Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The line between Pride and Arrogance

On Saturday I had a most unusual customer. He was a man in his mid to late 60's, white hair, on the heavy side, and wreaked of cigarette smoke. I can't imagine a time when this man would have ever been attractive, or even clean... he was just a mess. Now, his appearance would not have made him stand out in my mind.. after all, I do work at Walmart. I had noticed him once when I was walking past the return line at the Courtesy Desk the day before. He was yelling at an associate who was rightfully refusing his return because he did not have a receipt, and the product was damaged. He kept yelled "Do you see what's on my collar?? Do you??" On each side of his jacket collar was an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor pin.. we were dealing with a retired Marine. Usually I have a great deal of respect for our service men and women, both active and retired, but I had an instant disliking to this old jar head.. I knew his type. He thought the world owed him something, and that he was above the rest of us because of that pin on his jacket.

The next day, he was in my department. One of our older associates was taking care of him... a person who in all honesty had no clue about anything military. The old jar head was showing her a mug he had ordered, with a picture of some Marine base in Florida. Shirley was more concerned over the quality of the photo than the subject of the photo. He was rambling on about the base, and his trip there, and I could tell Shirley was only half paying attention to him. He asked if she saw what was printed on the mug.. it read "Semper Fi", but Shirley read it quickly as "Semper Florida".... in amazement, the old man corrected her. "It's Semper FI! The motto of the US Marines!!". "Oh", Shirley said, "what does that mean??" So I explained to her it was short for Semper Fideles, Always faithful. When this man heard she didn't know what Semper Fi meant, he flew off the handle. "I was out fighting for your freedom, and you don't even know what it means?? How can you call yourself an American?? How can you even sleep at night??" and shit like that. While he was on a Marine base, Shirley was taking care of 7 children with an absentee father, MAKING their clothes, and raising them the best she could on a limited income.. and that duty lasted longer than his four years in the corp.

Another man came into the department who was the same age. Some how, it was mentioned he was in the airforce when he was younger. The jar head went off on him too. "Aww, you guys do nothing.. just civilians in a uniform, that's all. God bless ya and all since you are a vet, but really, it's just the air force." I was shocked. What an ass hole. That poor man.. what made the Marine's contribution more meaningful than the airforce man's? I tell ya, I was much more impressed with the modesty of the airforce vet, than this loud mouth marine in front of me. There is a line between pride in something, and down right arrogance.

The man later asked to speak to our store manager, who is a former Marine (though this man would argue there is no such thing as a former Marine). I later caught John in the store, and asked if his "friend" had caught up with him. He laughed, and said yes.. he always comes to visit him. I told him that his "friend" was a pain in the ass, and treats the associates like shit. His little pins don't give him the right to belittle other people. I told John there are some former Marines who could take a page out of my Grandfather's book. Though he was a former Marine, he didn't walk around thinking he was better than everyone else, or spouting "Semper Fi" like it was "Heil Hitler", he used to say over and over again: "Self Praise Stinks!"

I do admire and respect the men and women who have and are serving our country in one of the branches of the military.. they are doing a valuable and commendable service to our country. But, I do not tolerate people who think their time in the service elevates them above the rest of humanity. Talk about pushing your ideals on someone. I looked at this man of advanced age, and thought to myself.. how sad to be his age, and the only thing of seemingly importance he has done with his life was a four year career in the Marines, completed before I was even born. If that is all a person has done with their lives, it's kinda sad. I picture him alone in his room at the VA home watching the movie Paten over and over again saying "Those were the days".
I wouldn't expect the president of the United States to act like such an ass, let alone those who serve under him.

No comments: