“Would someone please get the retard out of the line?”

Posted: December 19, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

My head snapped up when I heard that. It wasn’t hard to hear since the man who yelled it was standing right behind me.

It was 6:00 in the evening. About 15 of us were standing in line at Safeway in the “15 items or less” line. The line wasn’t moving. It hadn’t moved for at least 10 minutes. Why?

Because there was a man in line with a shopping cart full of groceries. All the other check-out lines in the store were moving faster than the one we were in. I hadn’t noticed him when I walked up with my 2 items. The store was packed and all the lines were long. It was a Friday night and I knew it would be busy.

I also knew that I didn’t feel like cooking anything for dinner. All I wanted to do was go home, eat something and put my feet up. I was catching a cold. I had been on my feet all day and I just wanted to sit down and eat.

I turned around and looked at him. I hate the word “retard.” I have for a long time even though I have used it in the past. But that was a long time ago and that was before I read an article about it from the “Special Olympics” and realized it can be a very hurtful word.

But it was a word we used growing up, just like we used the word “Negro” until that was changed to “Black” and then “African-American.”

I have no problem changing my vocabulary if it means not offending someone, but you don’t know unless someone tells you.

I also hated it because sometimes kids would say that about my older brother. In my day, no one knew that some kids had learning problems. Those that did were just pushed through the system. Some could barely read and yet got their High School diploma. It has nothing to do with IQ and everything to do with how someone learns.

The man looked at me and then looked away.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“I said they should get the retard out of this line! The guy’s a moron and I’ve been standing here forever. I guess he’s too stupid to read,” he said.

I heard a few people grumble. Some sighed and shifted their weight around. We were all exasperated but I was pissed that this guy was being so rude.

I turned around and looked at the man who was holding up the line. He had his face down and started to pull his baseball cap further down over his face. He was tapping the counter with his other hand and then rubbed his eyes and quickly looked around.

Something was wrong.

The clerk was ringing up his groceries. It was impossible for him, or anyone in line, not to have heard what this man had shouted.

I turned back to the man behind me and shoved my groceries at him. “Here, hold these for me,” I said. There was no place for me to put them down. I was holding only 2 items and hadn’t gotten a hand basket.

“What? No, you hold them,” he said.

“No, YOU hold them! I’ll be right back,” I said. I put my items in his basket and pushed my way through the line.

I walked up to the man and smiled.

I was right. Something was “off” with him. He was fairly young, tall and very confused. He looked like he was about to cry.

“Do you need some help?” I asked.

He stammered, looked at me and then looked away. I glared at the clerk. She had been rolling her eyes at him. She wasn’t talking to him. She was obviously annoyed at him but was not saying a word.

She didn’t need to. Her body language spoke volumes.

“I…think…I…am…doing this wrong,” he said. “Everyone is mad at me…and I don’t know why.”

No, he didn’t know why. He didn’t understand. I wasn’t sure what his situation was but just looking at him for a few seconds I knew he was overwhelmed and in over his head.

“You didn’t do anything wrong. Some people around here are assholes,” I said. I started putting his groceries in his cart. The woman standing behind him had been listening. She had been annoyed but now she smiled, patted him on his back and told him he hadn’t done anything wrong. She started helping with groceries.

As he pulled out cash from his pocket to pay, a woman walked up. He held out the cash he had towards her. She smiled and showed him how much to give the clerk. This was his Mom. She had him count it out. She asked him how many items he had in the basket. He told her the exact amount.

She then had him read the sign and asked if he understood it. He said he did but didn’t see it.

She thanked me and the other woman and gave us each a hug. She said she was sorry for the inconvenience. She had run out to her car for a few moments and he had moved his cart into a lane that was open.

He smiled at us. “I saw it was open and I wanted to help my Mom. I’m sorry,” he said and looked down at his shoes.

She nudged him and he quickly stuck out his hand for us to shake. We did and they walked away. He turned around and waved at us. We waved back.

I looked at the clerk. She looked ashamed. “I’ll be talking to your manager as soon as I am done here,” I said.

I got back in line and took my things out of the asshole’s hand basket.

“Oh, shit, I didn’t realize he really was retarded….”

“Oh shut the fuck up,” I said and turned away.

To my faithful readers: Yes, I know. I posted the exact opposite of this here: https://idisagreecompletely.com/2012/12/12/youre-welcome-bitch/

Sometimes people just piss me off.

I am flawed too. And I don’t apologize for it.

  1. Paulissa says:

    And this is why I love you. You foster humanity; mince no words and take no prisoners. Thank you for sharing. I loved this story.

  2. …and you don’t have to. We love you just the way you are.

  3. jkoppee says:

    Way too often we decide to insult people and become frustrated with them instead of taking a second to possibly see if they need help. Good for you and I doubt the guy in line learned his lesson at all.

  4. Dee says:

    We’re all flawed, and sometimes bullies just need that “in your face” thing to show them it isn’t good or fun. Not always, and not maybe when it’s just two of you…it’s easier to let it go then. When it’s a group of people, they need to know that standing up for what’s right is important too.

    • Susan Lewis says:


      I’m glad I reacted rather than started thinking about it. I was so insulted by his words and might have let them go, but when I looked at that man, I could not.

      Bully the bully? Sometimes it happens and I can’t say it’s always wrong.

  5. singlewhitefemaledating says:

    We are all guity of doing the wrong thing (judging and being abusive towards others and ourselves); it is nice to reminded to be more understanding and less aggressive in our daily lives. Thanks Susan and Merry Xmas 😀

  6. thank-you Susan for the way you handled the checkout line indifference and ignorance, you are a warm hearted soul and will have many friends, have a wonderful new year