have silent, polite retribution where people might actually die but everyone involved said a prayer for them right before. It's a little weird in my opinion.

Northern Virginia is not to be confused with the rest of Virginia. Here in Richmond we tend to follow the southern example, a polite statement and if we get the chance some horrible retribution.

Now if we could just keep these !%#$ people from moving down here. I actually had a boss from Michigan who couldn't stand Virginia; hated the climate; hated the people; but sure liked our money. I finally got fed up after one of her insulting comments and told her that either Delta was ready when she was or 95 went north and south and 64 went east and west and either route would take her away from us awful, awful people. She got laid off for her bad attitude. See? Retribution.

Imperial Keeper

Long ago and far away I was a bank teller (later supervisor) in a bank branch in New Hyde Park. A customer shouted at me, demanding I give him money from his overdrawn checking account. Despite my attempts at explaining the situation in a calm voice, his outbursts escallated to the point wherein he punched the bullet-proof glass separating us.

I looked at my neighboring teller and asked 'Do you believe this guy?', which only served to aggravate him even more (as was my intention). After another volley of insults to me, the bank, my parents, etc., and a few more punches to my window, the a-hole stomped away.

"SIR! One more thing!" I called out.

He spun around on his heels, seething.

In a syruply, sickly tone I said "Have a nice day!"

The rest of the customers on line burst out laughing at him.

Later at the main office in Flusing, he did the same act. A VP helped him out by closing all of his account for him....

Never had an altercation with another shopper, but I live in Mississippi. People are generally very polite.

Spent Christmas in Las Vegas. One more fucking minute there and I could guarantee an ugly incident.

Glad to be home.

Over here in Michigan, things are pretty polite. Even when I bartended- I only had a few tales here and there. My mom, on the other hand, can be an evil bitch (in public.) She does not need to be provoked.


Nope, never had such a verbal or physical confrontation in a store or restaurant. But once guy did attack me once after a car accident when I said "What the hell? Were you trying to kill us?" (no vulgarities, he had 2 kids in the car) Watching his wife hold him back around the waist as he was swinging his arms like a cartoon character cracked me up... 911 was already dialed on my cell... :)

I just don't tip anything if service is egregiously bad. You're not an asshole if you were going to tip the "kitten" 15%. You're a saint.

WRT Target: Wow. Beautifully handled. I'd only feel bad about saying something if the "adult" had kids right there. Sort of like my situation with the aforementinoed angry guy. Calling the police was a better option than beating the crap out of him in front of his two little kids in the back of the SUV.

But in summary, watch out, because some people react violently to a wisecrack, even if they deserve it.

totally OT, as I sit here reading the comments, we just had an earthquake in So. Cal

I'll be interested in where it was centered ... for me it was a sharp jolt then a rolling motion for a while (rattling the windows).

My guess is east or north of me towards the high desert because my LA radio stations haven't said a thing about it yet ...

Ok..it was east of me, but not high desert ... only about 6 or 7 miles from me..no wonder it was a good jolt even though it's not a big earthquake (3.8-4.0 Richter scale).

Excuse my interruption!


My theory is we remember the bad more easily than the good--I remember the one time someone cut ahead of me in line but have trouble remembering the literally dozens of times people let me ahead when they saw I had fewer items.

I'll join

Maybe once or twice when I still lived in Sacramento, but not since.

I noticed back then that if I went into a store I haven't been in before, or one I hadn't been in for a long time, nobody seemed to have any manners at all. I never said anything but "excuse me" on those occasions and never in an intentionally rude manner, but the very next time I went into that store if it was fairly soon after, either the manners improved or the unhousebroken shoppers took their business elsewhere.

I've noticed a similar phenomenon in other places I've lived, but on a far smaller scale and far less often.

Maybe it's me.

OTOH, my wife once told a fellow customer in a checkout line to go buy himself some manners. That was in Fairbanks, Alaska of all places.

As I read this post, I kept thinking of Dennis Leary's "Asshole" Song. Awesome.

Rock on, michele.

"I reached my saturation level and decided at some point that I would no longer stand there and let random strangers walk all over me. I would fight back. I would no longer hold in my frustration or silently mumble insults or curses when I should be saying them out loud."

The downside in this is that each time you allow yourself to do this it makes it easier to allow yourself to do it the next time. For those other people within earshot of you they may well see two obnoxious individuals rather then one.

We must all beware the inter monster lurking within us all.

A little gasoline and a book of matches goes a long way. i'm just sayin...

I can't think offhand of getting into it with another customer here in Queens - my wife has - but I've definitely reached the boiling point with some employees of stores and the like, especially tech "support" people (I ended up cursing and screaming my head off and hanging up at the unfailingly polite people at Dell and Symantec - both in India - after simple tech support issues caused by downloading their products turned into total computer meltdowns requiring us to take both computers to the shop and have their hard drives replaced or reinstalled at the same time).

For me it's more a matter of at our age I'm just beginning to honestly not care what others think of me. I'm sure that by 60 I'll be wearing plaid pants with a striped shirt just to annoy the folks around me. Perhaps plaid shorts with black socks in Jesus water-walker sandals and a big ol' Panama Hat. Show up at Boyo's dorm room looking like that...yeah...I like the picture.

Dave, that Dennis Leary song is one of my favorites!

"I use public toilets,
And I p*ss on the seat.
I walk around in the Summertime
Saying 'How about this heat?"


"Sometimes I park
In handicap spaces
While handicapped people
Make handicapped faces..."

The John Wayne rant at the end is priceless.

I really think it's Long Island.
In the short time I've lived out here on the Island, I've noticed that it's way, way, way different than living in Ohio.

For one, I'm still suprised by all the startled looks I get from people when I use phrases such as "thank you", "excuse me", "sorry", "let me help you". I assume those terms aren't often used locally.

I've wanted to blow up at so many people on so many different occasions. Especially in scenarios like your Target experience. I've had those--heck I even nearly had one at the 7-11 the other day.

I guess I've only escaped a blow up because I'm a patient person (perhaps?)must be all the "Ohioan" in me.

But it's reassuring to know that there are other people out on the Island with common sense who get fed up with these idiots.

Most of the irritating people I tend to run into here in Northern Virginia are more in the "oblivious idiot" category than the "obnoxiously rude idiot" category, and I generally try to just use less time consuming evasion techniques with them.

I say go ahead, confront the assholes. It probably won't change a thing, but you'll feel better.

I was once in a long line at a university to get a transcript when some dumb ass bitch decided that she needed to go first because she had just had surgery and wasn't supposed to be standing for very long. Of course, she only asked the first person in line if it was okay for her to do so. I loudly told her to start at the end of the line with her sob story, since the first person in line had no right to decide whether or not it was okay with me or the fifty others.

She responded by telling her sob story all over again, when I cut her off and told her to start at the end of the line. Of course, the other forty-nine people in line were fucking lemmings who never wondered why some idiot woman needs to go to a registrar when she should be at home getting some rest following surgery.

I told her off. She, being a pushy bitch, just went to the next available teller. And of course, the idiot university employees waited on her like good little non-confronting lemming doormats.

Note to self: get surgery before getting new driver's license, attending a concert, driving during rush hour, or anything else requiring some civility.

And no, I don't give a shit if she actually did have recent surgery. If I ever know I might have to have to stand for a long time and shouldn't, I'll pack a fucking chair.

Glad to get that out of my system again. Thanks, Michele.

What a chode.

First time altercation this weekend, in fact.

I'm a total fucking doormat. I'm nice to everyone, and tend to get walked all over.

So I'm in a long line at the grocery store. The guy in front of me backs up, quickly, without looking. We collide. The impact pushes my cart straight back, into my gut. And it fucking hurts, because he's got to be three hundred pounds.

He turned around and looked, post-impact. He did not say "I'm sorry." He did not say "Are you okay?" In fact, he GLARES at me, in a way that made me feel both angry and creeped out. He says "Oh, there's someone behind me."

Nice non-apology. But even still, I'm a doormat. I tell him it's all good, even though inside, I'm pissed.

A few minutes later, he turns around again, still with that cranky ass look on his face. And he says, "You know, you really need to back up. You're in my personal space here."

Woah. He is the one who backed up into me! If there was a personal space issue, he was the one who caused it. Not that I wanted to be close to him - I'm a freak about personal space, anyway (I need about 10 feet of it, I don't get too close to anyone) and this jerk probably hadn't seen the inside of a shower in a week. Why the hell would I invade his space? And he had rammed into me without so much as an apology, and I had been friendly as pie about the whole thing. I get this vicious attitude in return?

Something inside snapped. I took my cart and walked away, but not without shouting "fuck you" down the aisle. I have never, never said that out loud to another human being before. And this includes my ex-husband, whom I honest-to-God hate.

His voice followed me as I departed. He shouted back, "fuck you!" - and I flipped him the bird, behind my back, without even bothering to turn around and look at him.

It was so. satisfying. Considering my long record of taking shit from people, I think I deserved this one. He could have just asked me to back my cart up. Instead he got all confrontational. I had no choice!

In the Midwest, people are generally polite. I don't think I've even ever witnessed an altercation before, much less been involved in one. Accidents happen, and I just shrug and smile. No bother. Sometimes people are just having a bad day, and I figure there's no point in making their day or mine even worse by getting into it.

But I'm probably in Stacella's boat. I'm physically incapable of not tipping, no matter how awful the service is. When I'm the cause of other people's frustration, I apologize profusely. Once, I had a set of glasses on the conveyer belt at a store, they fell, shattered, and held up everyone. I think I spent 15 minutes saying "I'm so sorry," to everyone within a hundred yards.

Not sure if it's regional or my upbringing or what. But I have noticed in New York, L.A., and Britain, when I use "please, thank you, excuse me, sir, and/or ma'am," people stare me down like I'm an alien creature and wonder what's wrong with me. shrugs

The closest I came was the time the person in line in front of me was having a 10 minute argument (well at least it felt like 10 minutes) with the cashier and two managers about being overcharged $.15 for something in about $100 worth of groceries.

I pulled a quarter out of my pocket and slapped it on the counter and told her to keep the change.

She gave me the nastiest look I have ever seen then stomped off with my quarter!

I get nipped in the ankles every now and again at the Ukrops. (The grocery store in Richmond). Every time the person has practically offered CPR. I love this town.

I live in Ft. Lauderdale - thus I have had many fun altercations. I once "accidentally" ran my cart over the foot of a boy that was pretending to stab other customers with a 3 foot long plastic sword, while his mother ignored him and jabbered on the cell phone. When he yelped in pain, I walked by and told her she needed to control her son - and it served him right. I felt SOSOSOSOSO good.
Then there's the time I'm in a Whole Foods store getting salad bar for lunch. These two LOUD obnoxious New York (if the attitude didn't tell me, the accent did - and I'm from New York)guys come in discussing their business acumen, dressed expsively - and I mean EVERYONE in the store could hear their inane conversation - then it continued as one of them gave orders to what I assume was a secretary over his cell phone - in a very condescending way - when he saunters over to the salad bar, sinks his fist into the raisins and begins to pop them in his mouth. Then he goes back for seconds. I hated them the minute they walked in the store - I hated their attitude, their self-importance - and now I could vent it. I told the guy to stop putting his dirty hands in public food - and reported to one of the employees that now they'd have to throw out all the raisins because this jerk had gotten his spit all over them. He looked at me and said, "so sue me". I said, "I'd rather you just keep your nasty hands out of food I might want to eat - you're a pig." After that, I ignored him, got my food and left - but I know there were other people there literally cheering me on......

The opportunities are endless here, unfortunately.

I dunno that people in the Midwest are so much more polite as they are more particular about who they're rude to. At the Grand Haven Meijer, while we were checking out, this old lady repeatedly shoved her cart into my boyfriend's legs. Like a good ten times or so, with this evil look on her face like "Maybe if I shove my cart enough, this (human!) obstruction will go away!"

My husband and I own two small retail stores which we run ourselves.

Even though his store is only three towns away from mine, you'd think it was in another country. His store is in Crankytown, near a larger metropolitan area. His customers are suspicious and demanding and won't say 'Good Morning' back to you when you greet them. I didn't believe him until I switched with him a couple times. It is unbelievable.

My store is in Niceville. My customers are totally awesome. Many of them have become like work-friends to me over the last few years.

I will say that the children in this neck of the woods at least, are out of control. Lots of running around and grabbing stuff without Mom or Dad saying boo.

One time a kid was playing with a large toy truck that cost $40 to me, and broke it. Mom propped it up so that I didn't discover it was broken until later. Very nice. I should go to her house and pick something out for similar treatment.
Or the guy who walked in with his foot covered in dog poo, and wiped on my indoor carpet for everyone to smell and for me to clean up.
But I've never actually confronted or tossed anybody out, except solicitors.

Closest I ever got was when a really good customer pulled out a pair of nail clippers and started clipping his nails right there at the front counter, and the clippings were popping everywhere and hitting the boxed chocolates. Then I said, "Um, sir, could you...not do that, please?"


Sometimes I think you channel my inner monologues--I should copyright them!

Hey, Michele... what's a Lawn Guylander doing stealing my Richmond audience?

Actually, Elizabeth, not ALL Richmonders are that nice. A few years back, I was driving with my friend to Richmond Montessori school to pick up her daughter. Some teenagers from the big Baptist church on Parham Road had gotten themselves killed in a drunk driving accident a few days before, and thousands of people were there for the funeral. The overflow from the church parked in the school parking lot--without permission, I might add--greatly hampering the picking up of students.

Also hampering the picking up of students was the mourners walking in front of all the cars while were in line to pick up the kids. It was a warm day, so we had the windows down, and these two women were walking past our car and said, "Oh, dear, it looks like parking our car here is causing problems for people picking up their kids from school!" and then they laughed.

Well, I'm from New Jersey. They were practically right next to me when they said this, and my windo was wide open.

"And it's so FUNNY!" I said in a sarcastic voice. They stopped laughing and had the decency to look ashamed. Heidi was embarrassed, but hey. They deserved it.

Thank you in each and every single language on the planet...and I think you should set up a lesson plan on your blog :-)

Someone once said something I overheard that was very appropriate in the given situation and context:

"If EVERYONE around you is an asshole....maybe, JUST MAYBE...it's YOU."

"Now I'm wondering if I really am an asshole . . ."

After reading the four posts, I vote yes, you are indeed an asshole. Next question?

I agree, Meryl. It's not as good as when I was a child but it's not as bad as some places I've been cough North cough.

At least they had the decency to look embarrassed. The boss from Michigan was absolutely uninhibited about her hatred for this state.

Imperial Keeper

When I moved from Connecticut to Kansas for law school, and then on to California, I had to come up with a name for this behavior, it was ECA (East Coast Attitude). We've almost all got it. We'll be very friendly with those who deserve it, but once you cross the line, the ECA switch turns on and our tolerance reserve drops to zero. I always missed ECA. Those who were nice to the underserving just seemed like wusses to me. Now I'm back in the East and I'm loving it.

Ace linked this post. Reading your experiences with the stupid and rude sounded strangely familiar. I think at some point you have to assert boundary in response to such behavior. Asshole? How else can you help the world to be a better place? I posted a couple of my experiences at TPW.

Before moving to Colorado, I worked for 13 years on the east coast in supermarket retail; the last 8 of which were in various management capacities. I learned several various things that aren't worth relating in this topic, but the most important thing is this one fact:

For the vast majority of humanity, it is a struggle to maintain what many of us would call a decent level of basic courtesy. Put simply, most people, at least on the east coast, are assholes. I grew up there. I know. It's one of the most unpleasant feelings in the world to have to resolve the differences between two CUSTOMERS about who cut in line in front of whom, let alone make sure a minimum-wage earner who hates his job like poison try to act like he doesn't wish he could make the customers burst into flame by merely thinking about it.

The problem is that bad service generally results in bad customer behavior. It's as if a culture of rudeness in an entire establishment is automatically created once the number of assholes in it reaches critical mass. What to do?

It's not fun to have to swallow it. I also worked in a restaurant, so I know that tips are everything. And while it makes most of us uncomfortable to get into even a mild confrontation, tell the shitty waitress that she's getting a 6% tip because she brought the drinks late and made you wait 15 minutes for the check. Inform the fat fuck who nailed the back of your ankles with the front of his shopping cart that it hurt, and he really, really should back up a few feet so it doesn't happen again. Getting in someone's face (but in a polite way, mind you) almost ALWAYS works. Passive-aggressive behavior never works. And in the end, what's more satisfying: a mumbled "fuck you" that the asshole probably hears sixteen times a day, or a straightforward "Cut it the fuck out right now" (remember, politely now) while looking him dead in the eye? I guarantee you that it works.

I read your post, but take a moment to live in my shoes, I am male 6ft2 large frame natrual muscled
not fat but big, my heart is nothing like my apperance but because i look hard and so forth when ever in public I take the blunt of all peoples anger, and before i have a chance to defend in words for in truth i do not want to anything i say promts these people in public to call for the police, or security, and it is odd to me that such people can find happiness in this way for they know when the law comes i will be found guilty just because of the face and body i was born with, it is like the complete oppisite effect of a gorgous woman in public who gets what she wants just because she is.