06 August 2006

County unfair

Four hours later I am still on the verge of tears.

I went out and destroyed weeds with the weed-whacker for about an hour but even that sweat and work couldn't erase what was going on in my mind.

I had a freelance newspaper assignment today covering a pie-eating contest at the county fair. What could be more innocent, more silly, more evocative of the whole fair? I figured "Free tickets and get paid to go drink lemonade and eat greasy food - what could be better?"

I got there about 45 minutes early (I AM a Davis, after all) and took a walk. In the Commercial Building with all the Macinack Island Fudge and Westbend Cookware, I saw a 50-something woman hustling a tiny old crippled-up man by the elbow. Hustling him way too fast for his skinny old legs.

As they passed by me, I heard her muttering "I've about had enough of this f*ing sh*t, you understand?" I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I followed them.

She sat him down in a motorized cart and continued cursing at him. I pretended to be watching the Olde Tyme Photo people.

"This is the second stunt you've pulled in about 10 minutes and I don't want any more of your crap," she hissed. He tried to start the cart but couldn't. She walked about 20 feet away. I sprang up to him.

"Do you need help starting that?" I asked, and he said yes. "Are you ok?" I asked, but then she was right in my face.

"You get away from him," she said. I looked up into her hateful eyes. Her face had that strange, flat look that longtime drunks get, but she didn't seem drunk.

I put on my best Pollyanna voice. "Oh, I'm just trying to help him get this thing srarted," I said. She stared at me. She was tall, about 5 foot ten, with shoulder-length scraggy grey hair.

"He's throwing a fit and you need to stop interfering," she said. He did not look like he was throwing a fit. He looked like a confused old man.

I continued to insist I was just trying to be helpful and she kept telling me to quit interfering, like 4 or 5 more times. I could feel my chest filling up with shards of broken glass.

"Are you ok?" I asked her, as gently as possible, trying to keep the trembling from my voice.

"You get away from me," she said, menacing and scary.

I went and found a security guard, which felt like it took forever. I explained the situation and he went to find his boss instead of going off to find the lady.

I felt completely helpless and stupid and sad. I felt like I should have done more. I wanted to protect that frail old man but I was too much of a chicken in the face of her hateful menace. I felt like I failed, and I still feel that way.

I don't want sympathy. I just want to say that I will do better next time. Be stronger, louder, smarter, not worry about getting to my assignment on time. Because sometimes more important things happen than our plans.

26 comments:

Mother said...

Yeah. That sucks. I wonder if she might be a tired and exhausted caretaker. Have you ever seen the movie IRIS? It's awesome. A bit depressing however.

You'll never know. However, I imagine it was quite disconcerting to be a part of.

Chase said...

Oh, how horrible! I hate seeing that type of thing. Parents being vile to their kids, too. Drives me nuts!

And you're not alone - I'm rarely strong enough to say anything or react in a needed way. *hugs*

Holly Capote said...

Glad to know you're a warrior princess, Babe.

Kvetch said...

Perhaps that was the only act of kindness that man experienced that day. Be glad you are you, rest assured that your effort was welcomed.

Stephanie A. said...

In my book you're already very brave. I think it's awesome that you got involved and even more awesome that you tried to notify security. There need to be more people like you out there.

Elizabeth said...

If that had happened to me, I would still be shaking. That poor man, who might have Alzheimer's or something and not be able to control his emotions or responses. It is a hard situation for the caregiver as well, but she should have been grateful for your help.

crazymumma said...

Sometimes we all feel helpless. You forged in, maybe you made a difference for the day. Maybe the woman calmed down and was more kind. I do not know. But reading your posts it seems you went as far as was able.

Anne

Suzanne said...

At least you tried. That is more than anyone else did that day, and it means a lot. You were really brave to get involved at all.

Ok, I know this is beside the point and a horrid thing to ask in light of the wretched abuse you saw, but did you make it to the contest afterward, and if so, how many pies were eaten? (I need something uplifting to think about, although I am not sure if overeating pies counts as uplifting...)

SUEB0B said...

Thanks, everyone. I don't think the caretaker was stressed or overwhelmed - I think she had gone beyond that right to psychotic anger. She was very, very scary and I don't get scared that easily. It really felt like an abusive situation.

Suzanne - it was a timed event. 2 minutes to eat all the lemon meringue pie that you could. 2 categories, 12 and under with 6 competitors and over 12 with 7. I spotted the winners before the competition - I could see the people with their game faces on - and interviewed them both before and after. The woman who won ate a whole freaking lemon meringue pie in 2 minutes. Yikes!

Kentucky Girl said...

Bah. I can't stand that. I'm a vocal one though and I don't back down. But I grew up in The South where we err....kinda have an FU wrapped up in little peanut butter cookies served with iced tea. It's more subtle, but they get the idea.

Sorry that you had to deal with that though. That really stinks. :(

Michele said...

Ugh. I hate those kinds of situations but I would hate them even more if I didnt at least try to do something. Good for you for at least trying.

super des said...

I agree with everyone else.At least you did something. Hopefully your encounter made the caregiver aware of what was happening.

cameo said...

you know what? were there any other people confronting her with you? if the answer is no, then you settle your spirit by knowing YOU were the one!
rock on, suebob! it takes a strong person to get involved! most people think about protecting themselves first.

spotted elephant said...

Suebob-Those situations are impossible, because it's hard to know exactly what to do in the heat of the moment, and there's never help nearby. That security guard was useless.

I think it's fantastic that you got involved.

Juliness said...

I already knew I'd like you the first time we met! Now it's gone a step further; I respect the fact that you did not stand idly by in this situation. It must have been excruciating, but you stepped up and displayed the FEARLESSNESS that Ms. Huffington talked about at BlogHer. Just think of how courageous you can be next time you're faced with a similar situation.

Aren't weed-whackers THE BEST?

Her Bad Mother said...

Oh, Suebob. I so hear you. SO HEAR YOU.

((()))

Karianna said...

Sigh. I hate hearing of elder-abuse. On one hand, you don't know what the previous several hours were like for the woman, or what she must endure on a day to day basis; but on the other hand, your heart breaks for the old man.

TB said...

Wow, Sue. I am so proud of you for stepping in and trying to help. You did the best you could, given the situation. I'm sorry you're feeling like you didn't do enough.

mothergoosemouse said...

So sad. Regardless of the circumstances, it breaks my heart to see people who were once strong and are now at the mercy of others.

leahpeah said...

wow. what a frustrating situation. hard all the way around. i would think that getting the guard involved would have been helpful. i can't believe he didn't step in to help right away! that is his job, right? maybe that lady scared him, too.
xo

Lisa said...

Sending you hugs. That is so sad! I don't know what to do in that situation. I think you did the only thing you could do.

Maybe beneath that angry exterior -- once she was alone with her thoughts, the woman stopped and realized how she was treating that man? One can only hope.

sanders5 said...

I have no idea how I would have handled that. I'm an explosive person by nature, so I might have caused more a problem than help, but GEEZ LOUISE how horrible.

My grandfather is 90. NINETY. If anyone dare to treat him like that I would EAT THEM FOR LUNCH. The same people that are violent to children are violent to the aged. I think they apply to work in nursing homes.

Uggh - that made my skin crawl.

SUEB0B said...

Thanks everyone, for the supportive comments. Next time I will kick some ass.

gandhi rules said...

This would have fucked me up too Bob. I can't stand letting this sort of shit happen to the defenseless. I hope he is ok.

Suzanne said...

A full lemon merangue pie in two minutes is impressive. I'm glad that you were still able to get your story, despite the other unpleasant events.

Mother Bumper said...

Oh god, that is so depressing. Your reaction is so familiar and you really stuck it as much as you can in those horrible situations. I'm glad you're out there.

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