This I Believe

Alicia - Northfield, New Hampshire
Entered on May 30, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: respect

I lost my sense of entitlement with a splash of hot water to my face, and I think that’s a shame because I believe a healthy dose of entitlement is essential. The water was flung by the angry father of a teenaged daughter who dressed in the height of youth fashion. They were angry because the daughter wanted a drink of cold water and didn’t want to use the bubbler, and the father thought buying her a bottle of spring water from my employer, a mall coffee and pastry stand, was a ripoff. I thought the father was already getting ripped off, considering what I knew his daughter’s cute outfit, real gold jewelry, and fancy sneakers went for in the mall stores.

Our only sink produced only scalding hot water, so their request was impossible to satisfy. They refused to budge until I poured the daughter a cup of water, no matter how I explained the situation. I relented with foreboding and as much ice as I could fit in the cup. The water was still hot, and the father was angry enough about the insult to his child to fling the offending liquid directly into my face. All the justice I got that day was my kind young manager calling mall security before running over to see if my face was badly burned (it wasn’t). Mall security told the pair they would not be welcome back that day. My manager wanted them barred permanently from the mall at least, but security wouldn’t consider it. I should toughen up, they said, that’s part of the business. I didn’t protest. I didn’t feel like I had the right.

I’d grown up believing I was absolutely entitled to certain things: care if I was ill, to be treated fairly, to justice if I was wronged. As a military dependant I grew up relatively poor, but since that was the common condition I was blissfully oblivious to it. If I had been aware, I doubt it would have occurred to me that not having as many toys as others should mean I wasn’t fully entitled to those things. The person I was at nine wouldn’t have put up having her healthy entitlement sublimated to someone else’s selfish one. My right not to be humiliated and potentially hurt must be worth more than a bottle of spring water. Unfortunately, when you are treated like you like you are not entitled to decent human treatment you start to believe it, and for me that cup of hot water was the blow that finally beat my spirit down. It took years to rebuild that healthy sense that everybody is entitled to those human things I believed were my right when I was young. They are unfortunately more to ask for than I thought then, so without that healthy belief that everyone, including ones self, deserves such treatment—that one is utterly entitled to it—any bully with a cup of water can wash it away.