The strangest, silliest, and most awkward thing happened to me and my mother.
We were staying at this fancy hotel in Tucson. We came over to visit my sister for her husband’s birthday, but since a friend of his was also planning to come over at the same time, we couldn’t stay at their place. I honestly didn’t mind that too much. Being able to relax in a spa-like environment was a consolation.
After an early wake-up thanks to my mother’s internal alarm clock being set to three in the morning, the two of us went to go get coffee. We meandered past the hotel’s lobby, drinking in the do-nothing leisure of the morning. The resort’s coffee bar was located past this bridge/walkway connecting the lobby to a part of the building that housed conference rooms and ballrooms. On this bridge, you can look out on a gorgeous view of the Arizona desert. The sky was a silvery grey and the land was a muted red speckled with cacti. My mom and I paused a bit to admire the scenery.
Since it was so early, there weren’t many people out and about. Only one other person stood on the walkway, a bearded man in work-out clothes, earbuds plugged into his ears, his eyes glued to the phone in his hand instead of the horizon. He was leaning against the walkway’s railing, and he ignored my mom and me as we stepped past him.
The coffee bar was situated right by the entrance onto the walkway. So as soon as we entered the chill, air-conditioned space, we could see the line to order. Only two people were ahead of us, and we walked forward, chatting about my sister and her visit. Nonchalantly, the man from the walkway stepped past us and cut us in line. He did this almost unobtrusively, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. My mom even halted her progress forward in the queue because it seemed like the man knew his business. It seemed like he was going somewhere else, that’s how officious and I-know-what-I’m-doing his demeanor was.
I exclaimed once to my mother in dismay, but then we shrugged in acceptance. People being unfair or thoughtless is just part of life. We settled in behind this man and continued our conversation.
“Excuse me,” a homely, Southern drawl sounded behind us. My mother and I turned. A large bald man, with an American flag tattooed on his arm and emblazoned on his shirt, was standing over us. “Did that man just cut you off in line?”
Surprised at having our shame addressed so openly and also amiably embarrassed about the whole thing, we nodded our heads and said, “Yeah, but it’s okay.”
The bald man shook his head in grim consternation. “Man, it really burns my asshole when folks do that. It’s rude, and they think they can just get away with it.”
His genuine outrage at what we considered a minor misfortune caught us off guard. “Sorry,” we mumbled apologetically.
Then, after speaking a few more words of dissatisfaction, he strode past us and just got up in the other man’s grill. This man, the bearded one with earbuds, was still plugged into his phone, so he flinched and his eyes widened in shock when the big bald man thrust a finger in his shoulder and started scolding him for his audacity. Our “defender” gesticulated angrily, imparting his disdain in direct fashion. He pointed at my mom and me a few times. His victim was nonplussed, flabbergasted, and his gaze flicked back and forth between the behemoth in front of him and us.
As soon as his anger was spent, the bald man picked up his coffee and left. The man with the earbuds stared after him, stunned, but then made a derisive snorting sound at the back of his throat. He spared one more glance toward us, then went back to his phone.
My mom and I looked at each other, her with social panic and me with amused hysteria. What were we supposed to do or say after that? The people at the coffee bar were all staring at us. The scene had been quite loud.
Afterwards, the whole thing made for a fun story to regale my sister with. She laughed at the awkwardness we had been placed in. But she also commented on how the situation was a prime example of how people’s perspectives differ. Exploring the different viewpoints of everyone there perfectly showcases how people can approach courtesy and right versus wrong. Justifying your actions can take different forms.
The man with the earbuds justified getting ahead of me and my mom because he was planning on just ordering a water. We found this out when I tried apologizing to him for the altercation. I don’t think he heard what I was saying. He never acknowledged my words. He just kept repeating, “I’m just getting a water.” He probably thought the bald man made a mountain into a mole hill.
The bald man, on the other hand, felt justified in berating another person out of a sense of chivalry, perhaps. Or maybe he had had a real bad day and the sight of an unrelated injustice enraged him as a result.
As my friends know by now, since I’ve bored their ears off retelling this tale over and over again. I’m having a lot of fun analyzing the situation. It fascinates me.