A Salute to Real Heroes

January 9, 2012

It’s no secret, I am pretty awesome at a lot of things.

I like to think of it as part of being a well-rounded person.  It’s important to be awesome at as many things as possible.

But, of all the things I have mastered, there is one skill I still lack, much to my dismay:

Confronting people in public.

We’ve all been there, in a place where someone is being a major tool in public.  Some self-absorbed idiot is talking loudly on her phone on the bus, or there’s a drunk guy at the movies.  They make everyone angry.  But there are very few, proud, honorable warriors for common decency who will take a stand and bawl out these people in front of everyone.

Today, I salute you, people who aren’t afraid to say what everyone is thinking.  You are too often taken for granted and I hope I can grow up to be like you.  Here are just a few heroic stories of your valiant exploits.

At the Movies

My wife and I were just in this situation this weekend, at the movies.  We were in a smaller theater, less than half full.  Halfway through The Descendants, a group of four teenagers entered and took the front row, obviously sneaking in for a double feature.  Based on the fact that they were sneaking in halfway through The Descendants, I calculated their collective intelligence to be about that of a fern.

Then they started talking.  Loudly.  And I began to believe I had overestimated their intelligence.

One of the gay guys a seat down from us shushed them loudly.  I was already ashamed that I didn’t have the guts to shush too.

But the chimps didn’t take the hint.  And the entire theater started to murmur with complaints.

So a few minutes later, another guy went down and politely told them everyone could hear them.  A collective thank you was whispered by the crowd.

Then a woman in the back added, “In other words, shut the f— up.”

She said what we didn’t have the guts to.  And everyone laughed.  And less than a minute later, when the teenagers left in shame, the gay guys started a round of applause.  It was awesome.  I salute you, fellow theater patrons, and allies of justice!

On the Road

While on vacation, my wife and I were eating at a tiny outdoor restaurant on the edge of town with only one other family at the table next to us.

We were enjoying our food when we saw an obnoxiously large SUV attempt to parallel park.  In doing so, the SUV bumped the Volkswagen behind it three times.

The guy got out and looked like the kind of self-important clown who drives an obnoxiously large SUV.  The kind of guy who has a bluetooth set on his ear at all times.  In other words, not the kind of guy I’m likely to confront.  But the woman at the next table did.  She yelled and berated his sorry face as he tried to walk away, probably to hit on skanky girls at the bars down the street.

My only contribution was a timid uh-huh when she told the guy I had seen him hit the car too.  I salute you, woman at the barbecue stand, for having more guts than me.

Why Do the Rest of Us Stay Quiet?

Why are there so few special people out there who aren’t afraid to yell at strangers?  Why do we refuse to say what we know everyone is thinking when one person is making everyone miserable?  Why do we act like spineless gastropods around smug, selfish people who think nothing of everyone around them?

Just once, I’d like to be able to punch a drunk guy or throw someone’s cell phone out the bus window, or flip off a bunch of occupy protesters.

Why do you think that is?  Are you one of those people who takes a stand?  If so, I would be honored to shake your hand.  If not, it’s okay, you’re in good company.

28 responses to A Salute to Real Heroes

  1. The obnoxious guy may have a gun.

  2. Because most people are annoyed but honestly ok with the other guy being a tool, but not ok with standing up and making it worse, therefore becoming just another tool.

    I’m more apt (and have) to react to the guy roughing up his girlfriend in the parking lot of the 7-11 than I am the annoying guy on the cellphone during the beginning of the movie…

    • Your response is very close to what I was thinking. I don’t want to make it worse. But if someone is actually hurting someone else, then I will step up.

  3. There is a fine line between knowing if we should cleanse the temple of the sellers and money changers, or turn the other cheek. Being a complete wimp myself, I’d want to be very sure that I truly ask what would Jesus do?

    Then, if I could ever think of the perfect comment at the moment instead of two days later, this could be more fun.

  4. Yesterday I saw a Hummer taking up two places in the parking lot and I seriously considered leaving a note under the windshield. Something along the lines of “Who taught you how to park, you overcompensating d—bag?”

    That of course lead me to consider becoming the Parking Lot Avenger, so I could go after bad parking jobs and bumper sticker infractions whereever I find them.

    My husband wisely reminded me that, most likely, no good would come from it.

    • Yeah, but in the future, you could get some satisfaction by sending a pic to iparklikeanidiot.com

      • Aw yeah–I’m going to have to check that one out. Another fun one is found.com–it’s kind of mix of little bits of stuff that people find laying around, but anonymous notes from parking lots (and laundromats and break rooms, etc.) that call people out for jerky behavior are a regular occurance.

  5. I am half and half, sometimes I say stuff and my poor wife is embarrassed. I did ask a woman to take her cellphone outside at a movie which she applauded. Pleasing my wife is not always easy. 😉 Another time we were at a restaurant and the guy next to us was obviously drinking, and arguing with his ex-wife at a kid’s birthday celebration. Instead of saying something we asked for another table between salad and the main dish.

    Solo, I can be a jerk. Sunday there was some dolt texting while public skating. I got in his skating lane “by accident” and the phone went flying. I am on the car horn whenever a cellphone laden idiot seems to be confused while driving. And I am not talking about a toot. I have told unruly kids in the supermarket to cut the bologna. One parent was annoyed, but most give a thankful sigh of relief. I sort of enjoy the challenge of mall walking with some many folks glued to a 3″ screen. (Did you see the YouTube of the girl who was texting and stepped off into the fountain?) And I am the worst when someone disrespects my wife or girls.

    What would Jesus do, well He confronted people and put his life at risk all the time. 😉

  6. I confess that I have been like that, though more with kids than adults. If you are a kid at a playground and a) throw sand, b) run recklessly endangering toddlers c) being mean to any kid but especially my kid or d) using cuss words, beware my wrath

    Three days ago, I was driving home at night and found someone driving in the middle lane reserved for turning left. The lane goes on for miles and, with living in “snowbird” territory, I could see where some people might mistake it for a “real lane.” This person was probably more like “textingbird” or “drunkbird” though because the car was drifting toward opposing traffic, too. At a stoplight, I honked to try to tell the person that they were driving in the wrong lane. They ignored me, however, and I had visions from “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” from the rest of the night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7N81H8KF9c.

    It is actually easier to confront strangers than to confront friends or family. You don’t really have a relationship with that person and won’t get hurt (unless they have a gun) if they reject you for confronting them or decide to “counter-attack.” That is what you do with your congregation, Matt. You also confront people with God’s word every week, which can rebuke and correct as well as teach and train in righteousness. That is never comfortable. You are one of my heros, Matt.

  7. It depends on the situation. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy nor fun.

    In the past, I have called out teens that are getting out of control in a crowd situation…followed by some verbal abuse by said teens. But, then others echoed my concerns and they slunk off. My wife will tell you that I will gladly shush the loud movie/play goer.

    Maybe we’ve become too worried about offending somebody and as a result, allowing social faux pas to go unchecked?

    There’s a grocery store chain in the lower part of the state that won’t serve you if you’re on a cell phone. The cashier will ask the next person in line to move forward. It’s awesome! The offender protests, but normally..they quickly hang up and conduct their business. More businesses should have similar expectations.


  8. I’m able to confront people if I’ve built trust with them, but I rarely do it with strangers. So I guess that puts me in good company!

  9. I will tend to be the one stepping up and saying something, if the person will allow me to do so. That goes double for kids misbehaving in parks. Last weekend, a guy was driving in the middle left turn lane, which lasts for miles in my neck of the woods. It was dark, and, living in AZ, this is the season of snowbirds, though I was actually tagging him as an inebriated bird or texting bird because he was drifting into the lanes with oncoming traffic. We both had to stop at a light and I honked my horn to tell him he was in the wrong lane. He ignored me and I had visions of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” stuck in my head for the remainder of the drive.

    Sometimes, though, words are not necessary. When we were at a Cubs spring training game a couple of years ago, we were in the grassy area and one young fellow in the group next to us started using the “f” word in every sentence. Kids are marvelous imitators, and that was something that I didn’t want my five year old to pick up, so every time he would use it, I would look over at the group in general with a less-than-pleased eye and fix it on him. After about five minutes of it, he stopped using. Either that or the game started and I was too busy watching the game to hear his sorry excuse for vocabulary. I think I must have developed the “evil mom eye”.

    Of course, it is MUCH easier to confront a complete stranger than it is to confront someone doing wrong that you know and love and are guaranteed to see in the next day or week. I’m not so good at that. I am sure you have had to do that, and I admire you for it. Plus you have to confront people every week with God’s word, which is written to correct and rebuke as well as teaching and training in righteousness.

  10. I am one of those people who tells it like it is, period. 50% of people think it is cool, the other half think I am an A-hole. But everyone knows I will let them know where they stand with me on things.

    I think I have said that line to someone in a theater actually…

  11. So playing off your post from last week where you said it’s wrong to teach “gay history” because if someone is worthy of being mentioned in a history book it shouldn’t matter what their sexual preference is…

    Why did you have to point out that the guy who “shushed” was gay? Couldn’t they just have been an annoyed theater patron? His preference of men over women didn’t play into the story at all!

  12. It depends on how many people are around and how annoying they’re being. Drunk guy who tries to climb in the back of the bus without paying and is then leering around and getting me drunk as I smell him– he gets told to back the fuck off please, sir.

    Loud person on the train telling his adopted brother who he’s just met to not worry too much that his baby is ugly because HE had an ugly baby too and thought it was because his girlfriend isn’t that hot, but then found pictures of himself as a baby and he used to be ugly but now he’s hot, so it wears off sometimes…. With him– I find it’s best to just text updates to friends moment by moment and use it for blog fodder later.

  13. david (the same david who called you privileged) January 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    :) I see you have begun to include the accomplishments of LGBT people in your posts. Well done. Wasn’t that hard now was it? Betcha thought nobody would notice!

  14. I used to simply use the universal glare for “you’re annoying the heck out of people”, but in a dark movie theater, that won’t work. Now with crazy blue-tooth people at the grocery store, I’ll act like they’re talking to me and answer them. On the train (I commute to Chicago daily, about an hour each way) we have two cars designated as “quiet cars” – no cell phones and no talking. I take the easy way out there and just hand them the nicely-worded brochure reminding them of the rules. If I knew someone wouldn’t try to cap my white @#! I might confront people more often.

  15. I’m half wimp, half champion. Mostly I stay out of other people’s stuff – however I did stand up for the crossing guard at my kids’ school once. Some young revv-head thought it was funny to nose his car almost onto the crossing, and nudge her while she was directing traffic. I marched across the road, tapped on his window and pointed out that he was breaking several laws and that we valued our crossing lady. He backed off, and disappeared very fast once the road was clear. It helped that his friends in the car behind laughed at him for being a jerk.

    There’s some truth to the adage (which I just made up) that if you are being a jerk in public, you deserve to be told off in public. However I’m cautious about making quick judgments about people’s behaviour. That shiny SUV parked inconveniently – who knows, but the driver may have had some kind of emergency, or some kind of health challenge, like my friend’s mum, who had a mini stroke and for a while afterwards struggled with some simple things, like parking straight. So while it’s okay (& sometimes necessary) to point out the parking error or whatever, best to do it politely. & just because someone LOOKS like they are wealthy and therefore arrogant – doesn’t mean they are, or that they don’t have a human story.

  16. The only time I really say something, is if it has to do with a disabled person. I hope it’s not favoritism, I just have a thing about helping fellow people who society sometimes ignores or rolls their eyes at.

    They have this thing out here in California, called the light rail. And a few people were sitting there. I guess they were new in town, but the idea is that those seats are designated for disabled people and also for those in wheelchairs. I saw a man in a wheelchair about to get on, and I told them to “Get up”. If I was rude a bit, I think I apologized.

    I kind of surprised myself to be honest. Because I am kind of on the short side, I wasn’t even expecting or anticipating myself doing that, but I did.

    The other times, I speak up is when someone is in my personal space. One time I kicked this person, I forgot if they were a man or a woman, but they were in my personal space on public transportation, and I kicked them, and then apologized and acting as if I didn’t mean to.


    (I asked the Lord to forgive me for lying, of course…it’s just like, I wanted to say, “Look here, fatso, I’m not invisible, I may be short, but I’m not invisible”.

    I couldn’t say that, so I kicked them.

    I think the reason why sometimes not everybody is bold enough to speak up is because these days people are crazy. Just plain and simple. A seven year old kid could be packin a gun, you just never know. On top of that, people have no respect for one another. That’s my reason, but I could be wrong.

  17. HAHA! This is awesome. I’m totally one of those people.

    Two weeks ago we were at the theater and someone 4 rows up was texting on their cell phone. It was really distracting so I hollered “Put your phone away!!” and like 4 other people gave me a thumbs up.

    Some people just need to be reminded the world doesn’t revolve around them.

    Hope you enjoy the long weekend.

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