I was in an airport (which is never the beginning of a good story for me).
The spouse and I were at baggage claim, along with at least 100 other souls praying that delayed luggage would join us for the rest of the trip.
The assembled were a motley crew without any music. Business people and families, senior citizens and youth groups, friends and loners.
And in our midst were the Very Important People, muttering like Alice’s White Rabbit, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late,” and expecting the waters to part for them. It was a Beige Lady among the VIPs that finally blew her stack over the delay.
A Beige Lady, as a female friend defined her to me, is a woman of substance and self-appointed authority that rules her world universally and mercilessly. She becomes beige through a regimen of exercise at the gym and narcissism at the beauty salon. The term is probably sexist. Sorry.
The Beige Lady waiting at baggage claim decided that she could run this train wreck better than anyone else. She spotted a porter and proceeded to give him a tongue lashing.
The porter was a little guy, and he cowered under the verbal assault. I got the impression that he barely understood half of the litany of sins she was laying on him, but he feared for his job anyway.
Another lady intervened: “Leave him alone. You think he’s running the operation here? Poor guy’s scared to death.”
“Probably afraid I’ll report him to Immigration!” the Beige Lady sniffed back, but backed off the porter. The little guy gave his rescuer a little wave of thanks.
Bullying has been the hot topic of the moment. News reports of the suicide of a college kid after his roommate purportedly exposed the kid’s homosexual encounter by computer kicked off a whole new exercise in bullying trauma.
As in everything fed to the 24/7 media beast, this tragedy couldn’t be reported accurately or without a political agenda to accompany it. Initial reports said the homosexual encounter was broadcast to hundreds, thus shaming the kid into suicide.
Now nobody is sure if anybody whatsoever saw anything. Or what really might have been the cause of the young man’s suicide. Or if the roommate had ever been anything but nice to the poor kid.
But no matter. The social agenda had a martyr to exploit, and the lesson in all this is that heterosexual bullying of a sensitive homosexual student had destroyed a life.
And that’s not the end of it. According to a brief filed in the Proposition 8 case in California, opposition to the legalization of gay marriage is responsible for the high rates of suicide among young gay people. In fact, anyone opposed to gay marriage is contributing to a culture of bullying, the critics charge.
And so goes the conversation in talking-head America.
A recent survey found that more than half the people polled confessed to having bullied someone in their lives.
We have this tendency to treat each other lousy, to bully each other. Like the lady at the airport, we tend to look for somebody that we can handle without fear of retribution. And let them have it.
Why? I haven’t a clue. Human nature? Original sin? But I do know that bullying happens every day, and grown-ups are the most likely culprits, not kids with letter jackets gooning it up to impress girls.
Ugly little secret: Bullying isn’t just a high school issue. It’s an everybody issue.
Bullying happens in businesses and homes, bars and churches, kindergartens and nursing homes. Bullying happens everywhere.
It even happens in airports.
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.