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My mother’s old workplace ‘incident’

I’ll tell you a story on this day after Mother’s Day which my mother told me just after it was “live.” In this story, she is the “hero.” She didn’t take out any enemy machine gun nests like Audie Murphy, but she stood her ground and spoke her mind.

Everyone has had to put up with bullies at one time or another in school, those people who didn’t follow the precept of those “good old Golden Rule days,” but in addition, there are bullies which thrive in the workplace world.

Some are overt, but others do their dirty work behind the scenes, “sniping” at those good-hearted souls who only give them “what for” when they can’t take it any longer.

Sometimes, the devoted practitioners of the Golden Rule just don’t want to admit that there are some people in this world who are “no count” (colloquial Southern) until being at the mercy of their ill treatment has reached “critical mass.”

One time, the older boys at Saint Paul’s Lutheran took us on a snipe hunt in the woods behind the cemetery. From that hunt, we came back empty-handed; but I’m sure if you go looking in each workplace for the human “snipe,” you’ll “bag” (just figuratively) at least one, or maybe a few.

These sort of “snipers” often use feigned friendship as their camouflaging ghillie suit.

So it was, one time in the early 1960s at Salisbury’s old W.T. Grants. There were a couple of newer employees who had been making fun of my mother and saying things about her behind her back. Their mothers had evidently not taught them as well as my mother had taught me.

There’s nothing with which I can come up as being any sort of reason for anyone to have made fun of her, except that perhaps these “fun-pokers” viewed the world through jaded glasses. Through those lenses, she may have seemed to be “too good” (as in “Gone With the Wind,” when Scarlett refers to Melanie Hamilton as “goody goody”).

This went on for several weeks, and my mother finally had enough of it, so she “told them off.” I don’t recall her telling me what she told them, but knowing her, I’m sure that the language was in no way “maritime,” just stern and probably mixed with a great deal of “fed-upness.”

Grants’ manager and my mother’s co-worker friends applauded her with their words of support and pride (and may have actually clapped). They might have even said “well done” (“right on,” in the modern vernacular). If there had been Facebook, someone probably would have made a video and posted it, resulting in a number of “likes,” with the possibility of it even going “viral.”

The next day, my mother wasn’t feeling very well, so she went to see our family physician, Dr. Frank B. Marsh. He told her that her blood pressure was stroke-level, ”sky-high” (her term, but then again, maybe his), so he put her on some medication.

I don’t remember my mother quoting either the systolic nor the diastolic, but “sky high” suffices, doesn’t it?

My mother was always nice, but in this case, she had been too nice for too long. I am reminded of “canning time” and that dangerous red section of the pressure cooker’s dial.

Being nice is a laudable thing, but there is a danger in its excess, so to paraphrase the cigarette-pack vernacular: ”Warning: Being too nice for too long can sometimes be hazardous to your health!”

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