I ended up working all day, escaping only long enough to grab an early lunch before being picked up for a meeting an hour-and-a-half away. Ordinarily this wouldn't give me much blogging fodder, except fate decided to intervene along the way.
And everything began with Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.
For some reason I woke up this morning wanting to re-read Slaughterhouse Five for the hundredth time... probably because I've been getting lots of "friend requests" from GoodReads, and books are on my brain. I already have a copy of the novel back home (doesn't everybody?), but wanted to read it on the flight home Sunday, so I made a mental note to pick up another copy at the Border's down the street.
When lunchtime came around, I headed out to the book shop, making a stop at Jimmy John's along the way (I don't particularly like their sandwiches, but they build them really fast, and I was in a hurry). Rushing through Border's, I find a copy of Slaughterhouse Five, then grab a copy of Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down (which I've been meaning to read, and noticed was on sale for $4.99 in hardcover!). After paying for my books, 25 minutes of the half-hour I gave myself for lunch have evaporated. I resist the urge to run back to the hotel, but start walking as fast as I can.
With my mind focused on what I have to get done this afternoon, I round the corner on to North Water Street... and get sprayed with... water. Not a lot of water, but enough that my arm is wet.
In a mild state of shock (and irony, this being Water Street), I turn to where the water originated and see a guy standing there with a water bottle and a smile on his face. He then screeches "WOOF! WOOF! BYE-BYE! BYE-BYE!" at me. Obviously the guy is mentally challenged, and suddenly I don't know what to do. Part of me wants to rip the bottle out of his hand and dump it on his head with the hope that he learns it's not polite to spray people, but I just stand there. Ultimately, I conclude that I have no idea what the etiquette would be for the situation, and start walking back to the hotel. No harm was done, my shirt will dry, and life will carry on.
Except I keep reliving the moment over and over again in my head.
And now I am really upset with myself for not having said anything.
But not for the reason you might think.
I am worried that this guy is going to spray somebody who won't care that he is mentally handicapped. Somebody who decides to beat the crap out of him. I thought I was being kind by ignoring what he had done, but now I am thinking that it might have been kinder to have said something.
It's decisions like this which define us, and I think today I failed myself.
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Those moments are some of the worst kind… when you are faced with a situation that required something of you, however obscurely at the time, and you either failed to see it or, worse yet, saw it and understood it but chose to do nothing.
In the ministry I’m faced with it all of the time. And to be honest, when you fail someone, it is incredibly hard to take, at least for me.
But if there is anything commendable about the situation, it’s that you haven’t done what I’ve seen many people do. You haven’t hardened your heart and shrugged off the responsibility of it. You actually care, even when that man really had no idea he needed help. That’s uncommon.
Although the feeling stinks, it can be a good thing, if we let it change us, instead of just ignoring it until it goes away.
Because you know what? Ultimately, it never does.
In some small way, it will change us. It’s up to us if that is a good or bad change.
You can’t worry about that. You did what was right for you. If someone else kicks his ass, it’s not like he isn’t asking for it. There are plenty of people out there with mental-disabilities, but they still refrain for assaulting the general populace.
At least he didn’t get your new books wet. Then you would surely have found something to say.
I spilled water on myself during my lunch break today..not quite the same situation. Don’t think I’m mentally handicapped.
I don’t think what you did was incorrect in any way. Sure, _maybe_ a better way might have incorporated play back at him (enjoy life, right?) or possibly calmly stating you didn’t appreciate it, but ignoring him and making the best of it isn’t a bad choice.
You were, as you said, in a mild state of shock. Talking down your own gut reaction to lunge was the first achievement. I don’t know what version of mentally challenged he was, but my guess is he had a clue, as a child does, that what he did was wrong… intrusive or at least just annoying. The odds are that, had you spoken to him about the potential consequences, it would have had any real affect.
I think (jr. amateur shrink reporting for duty, sir) that the whole thing had you slightly shaken up (it WAS an attack, mild as it was) and the guilt is an easier place to land than anger or fear or whatever else might have come up–this version of upset is the easiest to handle.
My recommendation is you try to find him and beat the crap out of him.
(You totally did the right thing.)
I think you should just give yourself credit for not being upset with him initially. You can’t be super Dave and protect him from everyone!
Did you even have the time to correct said corrupted mentally challenged person? I think it would have been the kind thing to do but I think it would have given you a much bigger headache. Besides, if he is challenged enough to bark at strangers while spraying them with water, would he have understood your kind approach to logic or would he have sprayed you again…in your face?
yes the guy sounds mentally challenged all right and deserved to get his ass kicked and drenched in return too. You can’t reason with stupidity, you did the right thing not giving him a reaction. Ever see Tom Cruise getting soaked by a paparazzi guy in London.. it was kinda funny watching him tryin to reason with the guy, saying ‘why would you do that’, over and over. The guy obviously was a moron who just wanted a reaction and got one! Best to either ignore it or drench the MF back if ya feel like doin so .. : )
Slaughterhouse Five is such an awesome book. Enjoy.
Maybe the guy thought it was Songkram.
I want to comment, but I can’t after reading some of these that seem so very hateful. It just makes me sad to know how people are towards something they don’t understand.
A mentally challenged person never is never asking for it.
I commend you Dave, I do know how you feel. It’s always disappointing to feel we’ve failed ourselves however you failed in a better way than had you reacted in anger.
I’m pretty shocked at the comments on this entry today… a mentally challenged person does not “needs his ass kicked” nor was he “asking for it”. Some of you may need to learn what it is to be mentally challenged. The obvious start is that a mentally challenged person does not always know right from wrong in the same way a non-mentally challenged person does, nor do they have the same reasoning skills. Otherwise this guy would not have sprayed a perfect stranger with water, then barked afterward.
Dave, I completely agree with everything Jason said. At the same time, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. At least you do care and next time (if there is one) you’ll know what to say/do.
I’ve never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut, and I know I should, but I’ve just never gotten around to it.
Regarding the Waterboy, I wouldn’t worry about it. Very few people would actually beat someone up – people bluster, and they might yell, but you didn’t fail anyone or anything.
The fact that you’ve spent time thinking about it since then, with compassion and regret in your heart, shows just the kind of person that you are. You cannot save the world but you sure are a good egg for wanting to.
sorry bad british humour I guess.. (didn’t mean to sound hateful) Of course you would never beat up a mentally changelled person.. only a person of at least average intelligence.. they would definitely be deserving it, in the given scenario 🙂
So it goes.
I love that you are tortured by this. Not because I want you to feel tortured, but because it shows what an awesome person you are. Even though you later decided you didn’t do quite the right thing, good for you for even being the kind of person who would want to do the right thing at all.