It was told by Justine McCarthy in the Sunday Times.
In the last week of January, she said, a woman waited in her local post office to buy stamps for thank- you letters she had written to the priest and the undertaker who had conducted her husband’s funeral the previous Saturday.
On noticing a customer queuing, too closely, behind her had his face uncovered, she told him: “I think you’ve forgotten to put on your mask.”
The man responded aggressively. “What? I can’t hear what you’re saying with that thing on your face,” he sneered. “Is it the ‘deadly virus’ you’re talking about?”
“My husband died with Covid-19 last week,” the woman said.
“I’m sure he did,” the stranger replied, before insulting her horribly.
Not surprisingly, the woman struggled to compose herself. The postmaster invited her into his office and another man offered to buy her a cup of coffee. She declined, saying again and again: “I can’t believe somebody could be so cruel.”
She left the post office, her face mask drenched with tears.
That poor woman isn’t the only one who found it difficult to believe that someone could be so cruel. Whatever is going on in this man’s life doesn’t excuse that behaviour and nothing can be said to justify it.
Some of that is surely down to the way he was brought up, but I also think that some people are just badly wired.
You can get a faulty computer, a faulty toaster, and sometimes you can even get a car that continually develops faults with no explanation other than it’s just one of those that came off the conveyer belt the wrong way. There are faulty humans too.
Comments from a few protesters at the recent anti-lockdown gatherings made it clear that the mindsets of some of these people are out of kilter. Their opinions might make complete sense to them in their own head space, but the vast majority of us see the nonsense for what it is.
While they might raise their voices from time to time, wave placards and chant ‘Fake News’ like Trump supporters, they are generally harmless. Unlike the guy in Justine McCarthy’s piece, who is in a different league altogether and I can’t help wondering what he was like as a child.
W.C. Fields, the comedian, wasn’t a big fan of children. According to him: “Children should neither be seen nor heard from — ever again.” He also said: “Anyone who hates children and animals can’t be all bad.”
That’s a bit harsh, but I suspect there are some parents that might agree with him at times, especially during this pandemic with everyone cooped up together.
Parenting is tough enough at the best of times and no matter how good your kids are, they will get on your nerves occasionally. They will cause you some stress too and the bad news is that it never stops.
You begin worrying about them the day they’re born and that continues forever. It doesn’t end when they leave home either because as soon as grandchildren arrive, the next generation of worry begins.
Not every child gets a good start in life. They don’t always get the proper care or the lucky breaks. Many of them are born into difficult circumstance where the prospects of staying on the straight and narrow are slim.
Some are groomed at a young age for a life of crime and, while that’s tough and unfair, and shouldn’t happen, it’s nothing new either.
Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist in the 1830s, about a boy who ran away to London where he came across a character called Fagin, a career criminal, who trained him to pick pockets. Soon, Oliver was out on the streets working for him as a member of a gang and into a life of crime. Maybe Dickens was inspired by what was going on around him at the time.
Back in the 1990s, a criminal family in Cork was using children as drug runners. A car would pull up at a certain spot and a child would deliver the drugs to the car and return home with the money. That was 30 years ago, and it wasn’t only going on in Cork.
There was a study carried out in the University of Limerick which looked at how adults use children in the world of crime. They found that kids as young as eight were being groomed by their parents and about 1,000 children across the state were estimated to be engaged with, or at risk of engaging with, a criminal network.
Raising children isn’t easy. There are lots of pitfalls and no guarantees of a good outcome, no matter how much effort you put into it.
There is a bit of luck involved too so put your hand behind you and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done if yours have turned out OK. Unless they grew up to be the guy who abused the lady in the post office. In that case, I’m sorry for your trouble.