For those of you who don't know, I have been studying karate for the past six years. Although I put up my dukes regularly in training and when I compete in tournaments, two weeks ago, I had my first physical confrontation ever - and it happened at my work place.
Because my son's college tuition deposit to whichever institution of higher education he chooses will be due in four short months, I've taken a few side gigs to help squirrel away a couple of extra dollars to pad the 529 account that took a bit of a hit when the economy dipped. My morning job is a before-school program for parents whose work hours start before their children's school days do. For two hours each weekday, I play board games, draw and read to/with a few kids before their school days begins. Our time together ends when I drive them from the activity center we meet in to their bus stop.
Two Tuesdays ago, my own son missed his school bus. Dropping him off at the high school made me 10 minutes late getting to the activity center. When I arrived, a very angry parent who almost never drops his kids off at all or that early was waiting. The two kids - ages 8 and 5 - were just inside the door while dad was outside with a cell phone stuck to his ear. I pulled up to the door and waved to him before lowering my window and apologizing for being late. Before I could even tell him why, he started screaming at me, called me a bitch and told me that since he paid a lot of effin' money for the program - and hence, paid my salary - I should effin' get there on time. He then walked over to my car, stuck his finger in my driver's side window to wave it in my face and continue to berate me for jacking up his day - all while his children watched from about 10 feet away. I asked him if he would please move away so I could back my car into a parking space, but he refused and actually moved to the back door of my vehicle, stuck his foot under the rear tire and dared me to move. Yeah - exactly...
It occurred to me that I had three choices at that point: run over his foot, get out of the car to try out a self-defense combo I learned the night before or chill and figure out how to get this idiot away from me as fast as possible. I put my window up, locked my car doors and reached for my phone. Calling my boss was my plan, but, probably thinking I was either calling 911 or getting out of my car to move him out of the way when he heard the locks click, Angry Dad motioned to his children, got in his car and drove off. I was so upset, I was literally shaking.
After I calmed down and called my boss to let her know what happened, I contacted my karate sensei. He assured me that I did the right thing by avoiding a conflict and advised me to let it go and move on. Like me, Angry Dad had choices - and he chose to walk away. Had he taken a different route, I knew what to do to defend myself my sensei said.
The defensive art that it is, karate has a famous saying about there never being a "first strike." I totally believe in that, but I hafta tell you that I felt very vulnerable sitting there waiting for Psycho Dad to either stop the foolishness or make a definitive move. I did feel threatened, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it - and I also felt how easy it is for a "situation" to spiral out of control. Everything happened so fast! I just keep thinking now how easily it would have been for him to reach into the car to grab, hit or even spit on me and I get chills.
As soon as I left, I went right to the Y and spoke to my boss' boss so he could hear what happened directly from the source. The executive director assured me that employee safety was a priority was paramount and that someone would be speaking to Angry Dad as soon as possible. That was on Tuesday. On Friday, the executive director met with my boss and me to tell me that when confronted about his behavior, Angry Dad threatened to take his children out of the program, which would mean the program would not net enough income to stay open. To keep that from happening, the agency decided to move me to a before-school program location that was further away which I can't do, so I'm out until a closer spot opens up. That was almost two weeks ago and I'm still waiting, although I did report the incident to the police a few days later.
I'm writing about it here because of another adage: about being part of the problem if one is not part of the solution. This situation really transcends my personal safety; it's also about the well-being of the next employee that has to deal with the same irate morning program parent or any one who thinks yelling, cursing or blocking a path of escape is totally acceptable way to deal with life. In other words, it's not just about this woman, but about all women; not just about this person who was bullied, but about all people who are; not just about the ugliness directed at me, but about the nastiness directed at anyone. So, in addition to the police report I've filed, I'm filing an official grievance and may even take it further if a resolution that only reprimands me and not Angry Dad is not found soon. Letting this get swept under the carpet would be totally contrary to everything I try to teach my martial arts students and to what my instructors have tried to teach me.
And no, I no longer have any desire to work for an agency that puts the monetary above the well-being of its employees, but if I don't speak up, who will?
Stepping off my soap box now...