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.