Well, not really.
It’s a cold wet day, and my back was starting to stiffen up from sitting at my computer too long. I took a little break with a mug of hot chocolate and my copy of Hitchcock and Bradbury Fistfight in Heaven (one of the subjects of my previous post). The story I read was Jack Ritchie’s “For all the Rude People”, originally published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 1961. A man is told he has four months to live. That same afternoon, he witnesses a gratuitous act of rudeness by a carnival barker to a father in front of his two young daughters. On the spur of the moment, he buys a gun (no 24 hour waiting period back then) and murders the barker. He leaves a note explaining why, fully expecting to get caught and arrested.
This happens a few more times — there are a lot of rude people in the world — and the public’s reaction isn’t exactly horrified. When our protagonist overhears a bartender and his customer discuss how not broken up they are about the murder of their habitually unpleasant neighborhood druggist, he decides what he’s going to do with the remaining months of his life.
We are vain and we are blind
I hate people when they’re not polite
Qu’est-ce que c’est— “Psycho Killer”, The Talking Heads
In real life, such a killing spree would be horrible. But as a fantasy… .
Like the protagonist, I’m on the sensitive side, and I confess to having my day ruined on several occasions by some total stranger who decided to act like a jackass (or maybe not even decided — maybe they’re always a jackass). And yes, I can already hear all you positive-thinking types out there, ready to lecture me that “only you can make yourself miserable”, that’s it a matter of attitude, and choosing not to give your power away…. This is all true, but none of that excuses us from the obligation of respecting other people.
Sometimes people are just having a bad day, and act out. Sometimes people are just overly sensitive, and take offense where none was meant. I’m sure I’ve done both.
But I still enjoyed this story.
The image above is of the sculpture Non Violence by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, Malmö, Sweden. Photo by Francois Polito. Sourced from Wikimedia.