Monday, July 9, 2012

There but for the grace of you go I

It's been hotter than Hades here on the East Coast. Indeed, news reports are saying it's the warmest weather in over 100. Records are being smashed.

All I know, baby it's hot outside. So I stay inside, with a semi working air conditioner that is doing the best job to keep me cool. I can't complain. I have electricity. Parts of the East Coast are still without electricity, and other parts are suffering brown outs because the electric companies cannot keep up with demand.

It's all good.

I daydream a lot that I am in Antarctica. Or the North Pole. Someplace nice and cold. With penguins. And ice.  Can you imagine anything better for a daydream? (Hey folks, this is a G rated blog).

So I found myself at the local supermarket- a ginormous supermarket, getting a few things to eat and various important things like the dreaded toilet paper. Cottage cheese and fruit. It's too hot to eat anything heavy. Some cream for my coffee. Some brown sugar for my tea. A five pound bag of ice to stick in the bathtub and just try to cool off with.

Then I saw her when I was at the salad bar, making dinner for the night.  A woman in her sixties, Immaculately dressed, like she just came out of church, including the requisite church ladies hat in a lovely shade of fuchsia. Thinner than Kate Moss. And with a very strange look in her eye, she yelled at me "Who you staring at bitch"?

I didn't look at her, said a silent prayer that she would just move on. Again, she comes up to me, says a few words which I cannot repeat and spits at me.

I've never seen anyone spit on another human being, other than the now famous VH1 New York/Pumpkin spit episode. I thought it was something done in movies and soap operas, like slapping someone's face, or spilling a drink on someone at a bar.

I don't know what to say, I don't want to look up. The manager comes by. Again, she yells and curses out the manager. A stock clerk who knows this lady, comes over to her, and walks her away, her cursing out a group of people very loudly.

The manager hands me a tissue. Do you want to press charges? The police are on their way. Several other store patrons are pressing charges. I shake my head, no, and hand him my salad. I don't want it now. I don't want any of my groceries. I just want to go home and take a shower. I feel dirty.

"What will happen to her", I finally ask. He replies the cops will take her to the local ER. The ER will evaluate her- make sure she's not drunk or high. He thinks she is on something but doesn't know. "She's a regular", he states. "I've never seen her like this".

On the way out the the door, I see from the corner of my eye, a police car with the woman sitting in the back. I  can hear her cursing as I walk by, despite the windows being up.

Drunk or high. I hope for her case that is all it is. I'm afraid it might be worse- something wrong with her soul. Her eyes scared me when I took my brief glimpse in them. It was like her soul was missing. I've only seen that once before in my life.

I haven't slept since this encounter. It's not due to the heat- it's due to what I am afraid is happening to this woman. I'm hoping she was drunk or high, and released after 12 hours. I'm afraid she was taken to the ER, and is now in a mental hospital. I picture her sitting in a chair, doped up the gills on a drug cocktail like Thorazine,so she's restrained and not spitting. Staring catatonic at a TV screen. Lost in a universe of her own making, imprisoned in her mind.

I know what it's like to be cranky and miserable in this heat. It brings out the worst in me. Add to the mix, hot flashes, and I am beyond cranky. But not at a point where I will spit. Never there. How do I know this woman wasn't just over tired with the heat, hungry and feeling miserable. This might have lead her to a break where one brief moment she made some bad judgements and felt at the end of the rope? Couldn't they just give her a nice cold drink and calm her down.

I need to get dinner for tonight but it's too hot to eat. I'll have an iced tea and a pb and j sandwich. Perhaps tomorrow I will go to the store to get some fruit and since it's a small town, learn about what happened to this poor woman.

On the other hand, maybe I should go a few more miles down the road to the next closest grocery store. I'm afraid I don't want to know what really transpired.

See, how do I know that won't be me some day?

ETA: Big Thanks to Anthony at My Sick Mind for giving me the actual correct quote for the title. Anthony you rock!


Shannon said...

I have so wondered the same thing about myself before..."How do I know that won't be me one day?" It is scary when you think your mind might slip away from you at some point in your life. And you are right, she could have been over heated, over exhausted, or in the midst of some other tragedy that threw her over the edge. I applaud you for being so gracious in the midst of chaos. I think they might have taken me in with her if she had spit in my face. I might have gone crazy on her. Hope the heat lets up for you soon. I seem to be in one of the only places in the U.S. not affected by it...San Diego. But you did great for the situation!

susan said...

Hi Sharon,

I wasn't so gracious. My first thought was "this woman just spat on me, let me give one back to her". Then a second or so later I calmed down.

This heat is bringing out the worse in everyone. It's not the heat that's so bad, it's that horrid 100 percent humidity that happens on the East Coast where it feels like walking in quicksand when you go out. I am so glad I was not born 200 years ago before air conditioning. I don't think I would have lived long!

San Diego is beautiful. I was there twenty years ago for a weekend, saw the Aquarium, and the boats and had a great seafood meal by the water. Beautiful city. I wish I could do more traveling. So many places to see on my bucket list.

Astral Samurai said...

If its the heat driving everyone crazy which I wouldn't be surprised it is!

I really worry for future generations if global warming is right and all that!

Lets hope for a better future though!
I'm glad you handled it well keeping cool in a hot situation. (pun definitely intended)

I think after the last few years I've come to realize things never get easier but lets hope for a break with this heat!

I'll be doing a rain dance tonight! :D

WillSpirit said...

What strikes me in this story is how we feel so differently when we get pulled into a drama than when we read about it from afar. Obviously, distressed people (whether high or mentally troubled) get pulled in every day. Often they are treated badly in the process. But when we make the connection we feel the impact more. To your credit you felt compassion despite this lady's mistreatment of you. Would that we could all remain in touch with the tragedy that surrounds us, all the time, and so act to reduce its effects. Instead, we tend to insulate ourselves until the outside world pulls us directly into the chaos. Anyway, I'm mostly impressed by your concern for this person. The more typical and less evolved response would be to hope she 'gets what she deserves.'

Miss Defective said...

I often wonder if that's what will become of me too. I already have little to no tolerance for other people and the heat just magnifies my disdain. Fortunately, the heat finally broke here in Chicago, hopefully the cooler weather will be heading your way soon, and by cooler I mean in the 80's. I've never done well physically or emotionally when the temps get over 80, but after weeks of 90 & 100 degree temps, the 80's feel surprisingly cool.

Michael Platania said...

When I am in the middle of a situation like that, I feel anger and rage. When I step back (which is not always easy) I realize they are in a hell all their own, and I am grateful that at least today, I am not also in that place.

The Blue Morpho said...

Oh, what a difficult experience. I would have had an OCD freakout at the least. In any case, the hospitals are there for those who need them. They are not great places, but if that is where she is, as least she is safe from herself and others. There is a big difference between those who seek treatment and those do not. That will not be you, because you are managing your situation. I laud your ability to look upon this person with compassion.
Adventures in Anxiety Land

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, I had a boy spit on me when I was younger and I can still remember the horror and disgust of that. I too can associate when you say about looking in her eyes and seeing no soul there. I always thought people had an ability to human passion or compassion until I met a young guy I was working with as a youth worker. He had the coldest, soul less eyes I ever saw and it sent a chill right through me. I have never forgotten him and what I feared he would do he did-take a life. Sometimes I fear I will completely break and lose my so called sound mind. There but for the grace of God go I, comes into my mind.

Unknown said...

I admire your compassion for this woman. I can't imagine that she doesn't have a mental illness..not that that condones her behavior but she may not even be aware or in control in which case the hospital is the best place for her. Sorry that happened to you. If you ever want to check out my blog please feel welcome.

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