Many people can relate to the idea of working a part-time job as a teenager. For some, they can relate to seeing a teen sweat through their shift above a grill in a McDonald’s, for others it can be seeing an awkward young person try to make small talk while delivering pizzas. Of course, these experiences can vary. For some it’s a means to having a little bit of pocket change, for others it’s a way to support their family. Everybody who has worked one has at least one story about a customer who has driven them mad.
That’s the case here for Miguel, an employee at a relatively quiet café in a quiet England town. It’s a peaceful enclave where construction workers would come on their breaks, or where older women would play cribbage. Miguel lived in this small town his entire life and almost everyone there knew him and his family. It had its perks; everybody knew that if his diabetes acted up, they could contact his mother. The downside was that everybody knew a bit more about his personal life than Miguel would have liked. He wasn’t overtly social or anything like that, but he got along well with his coworkers and family.
Strangely enough, it was Miguel’s diabetes that got him the job at the café in the first place. The owners figured he wouldn’t be tempted to eat any of the café’s baked goods since doing so would make him sick. It worked out nicely for him, and the café was generally very amicable when it came to him taking breaks, so he could inject his insulin. It was a compromise; the owners got a worker who they could trust around a cornucopia of sugary treats, and Miguel could take breaks when he needed to without needing to explain himself for the dozenth time to his coworkers.
However, like all good things, this situation would have to come to an end, and the entire situation was going to rapidly spiral out of control.
The day started off as a perfectly normal day. Miguel came in a little before 9 to open the shop up. A group of nice older women showed up wanting some tea and cakes to enjoy as a little lunchtime treat. A little while later, a group of construction workers came in after the slow hum of nearby construction quieted down in time for their snack break. By all accounts, it was a fairly idyllic day with people living in relative harmony with each other, and nobody had any real trouble with anybody else there. That is until the nightmare family strutted into the shop.
The family consisted of the cruel and decadent mother with bougie makeup and overpriced gaudy jewelry she probably picked up on an infomercial, her ox of a husband who looked like a gym rat with an addiction to protein shakes, and two demonic and bratty children. We’ll call the mother “Gertrude” and the husband “Todd” for the sake of the story.
Just as the family waltzed in through the door, Miguel decided that it was a good idea to take a break for his insulin injections; it wasn’t a particularly busy day, but it had a decent number of customers. Enough to make an insulin injection both a medical necessity, but also a relief from the hassle.
Before Miguel could leave his post, Gertrude strutted up to the register and muttered, “Aren’t you supposed to take us to a table?”
Wondering if this woman wasn’t used to going out in public to places that weren’t restaurants, Miguel stood there for a moment silent. He was confused by this request at the cash register, but eventually Miguel relented and took them to their seats. He proceeded to take their order, and then decided to go back to the register to get them their cake and brownies. As he was walking away, Gertrude chastised her little loin spawn saying, “No, honey, you can’t draw with my lipstick.” The little demon child screamed, “BUT MUMMY, I WANT TO DRAW.”
Gertrude began to have a mini panic attack wondering what she was going to go to keep her child entertained for a few minutes, that was until she saw a bulge sticking out of Miguel’s apron, she waved him down with a fire in her eyes, half seething that somebody else might have what she needed.
It would be the end of the calm before the storm.
Gertrude then demanded his “pen,” which greatly confused Miguel. He told her that it wasn’t his “pen” but his “medicine” that she was asking for, and that he wouldn’t feel comfortable giving something potentially dangerous to a small child. Gertrude, upon hearing that her loin spawn wouldn’t be able to use the device that didn’t even have ink went into a blind rage screaming, “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR STUPID FREAKING DIABETES, MY SON WANTS TO DRAW SO STOP BEING A SELFISH PAIN IN THE BUTT AND GIVE HIM YOUR PEN.” The café went dead silent after that, nobody was talking or eating, and everybody turned to look at the horror show unfolding right in front of their very eyes, quietly waiting to see who would make the next move after the gauntlet had been thrown down by Gertrude.
After an uncomfortable moment of silence, Miguel managed to bleat out a couple of words. The display of rudeness had shocked Miguel, but he managed to stutter out, “Look, Miss, I can’t give him or you my pen due to health and safety concerns and also he could die if I give it to him, so No.”
Miguel was nervous about confrontation in general, so his legs were shaking during the entire encounter. It dawned on him how the confrontation was over something so silly. She should have known that his “pen” was insulin, she knew his mother! It was something silly to get angry about, but she wasn’t even correct about what she was getting angry about, a depressingly common trend among entitled and angry people.
Little did he know he’d be facing his most terrifying foe yet.
Some of Miguel’s fellow employees began to take notice and were staring at this scene from behind the counter and in the kitchen, half with concern, and the other half mentally taking bets on who would win the standoff. Gertrude scurried away to the bathroom to get her relatively large oaf of a husband out to deal with the problem, muttering under her breath, “My husband is going to get you!”
Miguel confidently shouted back, “I’m not scared of a guy married to a shriveled insect!” This would wind up being his downfall, and although he understandably was frustrated with this woman, it lit a fuse that would wind up being his undoing.
As Gertrude’s husband rushed out of the bathroom with veins popping and his eyes scowled with fury, he picked Miguel up by his neck and slammed him against the wall and yelled, “WHY ARE YOU DISRESPECTING MY WIFE AND MAKING MY SON UPSET?”
While this was going on, the workers who had been silently rooting for Miguel were a little spooked at the sheer size of the Goliath threatening our underdog Miguel. Paralyzed by fear, they stood frozen in place, unable to move or even say anything.
The small crowd of patrons stood horrified, unsure if they wanted to step into the middle of the bonanza of activity, or remain quiet little bystanders and go home unscathed by the entire ordeal. However, the scene unfolding right in front of them would rapidly make everybody who stood there regret their inaction.
Miguel, in an attempt to cover for being a little forthcoming with his language hastily gurgled out, “I’m trying to stop your son from killing himself” as he struggled to get a breath in edgewise. Todd, who had miraculously calmed down somewhat before he managed to kill the kid angrily belted out, “You need to help the customer and make sure they are satisfied, are you not? So why in the name of Jesus Christ himself, are you not tailoring to my wife and son?”
Something dark inside himself had driven Todd to think that choke-slamming a child was an acceptable thing to do in response to a relatively minor annoyance, it was the only explanation for why an adult man would try to lay his hands on an underage café worker. Somehow he had convinced himself that “serving a customer” meant that any item that a worker had on them, regardless of whether it belonged to the company was immediately something that was up for use by a customer.
Sputtering a little bit as Todd’s grip loosened, Miguel managed to wheeze out, “Look sir, my medical condition could kill me and this pen is one of the few things keeping me alive. If I gave this to your son, he could stab himself and then would need to go to hospital to stop his body from shutting down and dying,” while he frantically gestured to his insulin shot tucked neatly into his pocket.
Miguel’s wild gesticulations seemed to not even phase Todd, standing motionless like a troll wondering how he was going to eat the child. Each passing second made Miguel’s life flash before his eyes, he wondered frantically if his last day on earth was going to be accompanied by him wearing an apron arguing over whether an insulin shot and a pen would be the cause of his untimely demise.
His body was pulsating and his face was growing redder and redder with every pained and wheezing breath, clearly struggling to breathe let alone talk. Why this response didn’t immediately make Todd drop Miguel and apologize for what he did we’ll never know, but nevertheless his response was vividly disgusting.
Todd responded by slapping Miguel hard in the face, knocking Miguel down and in the process shattering his insulin pen. The smell of the insulin outside the tube was like a mixture of cow feces and industrial bathroom cleaners, causing Miguel to vomit uncontrollably.
After this, Miguel’s coworkers called the police, and for some reason, Gertrude and Todd just stood there because they felt like they’d done nothing wrong.
After the police were done seeing security footage, the parents were handcuffed and hauled off to jail. They seemed almost shocked that choking and berating an underage café worker would even be wrong, let alone a potentially criminal thing to do, or even that it could have seriously hurt somebody who posed no realistic threat to anybody in the horrid little family. It was almost as though the family was living in an invented reality where any form of horrible behavior to somebody else was justified because they were just a worker at some café, and that poorly treating others is justified.
While the family failed to see the fault in their logic, the same couldn’t be said for everyone else who saw the encounter or heard of it through the local gossip wheels.
News spread in the town about the incident, especially since Gertrude was friends with Miguel’s mother. In a way that made the entire ordeal even stranger; displays of extreme anger and arrogance to somebody whose mother she was on reasonable terms with. Perhaps things function differently where Gertrude and Todd were brought up, but the entire affair seemed like a surreal exercise in human unreasonableness.
The children were generally too young to know any better about what was going on, or old enough to know that their parents were being infantile over something as trivial as whether a child could use a pen, let alone something as volatile as an insulin shot.
But it begs the question; where do people like this even come from? What possesses people to view other people as entirely expendable over an inanimate object, especially one as entirely expendable as a simple pen? Why put a child in a chokehold over something like a pen in the first place?
But there might be justice for Miguel yet, as Gertrude and Todd are currently awaiting punishing in the local court system. From what Miguel has heard, the not so happy, or rationale couple, could face as prison sentence as long as five years. If the prospect of a half-decade behind bars isn’t bad enough, the couple could also be forced to pay as much as £250,000 ($300,000 in USD) in restitution. On top of all of that, they’ll have to buy Miguel a new “pen,” the very thing that started this whole mess.
As unreasonable as Todd and Gertrude were, what good will prison do at making them into more kind people aware of the needs and lives of other people? Why should anybody beat another person over a pen and why should anybody go to jail over something so ultimately trivial? The entire ordeal feels almost tragic in how ultimately avoidable it was, and how it could have been avoided with an iota of empathy and basic human decency. Maybe it was served ultimately if one thinks that just getting the kid out of a chokehold is justice, and if that’s justice then it was served with a cup of tea and a slice of cake.