Yellow-bellied

One of my Twitter pals, Erin Zulkoski (@e_zulko) had a series of tweets last night that touched on something that happened to me recently that has been bothering me: https://twitter.com/#!/e_zulko/status/136651229202890752 https://twitter.com/#!/e_zulko/status/136651680832950272 https://twitter.com/#!/e_zulko/status/136652172665438208

She's right about that. I was stopped in a McDonald's on my way home from work on Saturday, to pick up a McFlurry for Lauren. It was late, about 11:30, and there weren't many people in the restaurant, working or eating. I was loitering at the counter, waiting for the burger I had ordered for myself, and there were two high school age kids also waiting. When the woman minding the counter went over to check those green on black 1980s monitors they have to keep track of the orders, one of the kid's hands darted over the counter and came back with a drink cup, not quite magician quick, but close. Then he strolled over to the drink machine and filled up a soda, and began sipping it furtively behind the glass divider.

I stood there, watching this. I wanted to go Dirty Harry on the guy. I wanted to kick him in the nuts. I wanted to smack the drink out of his hand.

I wanted to at least say something.

I didn't. I rationalized. Well, they're both bigger than me. And they're obviously assholes. I don't want to get beaten up over a $1 Coke. Yeah.

It all happened so fast, his friend didn't even notice right away. When he saw his friend sipping the stolen Coke, he said something I couldn't hear, but I knew he was asking where the drink came from his friend said he'd grabbed it from behind the counter. So the friend goes over, and he obviously hasn't done this before (he's definitely the sidekick in this clown show) and looks around clumsily, then leeeaaaans over the counter looking for the drink cups. He was making his friend look like fucking Houdini.

Great, I think. This moron is going to get caught, and I won't have to do anything.

Of course he doesn't. He finally tracks down the cups and fumbles one out just before the cashier turns back around, smiling, with their food bags.

I agonized some more, and rationalized some more, and then my burger came, and I left.

Maybe speaking up wasn't worth the potential trouble. But I couldn't help thinking, on what seemed like a long drive the rest of the way home, that if I couldn't stand up to petty shit like that, because it is easier, more comfortable, less risky, then what the fuck would I do when the stakes, and the risks, were higher?

It didn't matter that it was something small. I was a coward.

I never want to feel that way again.