Friday evening, Savannah and I drove to Hungry Howie’s. For those of you who don’t know, Hungry Howie’s is a restaurant that serves something that Floridians call pizza. According to this Chicago girl, it’s nothing even remotely like pizza, but when in
Rome central Florida you order Hungry Howie’s because, although it’s disgusting, it’s cheap.
When you walk in the store there’s a small area where you can wait for your order. There’s one table, a pop machine, and a TV on the wall to help pass the time while you wait. Directly in front of this area is a counter with a register and behind that is the kitchen which is completely open to the front. You could conceivably see your pizza being made if you were so inclined to watch. Savannah and I stood near the table while we alternately glanced up at the TV, played up with our phones, and talked to each other. Another 7 or 8 people milled about, filling in the area between the front door and the counter, waiting for their orders.
I was reading the caption on the TV about the bombing at the embassy in Turkey when I heard shouting in the kitchen. At first I thought it was a couple employees just joking around, albeit loudly. However, it quickly became apparent they were fighting. I looked at Savannah and sort of rolled my eyes. The employees continued to fight, raising their voices even louder and spewing obscenities like sailors. I looked around at the other patrons who wore masks of shock and disgust on their faces. I kept thinking to myself, ‘This is what happens to kids who have no coping skills and can’t control their behavior. I could see the students who get into fights at school regularly turning into these pizza employees who turn a disagreement into an all-out brawl in the middle of a store filled with customers.”
As the employees’ shouting, swearing and threats escalated, the other patrons nervously backed away from the kitchen area. I exchanged worried glances with a couple women as one of the enraged employees made his way from the kitchen toward the front door. He was an overweight, pasty-white male. His face looked like the raw dough being pounded into flat circles behind the counters. At the door, he paused. Then he turned around and threw some more curse-laced threats to his coworker. The altercation had moved to the middle of us customers and we all stood there speechless. Our eye rolls at the disgust of grown men fighting like junior high kids were replaced with nervous looks as we wondered what we should do.
After pausing at the door to fling more hatred toward his coworker, he stormed out the door. Instead of letting him go, the other disgruntled employee, a short Mexican male, pushed through the throng of customers yelling, “Whajou say, man? Hey %$@# you! Get back here!”
When both men had left the building, a middle-aged woman who’d been waiting for her pizza ran to the door and locked it. She was decisive and quick. She had a plan of action and she followed it without a moment’s hesitation. During the fight, she’d probably been thinking, planning, and figuring out how to get these guys away from everyone else. She lost no time in locking the door behind them. They continued to shout and threaten each other outside, their voices carrying back to us through the glass barrier. Pasty-Face waddled back toward the store and tried to open the door. Finding it locked, he pulled out a key and opened it. The same woman who had locked him out pulled out her Taser and fired it up. No one was going to mess with her.
While all this was going on, I’d like to say that I called the police. Or moved Savannah behind me to help protect her. Or came up with a well thought-out plan to get these hot-headed guys with no self control away from everyone else. I’d like to say that. But unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Nope. Instead, I stood there, dumbfounded, scared, and completely motionless. I was Jello. I’m pretty sure the only thoughts that went through my head were “What the crap is wrong with people?,” “I hope the police come before it gets completely out of control,” and “How may pieces of pizza can I have without completely blowing my diet this week?”
Pasty-Face grabbed a pizza from the kitchen and headed out the door again. A number of women walked up to the counter and cancelled their order,s saying they weren’t comfortable staying there, then they hightailed it out the door. Stephanie Plum, Taser in hand, walked to the counter, ready to zap anyone who got too close while she debated between waiting for her order and cancelling it. Careful not to startle her, Savannah and I grabbed our pizzas that were finally ready and made a hasty retreat.
In crisis situations, you always hear about the heroes who are clear-headed and quick on their feet. They think quickly and act decisively. Their concern is not for their personal safety, but for the welfare of everyone involved. I learned something about myself the other night. I am not a hero. I am as useful as Jello. While Stephanie Plum was locking the door and grabbing her Taser, I was being a statue. While other moms were pushing their children behind them, I was standing there, dumbstruck. While customers were dialing 911, I stood, glued to my spot, mouth agape. So I’m not a hero. I guess it could be worse though. I could be one of the idiots, lacking self-control and common sense, who causes the problem in the first place. And I almost never do that.
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