This happened at a veterinary hospital where I worked about 6 years ago.
First, a little back story. The vet hospital was situated on a side street with parking in the front and rear of the building. The parking at the rear was accessible by a relatively steep driveway. There was also another business with parking on the right hand side of the building, and more parking across the street. The street was widened a number of years ago and as such this has made the parking at the front of the building somewhat awkward to get out of. Clients would generally use some of the other parking available if there were more than 3 or so cars parked out front ( the business next door was quite amenable about letting our clients use their parking, and it was literally about 12 feet away. ) Everyone follow me so far?
Late one Saturday afternoon, a few minutes before closing, a car pulled up. The driver parked parallel to the building rather than in an actual spot, blocking most of the parking spaces. Given the time of day this was actually something quite common. As I said, the parking was awkward to get out of and it was much easier to simply drive through all of it. Clearly this would not be acceptable during regular business hours but we were literally moments from closing, it was a Saturday, and they were the only clients present. The lady ( with her teenaged son) had a quick request and my work associate began to assist them. Unfortunately, through incredible bad luck, several other clients came in shortly after. Given that the lady and her son had taken up most of the parking with their one vehicle this meant that everyone else had to park either next door, across the street or out back. She was clearly embarrassed about her inadvertent faux pas and we tried to finish as quickly as possible so she could be on her way.
Then another client came in. The new client, client B, was in quite a temper about the parking job. She loudly demanded to know who owned the vehicle, and when the first lady admitted it was hers ( and immediately apologized ) client B began to verbally berate and abuse her. She did not swear or call her names but rather used her tone and words to just wreck the other woman. In many eventful years of working with the public I have never witnessed such a complete and utter humiliation of another human being. Client B literally cut this lady down to the point where she was almost in tears. The other people in the room and I were utterly at a loss as how to end this horrible scene. Although it was being played out in front of everyone it was essentially between the two of them and there did not seem like an appropriate way to intervene. And through it all, the lady’s teenage son watched his mother in what was quite possibly one of the most humiliating moments of her life. I cannot express how dreadful and over the top it all was. The lady apologized repeatedly and did not argue or offer any kind of rebuttal. She knew she was in the wrong and although she certainly would have been justified in defending herself in some manner, she never did.
I eventually interrupted and began to serve client B ( I had served several other people while this was going on, as everyone in the room was eager to get as far away from our hospital as possible at this point ) and this stopped the tirade. The lady apologized one final time and left, head down, followed by her son. It was heartbreaking and terrible to see her in this moment. I was in the process of finishing with client B
and when I looked up to give her the receipt I was astonished and outraged to see her SMILE and WINK at me! The entire humiliating scene was nothing more than a game to her….a game in which she thought we all took delight. She then made a disparaging comment about the lady involved, and I simply turned to the next client in line and ignored her, so she left.
Courtesy is a necessity in my line of work but surely there are exceptions at times. I truly did not know how to handle this situation and neither did anyone else present. I live in Canada, in the Maritimes….we are a pretty laid back bunch and in thirty odd years I had never seen such a deliberate display of cruelty and malice. Especially over a parking space!! 0616-11
Interrupt earlier. “Excuse me, is there something I can help you with?” Diffuse the situation with a redirection of the angst into a more productive avenue.