Yesterday when queueing in the bank I came across a local man I know called R, who I affectionately describe an an oddball. I’ve known him and his wife for many years and they have a child at Kieran’s school. R is completely harmless, and extremely intelligent in his own way. I’m not 100% sure of the history but I believe R does have some mental health issues.
Anyway, in the bank…. R was ahead of me in the queue. He turned and asked me if I’d ever kept ferrets. “No, I can’t say as I have R” I smiled, “Well it’s something you need to do before you die” he replied, “Well, I’ll put it on my list R” and on it went, harmless banter. When it was his turn, he went to the window and quoted a proverb to the girl behind the desk, he was there not 20 seconds and I doubt it’s the first time he’s done this. He smiled, wished the girl a fantastic day and went on his way.
Not the most “usual” banking experience, but no harm done. It’s what happened after that made me so angry. As soon as he left, everyone started laughing, poking fun at him, questioning the girl behind the desk who was now dealing with my query… you get the picture. I could feel my neck then my cheeks getting red. “Ha ha, did you see….“, “Seriously, what is he doing?“, “What was the point in that hahaha”.
I lost my temper a little. “He isn’t doing anyone any harm!!!” accompanied with scowls all around. It went quiet for a moment. I finished my transactions and left, the door hadn’t quite shut when I heard it start again.
For two pins I could have gone back in and really let rip, but I didn’t. I imagine if I had gone back in and accused them all of being intolerant, discriminatory, picking on someone with a disability they would have been aghast, and protested fiercely. You see, prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, and bullying are all dirty words and no-one takes part in any of that, not at all, never, what a thought! But you know they do, by laughing, by poking fun, by being generally unkind. Isn’t it the same thing? Perhaps I am over-thinking this, after all – he didn’t hear them laughing at him so what is the harm?
Personally I think it boils down to how society works nowadays. Discrimination is not acceptable so it rarely happens openly, but frequently occurs behind closed doors, under breaths, wrapped up in laughter. It’s still the same ugliness, just with different packaging.
Do you see this “behaviour” in your everyday life? Has it become so veiled or worse, normal, that you barely notice it anymore? I’d love to hear your thoughts!!