Back during the big class-action lawsuits against the tobacco industry, when it was becoming public knowledge just how bold faced the cigarette manufacturers were lying to the public about faked tests, fictional trials, and asserting that anyone who didn’t smoke was both unAmerican and hated their own mother, I used to have this recurring fantasy where I would extract justice in the name of all the people killed by lung cancer who wanted to believe that smoking was safe.
I would kidnap tobacco execs, one at a time, (the anticipation only makes it worse) and duct tape them to a chair in a hermetically sealed secret room. I would then pump the room full of “safe” tobacco smoke from tens of thousands of cigarettes, and let the exec expire from the inhalation of his perfectly benign smoke. I would of course be long gone by the time the TV crews and cops got there, and would be on my way to the next impossibly brilliant kidnapping. (Yes, I know. I’m horrible. Get over it.)
While this a perfectly serviceable revenge fantasy, there are a few things that make it… let’s say impractical. First, unless me or mine are being directly threatened, I just don’t think I have it in me to murder someone. I’m not that guy. I’m more the sneak up to your house and YouTube videos of you peanut buttering your balls for the dog kinda guy.
Second, as difficult as it may be to believe, eighty-sixing an evil, corporate death peddler is catastrophically illegal. I know, right? Turns out I am also not the live out the rest of my days in quiet nobility from my prison cell guy either. I am definitely more Tim Robbins than Morgan Freeman.
Third, and most vexing; brilliant kidnapping schemes, hidden hermetically sealed rooms, secret identities, and travel, travel, travel… all of this requires a considerable outlay of cash. Hell, I couldn’t even afford enough cigarettes to asphyxiate my first tobacco assassin. Maybe I could just douse him in gasoline and light him with a cigarette. That would probably muddy my message though.
Enter Petty Justice. This is the kind of rough, take-no-prisoners, frontier justice that is not only immediate, but has a more equitable satisfaction to risk ratio and is surprisingly affordable. Some seekers of Petty Justice will key the doors of the hundred thousand dollar, bright red sports car some douche had parked across two parking spaces in an attempt to keep other people’s less expensive cars away. Virtual Petty Justicars will troll low level MMORPG zones with their tricked-out, max level characters just waiting for some twelve year old fucknut to start griefing the noobs. Food service PJers apply liberal doses of snot, spit, and even less appetizing seasonings to especially dickheaded customers. (My brother and sister estimate that my ex-dad, a towering icon of small-minded douche-baggery, has eaten gallons of waitstaff produced effluvia in various burgers, pizzas, and other prepared meals.)
My personal favorite form of Petty Justice comes in any situation where helpless counter and register workers must face off with an at best indifferent, and at worst capriciously hostile public. These poor souls have no recourse other than to take it on the chin or be fired, and like a schoolyard bully sensing weakness, some jackasses who ought to know better just can’t seem to help taking advantage.
If this kind of Petty Justice sounds like it might be your bag, here’s what to do. When you see a customer being unreasonably toxic to some forlorn counter jockey, approach the situation quietly, and listen. Make sure you know who’s being the dick. When you’re reasonable certain that the woman screaming and throwing bread because the person behind the counter sold the last bag of pizza dough ten minutes before she got there is the one in the wrong, interrupt her and ask her a question. Be as inoffensive as possible at this point. You’re still trying to find out information here, and if you are nice first your target will be so much more discombobulated when you attack later.
Ask her what the problem is. Be sympathetic. Make it look like you are on her side. Make sure that the guy behind the counter isn’t really an escaped Nazi masquerading as a teenaged grocery store deli clerk and this woman is the only one who has figured him out. But once all your bases are covered, feel free to have fun. I have been in this situation around a half a dozen times over the years, and there are a few similarities I have noticed that are reassuring to note.
1.) The attacker is almost always a woman. Why this is, I’m really not certain, unless these are just people who feel powerless in their everyday lives, and are looking for someone to push around who can’t push back. Of course it could be that more women shop for groceries than men, too. This leads to number two…
2.) The attacker is a bully. Bullies never stick around for a fair fight. The only time I have ever seen someone approach me afterwards was one woman who had gotten the manager and had brought him ’round to…? Throw me out? Give me a spanking? I never was completely certain because she got so angry at the guy for laughing at my depiction of her crazed antics that she stormed out.
So… the rest of the conversation is likely to go something like this… Me: “Wait a minute, you’re upset because there’s no more pizza dough?”
Her: “Goddamn right I am. I always get my pizza dough right here and this idiot knows it! Don’t tell me they don’t have more back there!”
Her: (now to the cowering kid behind the counter) “Don’t you tell me you don’t have more back there!”
Kid: “I was trying to tell you it’s froz…”
Her: (now screaming) “I told you not to give me any of that crap!”
Me: “Lady, you’re a fucking moron.”
Me: “I called you a fucking moron. This kid doesn’t have any pizza dough. How miserable is your life that you’re gonna stand here and shriek at him like a spoiled brat instead of walking over to the refrigerated section and getting it in a can?”
Her: (looking in the direction of the refrigerator aisle) “I… he…”
Me: “Whatever. Since you’re clearly not buying anything, I’d like some of those dinner rolls, young man. If I could get those from the non screaming asshole shelf…”
Her: (No longer saying anything, bolting for the door.)
There comes a time in a person’s life when they have to admit that they will never be a superhero, and the chances of rescuing Scarlett Johansson from a burning building are becoming vanishingly small. For us there will always be… Petty Justice!