Business owner struck by customer’s bigoted rant

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: I am a small business owner. My store has local (repeat) and one-time customers. The other day, while checking out, one of my local customers spewed out a verbal and extremely bigoted rant. I was stunned speechless. I felt I should do something, but I wasn't sure what it should be. I have started losing sleep over it. If it happens again, should I remain silent and keep the peace, or stand up for all Americans and lose this customer and probably more? -- FREAKED OUT IN FLORIDA

DEAR FREAKED OUT: To paraphrase a well-known saying, "All that's necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to ignore it and say nothing." If the rant your bigoted customer spewed was aimed at another shopper, you had a responsibility to protect the victim of the onslaught. In the future, it would not be out of line to state firmly that you don't want that kind of talk in your establishment. While doing that may (or may not) lose you a few customers, you would at least be able to sleep better than you're sleeping now.

P.S. It may also gain you some customers once word gets around.

DEAR ABBY: I have been with the same doctor for 15 years, only requiring an annual checkup. The problem is, the office is about a 40-minute drive, longer if I hit a rush hour. I have stayed with the provider because the care is so good. However, I recently found a doctor who is 10 minutes away and provides the same quality of care. Do I call the original doctor to let them know I am leaving the practice? Write a note? Leave it alone? What is the proper protocol? -- GOOD PATIENT IN MICHIGAN

DEAR PATIENT: Contact your longtime doctor's office and ask either that your medical records be sent to your new doctor's office, or they be readied for you to pick up so you can deliver them yourself. In light of the fact that you have had a 15-year relationship with "Longtime Doctor," it would be nice if you wrote a letter thanking him/her for taking such good care of you all these years and explain that the commute has become more than you can now handle, which is why you are leaving.

DEAR ABBY: I was sitting around bored with nothing to do and started thinking about my classmates from 1960. I hadn't seen or heard from some of them in more than 55 years, so I decided to call them and found all but two. Boy, was it ever worth it!

Most of the conversations lasted 30 minutes or more. I enjoyed hearing their voices and reminiscing about old times. I couldn't believe how quickly the day went by. It made me feel great, and I hope it did the same for them.

When I told them why I was calling, some of them thought it was such a good idea they were going to do it too. Maybe others will want to consider this. Try it. It's worth it. -- CATCHING UP IN WISCONSIN

DEAR CATCHING UP: What you did was wonderful. Many people have been using this quarantine period to reconnect with long-lost friends, and I highly recommend it. There's no surer cure for the blues -- or boredom -- than reaching out to others. Thank you for an upper of a letter.

DEAR ABBY: My wife died unexpectedly two years ago, after 18 years of a happy marriage and two kids. While we are doing as well as can be expected, one thing seems to set my grief off. It's when someone refers to my life as my "new normal."

I'm not sure I can put my finger on why this phrase bothers me so much, but if I had to guess, it's because I suspect people are using it to hint that it's time I moved on. Why is it that people who would be deeply offended if I attempted to tell them what to do with their life, seem to think it's acceptable to imply that I have grieved enough?

As I look at my life, I know it is forever changed, and it will never be "normal" again. It will be what it is, but I will have lost forever the love of my life and the mother of my children. Right now, I am trying my best to keep them healthy, working to keep a roof over their heads and dealing with my own grief. (We are all seeing our own counselors.) I have zero time and energy to invest in anything or anyone else.

Am I just holding onto the past? Are these people thoughtlessly saying something hurtful, or is it something completely different? -- ANNOYED IN ARKANSAS

DEAR ANNOYED: People often are at a loss about what to say to someone who has lost a parent, a spouse or a child. While they may be well-meaning, what comes out of their mouths can be hurtful rather than comforting.

Something I have learned from experience, as well as from my readers, is that everyone grieves differently. It's an individual process. Do not assume you know what these people are implying when they make that statement. "New normal" is a catchphrase that's popular now. It is used to describe conditions as the quarantines are being lifted or re-imposed. They may not realize how emotionally loaded that term can be. When it happens again, don't be confrontational, but do tell them how it made you feel.

DEAR ABBY: What's the correct way to break up with someone who lives with you? A friend of mine wants to break up with his girlfriend, who lives in his home along with her adult son and teenage daughter. His concern is she has no place to go. She refuses to work a steady job, so he pays all the bills and supplies her with a vehicle and spending money.

She wants desperately to get married. After two or three years of living with her, he knows he won't marry her. He says she's a nice person, but she's a terrible housekeeper and has no ambition. My friend is a financial planner and works three to four side jobs, etc. He doesn't have a clue how to end this, but he wants to. How should he dissolve this live-in relationship? -- ASKING FOR A FRIEND

DEAR ASKING: Your "friend" needs to summon up the courage to tell this lady he isn't in love with her, doesn't plan to marry her and he wants her to move. When he gives her the unhappy news, he should also give her a date by which he expects her and her "children" to be out of there. Advise him that if he's smart, he should first discuss this with his attorney and, possibly, offer her enough money for a deposit on a place of her (or their) own. He'll be glad he did.