You can use a chainsaw to correct rude behavior

We live in a state where we are regularly witness to, or victims of, rude behavior. And most of us not only tolerate it, we enable it.

Coda • GREG BEAN Coda • GREG BEAN You know the kind of situation I’m talking about.

You’re at the boarding counter at the airport when you’re told your flight to Cleveland has been delayed for two hours because of bad weather. Most people realize there’s nothing anyone can do about weather, but there’s always that one guy in line who starts berating the ticket agent, demanding that the flight leave on time or he’ll miss his connection to Nebraska. As if by picking up the phone, the ticket agent could order the pilot to fly on time, weather be damned.

In that uncomfortable scenario, most of us just keep our bad thoughts to ourselves, wishing the guy would catch a flight to Mars. We don’t tell him to shut up and quit being rude.

Or you’re at the market, waiting your turn in the 12-items-orless line. The little old guy in front of you has more than 12, but you don’t say anything. What’s the big deal? The guy behind you does, though. “Hey, pal, can’t you count?” he rudely asks. The old guy kind of shrinks into himself and turns red. You don’t say anything because you’re an enabler, although you have a good idea what you’d like to do with the old guy’s extra items.

Or you’re at the bakery, and there are three of you in line. The first lady, who politely waited her turn, is ordering lots of stuff, but because she doesn’t have a list, she’s taking her time, picking out what looks good. The third lady in line, who only has a bottle of water and is in a big, darned hurry to get somewhere important, huffs and puffs every time the customer orders another item. “Can I just pay for my water and get out of here?” the rude lady finally asks.U

sually, we’ll let her pay for her water, so she’ll get out of our hair. We don’t often tell her to wait her turn and be quiet like everyone else.

Or you’re driving to the pet food store, like I was last Saturday. I have a little 32- year-old MG convertible that I sometimes drive around town, but because it’s old, like me, I baby it. I take it easy when the light turns green because I don’t want to wear out the clutch, for example. Which is why the lady behind me honked at me the very nanosecond when every red light we were stopped at turned green.

She was in a hurry to get somewhere, which, as luck would have it, turned out to be the pet food store. As she pulled into the space beside me and got out, I asked her politely why she kept honking. “You’re too slow!” she said. Then she scurried into the pet food store for a bag of cat food. I bit my tongue but did not do what I felt like doing, which was flattening all of her tires so she’d definitely be late to her next appointment, which was Target.

I’m often an enabler, and I don’t like that about myself.

But once in a while, I hear a story that leads me to believe that sometimes there is justice in the world, after all. Sometimes, the rude people get exactly what’s coming to them.

Take this story, for example, which took place early this year in a small town I’m familiar with. I heard the details from my wife, who heard it directly from several of the participants, who all swear it’s true:

Early this year a guy moved to this small town from somewhere “back East” and decided to open a coffee shop. We’ll call him Bart Jones. Bart bought an old building but needed to get it remodeled, so he hired a guy he was told was the best carpenter in town. We’ll call him Jack Smith.

In this town, most deals are sealed on a handshake, so Jack didn’t ask for money up front. He just got to work turning that decrepit old building into a showpiece of handcrafted woodwork and painstakingly beautiful detail. I’m told that when he finished, people from all over town would stop by and peer through the windows, admiring Jack’s handiwork and hoping the coffee shop would open soon because it was so pretty.

The only person who wasn’t impressed by Jack’s workmanship, however, was Bart Jones. The minute Jack told him the job was done and asked for his money, Bart started complaining. He didn’t like the veneer on the counter. He didn’t like the molding. He thought the sanding and staining of the wood floor was substandard.

Jack, being a perfectionist, tried to make things right. But as one month turned into two, and two turned into three and he still hadn’t been paid a dime, he started running out of patience.

And as three months turned into four, Jack decided he’d had enough. He called another carpenter friend and said, “Is your flatbed available today?” And when the friend said it was, Jack asked him to bring it downtown and park it in front of the coffee shop. “You’ll know why soon enough,” Jack said cryptically.

That conversation took place mere seconds before Jack walked through the front door of the coffee shop and started dismantling everything he had built with a chainsaw. And he didn’t stop until every last stick of custom woodwork he had crafted was reduced to kindling, which he and his friends carted out and loaded on the flatbed. “Now you don’t have to pay me,” Jack said to Bart, as he was getting ready to drive away.

“I’ll get another carpenter,” Bart said.

“I don’t think so,” Jack said. “Every other carpenter in town just helped me load this stuff in the truck.”

A few weeks later, Bart Jones left town. No word on whether he opened a coffee shop in a different location, but one hopes that if he tried, he modified his rude behavior.

If you see me driving around town in the next few weeks with a chainsaw in the passenger seat of my MG, I’m guessing you’ll know what it’s for.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at