THE ENCOUNTER

Michael and I were out killing time before we went to dinner on Saturday evening. We had reservations to eat our weight in sushi for six and we had just been wandering out most of the day looking for mushroom paste. Finally we stumbled into a tiny little grocery store that specializes in German foods. Werner's specializes in german sausages and deli meats. They also have racks of chocolates and mustards. I convinced Michael to try the liverwurst. He was skeptical, but once he tasted it, he declared it to be delicious. The woman behind the counter smiled with delight and said "Oh good! I make it here myself." We  passed more pleasantries back and forth. I told them about how my old boss, who is German, ordered us lunch from here once. I couldn't eat anything but the potato salad and pickles, but those things were wonderful. I could have eaten all of the pickles. 

Then I was trying tell them my old boss's last name, except all I could do was spell it because I realized that I had never had to say his last name out loud. When you spell it out it sounds something like "wine-grab". Michael looked at me and said "That can't be his name. That sounds like a member of Trump's cabinet." We all laughed, but then this man standing behind Michael says in a very hateful tone "your mother." We pause, both of us slightly confused. In fact Michael even asks "what?" The man repeats himself "your mother." It takes Michael a minute but then he gets it and says "Ohhh...you're equating my stupid Trump joke to my mother. Okay." Then Michael turns to the man and asks "Are you upset about something?" The man narrows his eyes. His skin is that kind of white that flushes pink when embarrassed or angry. He looks at Michael and says "Only with you." You could feel the anger and hate radiating off him in waves and I felt my heart leap a little sideways in my chest with fear. 

I finished paying for our things and looked at the people behind the counter with sincerity as I said "thank you so much, we can't wait to come back." Michael looked at the angry man and said "whatever man." and we headed out the door. At the last minute, I yelled out a "God bless you" as I stepped out. My heart was racing and I was still a little in shock about the whole encounter. I hadn't seen it coming. Neither one of us had been prepared for such an encounter. It never even dawned on me that I would even be involved in such an encounter, which I know is naive. The bubble I was living in burst with this moment and I have not been able to get it out of my head. Michael and I joke about it now, answering each other's questions with "your mother." We were on the Kansas side when this happened and now when we are in that area we refer to it as "out of the blue." We'll warn each other "hey...be careful. You're out of the blue here."  

I've thought of a million things I could have said to that man instead of just standing there in shock. Mostly though, I feel sorry for him. I pity his life that is so miserable that an innocent dumb joke could set off so much anger. I also wanted to tell him to get ready to be really angry at jokes for the next four years, because our President Elect practically writes the jokes himself. Have you seen his Twitter feed? Comedy is how some of us are going to be able to deal with ridiculousness to come and that angry man, who's candidate won the election, is just going to remain angry even if his country gets better for him. I am not going to be on guard about the things that I might say when I am 'out of the blue'. I'm not going out of my way to pick a fight, but I'm not going sit back and worry that saying anything about a government policy I do not agree with is going make the man standing next to me to become violent. That's what people  in Nazi Germany had to do. That's what some people in not so 'free' countries have to do. That is not something as a citizen protected by the First Amendment has to do.

From now on, I'm fighting back, because I am no longer shocked. I am no longer scared. Now, I'm angry. I am angry for letting this little man intimidate me into silence and I am not going to let it happen again. I see your hatefulness and I will not let it silence me.