I was at Barnes and Noble at Sunset Valley today (had to buy Rachel Held Evan's new book while it was still warm) when a man came in yelling and waving his arms around. He had unkempt, greasy hair and wore clothes that were dirty and ill-fitting and he was clearly agitated, shouting at whoever would listen that he had paid good money for something (I couldn't understand what) and that he was being ripped off.
I didn't pay much attention at first as it seemed that someone stepped in to calm him down and then I didn't hear anything from him anymore. However, when I got to the cash register, two managers were talking with him, trying to explain that the large, expensive-looking book he held in his hands was not re-sellable and that they couldn't give him any money for it and also trying to explain that the book he had ordered had been sent back because he hadn't picked it up.
He got more and more upset as they talked to him and clearly had no plans to give up his conviction that he was being cheated. Then, as I stood there waiting to pay, two police officers came in and stood behind him at a polite distance, then moved in and escorted him out of the store. I have to admit, I had the fear that once he was out of the sight of paying customers, he would be treated roughly or arrested. As I left the store with my book (I got the last copy, by the way), one of the officers was advising the store managers of their rights in asking an unruly customer to leave.
What surprised me was what was happening on the sidewalk outside. A middle-aged deputy was patiently explaining to the man about why his book was no longer available and even got out a calendar to show him when it would come in again and what day he should come to pick it up, writing the date on a piece of paper and handing it to him. His voice was casual and calm, as though he were talking to a friend, and the man was equally calm, thanking the deputy for his help and getting ready to amble away.
Witnessing this small moment of kindness and dignity made me grateful for people who do a difficult job in a redemptive way.