Mean People Stink

I am too sensitive …

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Each of the last few Thanksgiving weeks I have shared on Facebook whichever article I can find (this year it was from NBC News) that provides a list of retail store chains that will be open on Thanksgiving Day. (The article usually identifies those chains that will be closed on that holiday.)

This is of some importance to me as I used to work in retail (a major department store chain, now extinct; an independent bookseller, now a memory; an electronics retailer, now going out of business, too.) I worked many “Black Fridays,” that day when the Christmas sales season is launched—a couple of those Black Fridays, I was behind the counter ringing sales with live (barely awake) customers at 5:00 a.m. I never worked on Thanksgiving Day itself, though, as the phenomenon of opening stores for customers on a national holiday had not quite started when my life as an employee ended in 2010.

I am glad for that, because I would not have much liked working on Thanksgiving.

Now, American commercial interests have every right to be open whichever hours they can convince the municipalities in which their outlets are located to allow them to be open for business. If a municipality is okay with “Best Radio Buy Mart Shack” being open at 3:00 a.m., and the powers that be vote to allow this (which means that local public employees who work to protect public safety would be on board with this, too), fine. I can not argue against that circumstance.

The only retail establishments open across the country past 10:00 p.m. are restaurants/bars/gas stations. Many restaurants/bars/gas stations are not open on holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, because as a rule we Americans like to claim that we are pro-family and one is supposed to spend time with one’s family and away from one’s job on those special days.

Last year when I posted an article listing those chains that would be open on Thanksgiving Day, they came at me. Angry anonymous people. In twenty years of having an online presence, this was the first time I was called “horrible” by people whom I have not yet met. (Have I been called “horrible” to my face? Probably. And I deserved it, most likely.) I am familiar with anonymous rudeness in theory but not in personal experience. (A very sheltered life.)

That day, I was informed that I was neglecting the needs of the police and fire departments who would be on call Thanksgiving Day. When I tried to point out that police and firefighters know that their jobs entail being on call (potentially) 24/7/365, I was called a “whiner.” (It didn’t make sense to me, either. I am re-reading the post and the 40-plus comments from that day, and I discovered that a bunch of comments have been deleted; I can see from replies that comments were once there that are now vanished. Someone in the last year re-thought things, I guess. Don’t know.)

Suddenly, people who work for television stations (because sporting events take place on Thanksgiving Day and are broadcast live on television), people who participate in parades, airline pilots and cabbies, and people who work for electric companies had no greater friends than the people who the day before Thanksgiving last year needed to call me an asshole for pointing out that retail employees often do not know until the week of Thanksgiving whether they will be asked to work that day and for pointing out that holiday pay for many retailers has become a thing of the past (Thanksgiving is treated as a normal Thursday at major big box retailers). When I pointed out that they were picking and choosing specific work environments that bear no comparison to retail (a quote: “What about our soldiers and sailors? Don’t THEY deserve a DAY OFF???? Where is your OUTRAGE for them, asshole?”), I was informed that, in so many words, I am what is wrong with America.

(It was like a preview of this year’s election, a year early.)

At one point, I tried the “kill ’em with kindness” route and started to simply thank each individual for his/her contribution to a discussion. That made things worse: “Oh, well. Life isn’t fair. I don’t always get my way all the time, either. Real adults in this real world suck it up,” one woman wrote to me. Another told me that she would be thinking rather nasty things about me while shopping on Thanksgiving at Target.

It was bizarre, for me, at least. I had not yet been ganged up on online, not even with my articles in which I reveal my possibly controversial stances about possibly controversial topics. (One of my articles against the pro-gun community—three personal friends of mine have died thanks to guns used by people who ought not have had access to guns—received several pro-gun replies last summer. Copying-and-pasting the NRA’s pro-gun arguments is akin to telling me that my friend Matt Coleman deserved a violent death. It is a personal slap.) No. My more controversial pieces, written with my own hands, have not earned me the enmity that simply sharing an article that named the retailers that would be open on Thanksgiving Day earned me.

All I wrote in introduction to the shared article was this: “The attached article lists some of the major chain stores that will be closed tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. You can not thank them with your patronage until the next day, because the stores are treating Thanksgiving as a holiday, which it is. These retailers will be open on Thursday, thus denying their employees a holiday.” Bam! The first reply was a question: “What about the people that are working for the Macy’s parade and for the football games?” as if the writer (who seems to have taken his Facebook page down or created it simply to use it to harass people) was spending his day looking for posts about Thanksgiving retailers being open.

In fact, looking at it today, I see that his question was posted with the same exact time stamp as when I had hit send. That answers my question: the person had some sort of script tailored to look for the “retailers are open on Thanksgiving” complaint and was thus always already ready with his harassing questions. And once he started, my doorbell did not stop ringing with Thanksgiving trick-or-treaters arguing that they have a right to shop on Thanksgiving and it’s too bad if people have to work to serve them.

I am a supremely co-dependent person, so when this took place, I was shaken. Deeply so. I like being liked. (Who doesn’t?) I do not like not being liked. (Who does? Well, I guess some people enjoy being disliked.) I like it when people give me blue thumbs-ups and red hearts and tell me I am doing a good job. I recently told a dear friend (thank you, Cheryl) about this and that I did not think I wanted to engage with people any longer online. That I did not think I was going to post the “retailers are open on holidays” thing again. She told me I ought to.

I don’t know. We’ll see. Anonymous mean people should not mean so much to me.

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