So I’m outside the restaurant last night, taking a break while we run down the clock, hanging out with the kitchen boys and soaking up the night air. There’s lots of bars around where I work, and weekends we’re overrun with revelry and the shit-show that goes with it, so it took us a minute to notice the guy on the corner, screaming his head off at his woman, who is sitting crumpled in on herself on the trim of the building while her friend stands helplessly by, unable to do anything. After another minute I decided I had to intervene, and I wondered if things were going to get violent. The guy was really riled up, so it looked like a real possibility, but my guys had my back and it’s not like I haven’t dealt with ten thousand drunk people in my day.
I walked up to him, and asked how it was going. He kept ranting, but I got him to start paying attention to me and not the woman, so I figured I was ahead. I kept asking questions, got him talking, distracted him while the friend got his woman away. I could’ve called it good right there, but I wanted to buy her some time, so I kept asking questions, kept the guy talking. What he told me broke my heart a little.
From what I could tell, he wasn’t even specifically mad at the woman. He was just worn down from working seven days a week to support his wife and mother. He was literally in tears with frustration at a paycheck-to-paycheck grind in a bad economy, and it’d got to him so bad he couldn’t believe that anyone could understand. He was so at his wit’s end that he wasn’t ashamed to cry in public, and he kept reverting to fight postures out of a lack of any other options to express himself. The guy was literally having a breakdown, right there.
There’s only so much you can do for a guy like that, but we did what we could. We let him speak his truths, and validated the good parts. We shook hands all around a few times. Then we walked back in and closed the restaurant the rest of the way, and he went off to who knows where.
It’s a real shame, I think, that the only coping mechanisms most men are taught is to turn pain into anger, and to hold it in until it bursts, usually under the influence of alcohol. What this guy needs is a safe place to explore his frustrations, but he’ll probably never have it, because the only way he knows how to give himself permission even to engage with the whole tangled mess is to undo his inhibitions with an intoxicant. I’m not saying it excuses his public berations. I’m just saying it’s a shame. I’m just glad I didn’t have to fight him.