Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Curious Case of Civis the Creepy Clerk

I ain't fooling, you need schooling
Baby you know you need cooling
Baby way down inside, woman you need love
Muddy Waters- "You Need Love"
Perv or Philanthropist?
Some people are more touchy feely than others. They like showing affection in public, not just in private. This could arise from genetics. It could be caused by how your parents raised you. It could come from how long you were nursed or any number of other reasons, including geographic, ethnic or national cultural preferences. American, and from what I hear Northern European, cultures are each supposedly a little standoffish while Southern European, Middle Eastern and some West African cultures are more relaxed about touching. I couldn't tell you for sure. I've known effusive Germans and cold Italians. What I do know is that like anything else with humans there is a continuum of behavior among people who seemingly can't connect to others without reaching out and touching them and people who would prefer that workplace/non-sexual touching of any kind be discouraged. I tend to fall in the second category. Work is work. So please keep your hands to yourself unless we are related or we are already intimate(or planning to be). In some states there isn't always a difference between these two categories but I digress. Snicker. It is a fact though that in the workplace, especially when there is a gender and/or a sexuality difference, many people prefer minimal physical contact, and ESPECIALLY no form of physical contact that could be possibly misconstrued as flirtatious, harassing or sexual. A hand shake is okay. A hand on a woman's hip, thigh, chest or behind definitely isn't. A fist bump or hand slap for closing a deal is fine. A facial caress isn't. A brief hug or shoulder pat to a co-worker who just lost a parent, spouse or child is usually acceptable. A tight full body embrace with a peer who has returned from an overseas trip just might send out the wrong message. Just saying. And so on. 

Americans generally recognize some responses as being reasonable for someone who is providing your nookie and totally inappropriate for someone who is not handling that task. This isn't rocket science, folks. Unfortunately a grocery store clerk in West Michigan has forgotten that it is truly not his job to provide hugs and bottom pats for women who, in his opinion, look like they might need them. 
Whitehall — When is a hug more than a hug? That is, when does it stop being what a resident called a “handshake from the heart” and turn into something another termed “sort of creepy”? The question lies at the heart of a controversy roiling this small town in western Michigan. In August, supermarket clerk Fred Civis was arrested and fired from his job of 39 years after a customer he hugged reported him to the store and police. Many in town have rallied behind the popular cashier, launching a boycott that has slowed business at Plumb’s Valu-Rite Foods. The growing anger also led to death threats against a woman wrongly believed to be the complainant. A woman said the hulking clerk once wrapped both arms tightly around her, stroking her and whispering things in her ear as he nuzzled her neck. He then followed her around the store. “I know the difference between a friendly hug and a grope,” the woman wrote on a local TV news website.

The controversy began in July when Kendall Maczka was checking out at a self-service lane at Plumb’s. Civis came over and, after bagging her items, put his arm around her shoulders, brushing his hand against her backside, according to a police report. She snapped at Civis, who walked away silently. She told police Civis had been hugging her for three or four years. She said it wasn’t an issue until the latest incident. She said he embraced her only when she shopped alone. When she was with her husband, Civis ignored her.

Civis was apparently previously warned about his behavior. So right now this doesn't appear to be a case of an overreaction by someone who can't stand to be touched or a one time misreading of someone's body language. Misdemeanor assault charges seem like a bit much but I don't know if that fits what allegedly occurred. I'm no lawyer. Who knows? More information could arise. Of course if we are being completely honest some people's (and by people's here I mean women's) reactions to unsolicited hugs could vary widely on just who's doing the hugging but that's life. There is nothing unusual or unfair about the fact that women, like men, have different reactions to people depending on their perception of that person's attractiveness. Still, when you are at work, I don't think it's too much to ask that you don't go around groping or hugging other people. I mean, how difficult is that? The purpose of working is to earn money. You need to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Perhaps you might make friends at work or even find someone who is more but that doesn't change what the primary imperative is. Nothing can be allowed to interfere with that. If I were to get fired from my job let it be for something like being a whistle blower about a bad product, standing up to a bigoted or incompetent supervisor or refusing to go along with bullying. 

I can't predict the future but I can safely say that I will NOT be fired from my job for putting my hands on women co-workers, customers or God forbid supervisors. Cause that would be kinda dumb.  I could never live that down. Can you imagine how the next job interview would go? "So, Shady is it? I understand you like to give hugs and pats on the bottom to women co-workers. Do you see any women around here that you think need physical comforting? We're just curious."


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