We don’t live in a perfect world, and there are events in our lives that remind us of that. The moment when you realize it is a cruel world can be tough. Here is a list of people who were brought back down to earth after witnessing something sad in public.
1. I Remember Her Tangled Hair Waving With Each Blow
I was 8. I and my family were driving down to Florida. We were on the Mass turnpike, and everything was extremely boring; I was just watching the trees and cars go past my window. Then I notice a car has stopped by the side of the road. A man and a woman were outside behind the car. As we got closer I saw that the woman was on all fours, her head hanging, and the guy was punching and kicking her. The image is still in my mind. I could see her face. I can see her long, tangled hair waving with each blow that the guy gave her. I can see the blood.
2. Absentee Parents on Site
Several years ago I was at the MGM theme park standing in line for the “Tower of Terror” ride. It was a gray stormy day and the ride itself is a fairly intimidating edifice (for those of you who don’t know it is built to look like a spooky old hotel). In front of me in line was an early thirty-something couple with two fairly young kids. The man was on his cell phone the entire time paying no attention to his family while his boy (about 8 years old) is crying because he is scared of the whole experience. The boy’s mother gets out her cell phone and calls the boys grandmother and says ‘your grandson is being a wuss and ruining this vacation for all of us.’ Class act.
3. How Ungracious Can She Be?
I used to work at a Wildlife Company at the local mall (you know, rain sticks, statues, Yanni CD’s). One day a little boy came in wanting to buy his mom a present. He was around 7 or 8 years old I’d say. The kid wanted to buy a present for his mom and had a handful of assorted bills and change. We counted his money to see how much he had and I took him around the store and showed him different things he could afford to buy. As we were looking he saw a coffee mug with a nature scene on it that he loved, but he didn’t quite have enough money for it… he only had about $5 and some change. I told him to go ahead and get it and chipped in some of my own money to make up the difference. He left the store smiling.
A little while later this angry woman came dragging the kid back in the store. She slammed the mug on the counter and insisted on an immediate refund. I thought she was just mad because I helped the kid spend his money or something, but then after I gave her back the money she grabbed the kid by the hand and dragged him quickly out of the store fussing at him saying, ‘Why would you buy me something like that! I would never use something like that!’ My heart broke a little.
4. Mother’s Tears Hurt More Than The Ungrateful Son’s Wails
When I worked at GameStop! I was a lonely grunt organizing video games, suddenly this bigger lady with a cane came in with an opened Xbox 360 demanding a full cash refund even though the system was open, used, missing the game it should have come with, and some sauce was on the system. GameStop policy is ‘you open/it’s yours’
Turns out her son had stolen her disability money that they rely on for food and rent, came to the mall and used all of it on the video game system. She was to the point of tears because we couldn’t help her, meanwhile her son kept grabbing different games and was adding them to the counter demanding that we ring them out for him because she was paying. The look on her face was incredibly sad, like her soul had been snatched away. My manager ended up giving her a 80% refund even though they had kept the system for more than 2 months. As she walked out of the store dragging her bawling 12 yr old with her walking condition was painful to watch.
5. A Random Act of Kindness Turned His Day Around
Last summer. I took my children to the playground near the river one day. They have these benches along the bike path, each inscribed with a dedication to a loved one that has passed (Bob Smith ‘Let’s sit here awhile longer,’ things like that) where I saw a man in his 40s sitting alone with his bike leaned up against the bench. He had a CD player and his headphones in, obviously prepared for a nice afternoon of watching the river and enjoying the day. After a bit I glanced over to see the man fiddling with his CD player, becoming agitated. He started cursing and finally stood up and threw it to the ground, then turned and fumbled with his bike to leave. My children came up and asked, “Mommy why is he so mad?” I said I’d find out.
I walked over to the man as he was about to leave and said hello and I noticed he was having a bad day. He immediately apologized, thinking I was going to scold him for swearing and making a scene, then explained he had just gotten a CD player from a thrift store and wanted to listen to it while relaxing but it wasn’t working. He had just gotten back from his doctor, who told him his treatments weren’t working and his cancer was terminal. I told him to wait a moment and went back to the van where I had my CD player I hadn’t used in years since buying an iPod.
There was this look of confusion and gratefulness and sadness he had when my husband and I offered it to him, and of course many tears were shed by both the man and I over a conversation about his life; someone had broken into our garage that morning and stolen hundreds of dollars in tools and fishing equipment. It turned out this man had an amount of rods and reels he never used and didn’t intend to. After a couple of hours of talking and encouragement, he took us to his house gave us these things, and I hooked him up with some more CDs.
I always remember him when we go back to the park: this man with his back to us, shoulders slumped a bit, his bad day just getting worse. Sometimes you can just see the hopelessness surrounding someone, and it breaks my heart.
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6. Sometimes the Pain Is too Great to Hide
I was at Walmart a couple of years ago, looking for something in the electronics department. Walked up to the checkout stand just as the cashier took a personal phone call. All of a sudden she lets out this awful scream, and just completely loses it, sobbing and crying. Everyone is standing there in shock, one of her coworkers came over to comfort her, and I went on my way.
Turns out, she just found out her husband died in an accident. To this day that sticks in my mind as the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.
7. We Felt the Guilt of Not Helping Her
Tina was one of the ‘horse girls.’ Every school has one: socially inept but a bit too in love with horses. Sad to say, even the kindest of kids began to make fun of her when she started to wear a saddle to school.
One day, in Geography, the door suddenly burst open. It was Horse Girl’s dad. He grabbed her by the hair and proceeded to beat the hell out of her. She did nothing but silently weep and stroke her plastic pony’s hair.
Turns out, he was angry because she was learning about different countries in school. Police were called and she was escorted out. We never saw her again.
Even we dumbass 7th graders realized that her horse obsession was an escape from her abusive father. We made things worse and we never had the chance to apologize. I don’t know if she is dead or alive – or if alive, whether she’s able to have anything approaching a fruitful life.
8. One Is the Loneliest Number
I was a waitress when I was 18. I worked one Father’s Day and this old man was seated in my section; he did not order anything because he said he was waiting for his children. He was dressed really nice and had this big smile on his face. After about 15 minutes, I asked him if he wanted an appetizer or anything while he waited. He was looking less happy at this point. He said no, he would just wait for his kids.
I ended up talking to him quite a bit between taking care of other tables. He had not seen his children in over 25 years and they had promised they would be there that day. He waited for an hour and a half. They never showed. When he left, he was crying silently and had not eaten anything.
9. Try a Little Kindness
I was in River Island once shopping for some new jeans and some overweight girl came out of the changing room wearing a dress as I was waiting and asked her mother how it looked. Her response was something like ‘You look too fat in that, maybe we should buy you something baggier for prom.’
I said I thought she looked beautiful. Her mother looked at me like I’d stabbed her in the back, but at least she got a compliment from one person that day.
10. He Didn’t Know How Many People Loved Him
April 14th, 2010 I got word my best friend had committed suicide. He left a suicide note in the mail and it was sent to me. The basic essence of the part that pertains to this story was, ‘I’m sorry, I know this will be hard for you but I can’t do this anymore. I don’t think this will hurt anyone else but you.’ I’ve told the story of this before, but I have never shared what happened that Monday at school. He and I always wore suits to school on Mondays, matching ones at that.
Anyway, stayed up all Sunday night trying to decide whether or not to wear it. Was it disrespectful? Should I do it in his memory? Should I go in all black instead of the shirt and tie we had picked out on Thursday? I decided I was going to wear it, with the shirt and tie we had picked out.
With the school running amuck with rumors, random crying people, and an overall buzz over what had happened, I walked into this 3000 kid school with my held high, suit on, and a tear running down my face missing the best friend I had driven to school every day for 3 years. Complete silence spread through what is normally loudest corridor in the school. Some people began crying uncontrollably, probably realizing he was actually gone. I observed the aftermath of his death through the school. I watched all the broken hearts, the shattered plans for the summer, the destroyed senses of security, and I watched as people he thought didn’t even know him cry and breakdown over his death. If only he had known that so many people cared about him. If only he knew that it wouldn’t just hurt me. I wonder if that would’ve changed his mind.
His parents chose to have an open casket funeral. I walked in after the most emotionally empty and draining rugby practices I’ve ever gone to (He was my teammate). I walked in wearing that suit, carrying the game ball from our state championship that we won last year, signed by every member of that team. I walked up to his casket, his mother screamed in horror, pain, and emotional torment as I walked up to his casket, and placed the ball in his hands as he had held it while he scored the game-winning try with that very same ball. I looked at his suit, we were matching… Matching for the last time. Many tears ran down my face as his mother collapsed at my feet. She had taken a picture of us every Monday since we started wearing the suits. Watching the pain on her face had to be the most horrid, emotionally painful, and saddening thing I have ever seen in public.
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11. A Restaurant Isn’t Always the Place to Break-Up
A couple months ago, I was waiting tables at my job. I had this section which included three two-person tables right next to each other in a booth. It’s pretty cramped there, and everyone can hear just about everything you say.
Halfway through the night, this lady sits at my table and says she’s just waiting for her husband. She is all smiles at this point. Then the husband comes in, looking grouchy, but the wife seems completely oblivious to his obvious discomfort. I get their drinks, their orders, and their food. After their done eating, I go over to ask if she wants a box. They both look pretty grim.
The husbands says, ‘The marriage is over. I’ve been having an affair for a while now, and I just don’t love you anymore,’ WHILE I AM AT THE TABLE. The lady is bawling but trying to hold it in. She manages to ask me to box up her stuff. As I walk away from the table, I look around my section– every table is turned toward them and is either looking sympathetically at the lady or with daggers at the dude. They left right after that.
12. What’s a Mother to Do?
I was doing some shopping one day in a plaza with various stores, one of them being a GameStop. So I’m about to start walking to my car when a mom and her child of no older than 10 years old walk out of GameStop. She clearly denied him a game or something and he had lost his mind. As they are walking away from the store the kid goes up to her, grabs her by her hair and rips her to the ground. Everyone who saw it was horrified. The mother just got up started walking away sobbing as the kid picks up handfuls of bark mulch to throw at her. It was very sad to see this woman have no control and the literal abuse she was subjected to was unbelievable.
13. The Jekyll and Hyde Daddy
I went on a girl scout camping trip when I was 12 or so. One of the girls in the troop was the mayor’s granddaughter and her father was the troop leader (the mayor’s son). The troop leader was a really nice guy to the public, a lawyer and very involved in the community.
One night during the trip, his daughter had taken a shower and we we’re all getting ready for bed when he is doing a check to make sure the bathroom is clean. Finds a pair of underwear and asks nicely who forgot their underwear in the bathroom. His daughter finally comes forward. He pulls her into the bathroom and starts screaming at her. Horrible belittling things. She is sobbing and gasping for air (asthmatic). He opens the door, shoved her out and tells her in his sweet voice, ‘you should probably get your inhaler.’
Wishes us all sweet dreams and leaves the room.
Crickets except his daughter crying.
14. Lean on Me
I was walking around downtown once and saw a homeless man holding a kitten and sitting on a duffle bag. All I could think was ‘They’re keeping each other alive.’
15. His Family Lost Everything
I remember in 2005 (right around when the stock market seriously crashed) I was visiting some friends in NYC. I saw someone whom I’m assuming was a broker/trader stumble out of an office building on Park Ave looking absolutely crushed. The wide-eyed look on his face like he’d just lost everything he ever had in life. Only when I got closer did I realize that it was a family friend of mine from Greenwich, CT.
A little while later he was found tied up in his basement stabbed to death. His family received a large sum from his life insurance policy kick. The police investigated after learning he had (like I guessed) lost pretty much everything.
Turns out he had paid two guys to murder him so his family could maintain their lifestyle and save face.
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16. Compassion Took a Powder
There were these 2 little old ladies that lived in my neighborhood, sisters, I think they were from Russia. As they got older, one of them got a bit of dementia. I was in the bank, and she comes in and has no idea where she is and I can’t remember now what she was saying but they just kicked her out because she was very confused and being a bit disruptive. So there I am sitting in the bank crying. I just felt so bad because I knew they didn’t have any other family to take care of them.
17. Innocents Abide
My Mom used to be a middle school teacher and at the end of every year the 8th graders got to go on a trip to Hershey Park (an amusement park in Pennsylvania). The kids would have to bring their own money to get something to eat halfway through the bus ride. She was chaperoning and saw everybody eating happily other than this one kid who was eating out of the condiments bar. He was eating pickles, mustard and ketchup and nobody was helping him or giving him money. Finally, my mom stepped in and got him something to eat. The worst part is he didn’t forget money, his parents didn’t have any to give him.
18. Death Stalks Alone
I was working at a book store and an elderly couple came in one afternoon. The man sat in one of the chairs reading while the woman browsed the gardening book section. I went in the back to unpack some boxes for a while when I started to notice some commotion and walked out to see EMTs working on the man on the floor. It was soon clear to me that he was dead and his wife was crying. She took a small bible out of her purse and placed it by his hand.
19. Children Are Not Disposable
I was eating in a Mexican restaurant and there was a family arguing next to me. The teenage daughter was crying while her father told her that he would always put his new wife (who was sitting next to him looking smug) before her. From what I heard, the poor girl had been kicked out of her home because she wasn’t getting along with her stepmom.
20. They Thought They Would See Forever Together
A female friend and I were waiting at this bus exchange a couple summers ago, trying to get home from the beach. Basically, our route was sorta out of the way, so we were there for an hour waiting for it.
We’re sitting against this wall when this guy and this girl walk up to the stop smiling holding hands, looking like the perfect high school couple. I remark how nice that is to my friend, and she’s like, ‘naw, that girl isn’t happy, you can tell by her smile, something’s bugging her.’ And almost on cue, the girl looks down at her feet and says something really quiet and the guy immediately zones out into traffic. Uh oh. He mumbles something, and they had a good minute of silence. Then she looks at him super sad, and then they had a closure hug, expressing the harsh finality of it I guess.
Then, as they separated, his hand slowly left her arm, and she got on the bus. He turned in our direction, walking down the street, head down, with one of the most pained looks I’ve seen in my life. Not like, open grief that people who have someone in their life die, but the dude looked numb, like an empty husk or something. Meanwhile, the girl turns back as she’s boarding the bus, with this expression of regret and sadness, and continues staring at him as the bus drives past him.
So after watching this in silent awe, I turned to my friend and said, ‘Did we just watch a real world movie breakup?’ Like, 5 minutes later our bus gets there, and as we’re driving down the road, we see the same kid again, wiping away tears.
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21. At Least Simon Cowell Wasn’t There
At a school talent show, a young woman who was very shy had managed to get up the courage to sing a song. I can’t remember the song, but it was a big one. She didn’t have the voice for it, and she lost the audience about 20 seconds in, whilst people started laughing and shouting things. The closed the curtain on her in the middle of her performance.
22. Darned Onions Make Me Cry
My husband’s grandmother had just been placed in a nursing home around the time I’d first met her. One day when we went with his parents to visit her, I was doing the awkward linger back not knowing where to be or what to say when a super old lady looks me dead in the eye and says ‘I just want to go home.’ Her voice was tiny and her soul sounded so tired. I feel like part of me died that afternoon because all I could offer her was a shock-induced pursed lips smile. Those onions catch up with me every now and again.
23. When Does the Boy Become the Man?
I was riding the commuter rail home from work one night. It was pretty late, so the train was less crowded and I could hear people speaking at the other end of the car. What looked to be a husband, wife and 4 or 5 children (all younger than 12) were sitting down with the dad talking to the fare collector. On this train, passengers have the option to pay in cash aboard the train. Well, it turns out this family did not have enough cash to pay for all of the tickets. The father gets into some sort of heated discussion with the fare collector and the fare collector moves on to the next car. As soon as he leaves, the father starts ripping into one of his sons (who couldn’t have been more than 10) for not making sure they had enough money for the tickets. Like he expected this kid to research ticket prices and make sure his parent had enough money. Truly ridiculous.
24. No Frequent Flier Miles for Her
Years ago, LONG before 9/11, I was at Sea-Tac airport waiting on a flight. At the gate across the way a lady was dragging her kid (6-7-ish) to the gate. They were the last ones to board. The kid was screaming at the top of his lungs ‘I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go.’
I could hear him screaming all the way down the jetway. About 5 minutes later she comes out of the plane, still with the boy. I assumed the captain booted them off the flight. She was now the one crying and screaming at the kid ‘I hate you, I hate you.’ You feel bad for her, but at the same time, it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
25. The Cult Sure to Shock
I worked in a lumber yard a long time ago. This man came in with his son and the kid had ratty clothes on, looked like his dad just made him work all the time. The kid was about 10 years old. The kids shoes had holes in them and he just wasn’t looking like he was well taken care of.
The radio was on and it was near Christmas and the kid asked about Santa because there was Christmas music on, The dad turns to the kid and says ‘I f—ing killed Santa Claus, so don’t worry about it.’ The kid at that point looked like he had taken all he could and started crying and his dad told him not to cry like a woman and made him keep helping him load his truck, the father asked me not to help load anything because his son needed ‘to learn to be a man.
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26. She Singled Out a Mistake as a Target for Abuse
When I was 14, I was in McDonalds. It wasn’t busy, and there was a fat slob of a mother with three boys (7-9 years old-ish). As they finished their food they asked if they could go play in the ball pit/play area, and she said yes. Excited, they got up, and the blond boy spilled his soda. She flipped on him, made him clean it up while the other kids played, then made him sit at the table while she stuffed her face and yelled at him. ‘You are so irresponsible, you are such a bad kid! You are lucky you even got McDonalds, you’re lucky I’m even taking care of you. No wonder your parents didn’t want you! This is why you don’t have a mom and dad! You are so stupid! You are SO lucky I don’t take you back where you came from, because NOBODY else in their right mind would foster you!’
All the while the kid quietly wept and watched his ‘brothers’ have the time of their lives in the other room.
To this day I regret not screaming at her, or at least saying something to the boy, if for nothing else so he wouldn’t feel so alone in this world.
I still wonder about him from time to time.
27. Arrested Development
I once saw a couple in their 40s or so walk out of a Kmart who were arguing about something. Both were loud, severely obese, smoking and they appeared to have mental disabilities. They sat down on a bench outside and continued to argue. After a few minutes, this old crippled woman hobbled out of the store with a couple small grocery bags. She looked so weak, moving only a few inches with each step and barely able to lift her head. The couple got up, started walking with her. It became clear that the couple was actually brother and sister, and the old lady was their mother. They kept arguing saying things like, ‘I’m tellin’ Ma!’ and ‘Ma, she hit me!’ like children. The old woman didn’t even have the energy to respond to them. I felt so bad for her. It looked like she’d been raising the same six year olds for the past forty years never getting a break.
28. Even Looney Tunes Cartoons Aren’t Always This Animated
Guy out with his girlfriend bumped into a female friend, gave her a hug, his GF flipped out and dumped him on the spot… The guy looked devastated. His female friend didn’t know what to do.
29. Her History Doesn’t Have to Repeat Itself in Her Son
I used to work in the kid’s department of a bookstore and a very young mother came in with her son. The son wanted her to read him a book and she couldn’t— she was practically illiterate. She could just about manage a few words here and there like ‘cat,’ ‘the’ and ‘moon’ but apart from that, she was really struggling. It made me feel really depressed. And it still does whenever I think of it.
30. Man’s Best Friend
It was just another Sunday, and my roommate and I walked to the local McDonalds to get some cheap chicken nuggets for dinner since we hadn’t eaten all day. We waited in line for a little while, ordered, and stood off to the side to wait.
The way the registers were set up, being off to the side, my roommate and I could clearly see the drive-thru window, but we weren’t paying any attention until we heard the employee yell something along the lines of “What are you doing to your dog?!” Obviously, this catches our attention and we look out past her. The vehicle in the drive-thru was a newer SUV, and in the driver side window, a small dog was being choked by the window being rolled up on his neck. The dog was no more than a few months old. Probably a Grey Hound puppy. The driver started yelling, saying her window is malfunctioning, and in a matter of 30 seconds this poor dog is being choked by this window so intensely that his mouth is being forced to stay wide open. The manager and window employee are both trying to break the car window with a shoe when I decided I had seen enough.
There were at least 10 other people watching and no one was doing anything. The manager was an older lady, and the other employee/driver were younger women, and they just weren’t strong enough to break the window. I couldn’t just watch anymore. I sprinted out to the drive thru and my roommate followed. At this point, the manager was outside trying to break the window with a metal bar she found inside the store. In the panic and confusion, the manager OPENED the car door to keep the driver safe from shattering glass but no one was supporting this poor dog, who was literally hanging by his neck with nothing to stand on. So I grabbed the metal pipe from her and smashed the car window as fast as I could. My roommate caught the unconscious dog, who’s tongue was lifelessly hanging out the side of its mouth. We took the dog to the grass next to the car and the manager started to try and do CPR on it. He started to breathe but it was very labored and sporadic, and it never opened its eyes.
After about 10 minutes we brought the dog to the woman’s car so she could take him to the emergency vet. When she opened the door, there was another greyhound puppy, obviously his sibling, sitting in the car waiting. We laid the puppy down and the sister immediately started to nudge him with her nose and eventually just laid next to him. The difference in the way they looked was disturbing and very obvious, the boy just didn’t have anything left in him, it was like he was a stuffed animal.
Even though he was breathing when they left, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to make it. The manager and employee were both crying when we walked back inside. They gave us hugs and said thank you, but I didn’t feel like we had done anything to make a difference. All of this happened in about 15 minutes, but it felt like we were there for hours. I called the emergency vet about an hour later. At first, they didn’t want to tell me what happened, but once I explained that I was the person who tried to save him, she told me. He had passed away long before they even arrived at the vet, his trachea had been crushed.
I remember the look on that dog’s face, as the window choked him harder and harder, the helplessness is his eyes, and the sister who understood what was wrong were some of the most disturbing and sad things I’ve ever seen in my life. The image of that poor puppy will stick with me forever.