STRANGE THOUGHTS By D.L. Russell
Once while entering a local fast food establishment with my daughter and a female friend of mine, I quickly realized we were being watched by a clean cut looking young man, setting at a table with a woman. While we ordered our food, the guy just kept staring and my first thought, as a cautious parent, was he could be some kind of pervert, checking out my little girl. I didn’t say anything to my daughter or my lady friend, because I didn’t want to worry them, but I was ready to react if needed.
We got our order and, as is our fast food tradition, my daughter picked the booth we sat in. And as luck would have it, she picked a table near the staring guy and his female companion. We took our seats and ate our food, while making chitchat, mostly consisting of my daughter asking one question after another about anything and everything. She is a very loving, curious child and never seems to stop trying to learn.
After we ate, my daughter had to go to the bathroom and I asked my lady friend to go with her. As soon as they were gone, the staring guy got up and came over to me.
“You may not remember me,” he said, “but I used to work for you once, and I just wanted to apologize for giving you a hard time back then.”
You see, I had once been a production supervisor for a local company and after taking a closer look at this staring guy, I realized there was something I recognized in his eyes. What was different was the fact that during the period he was apologizing for, he hadn’t been clean cut at all, but a scruffy, dingy looking individual, who always seemed to be in need of sleep.
At the time, I had been under a lot of stress to meet production quotas over several departments on third shift and I did have a few individuals to deal with who had no interest in these same goals. But, this can happen on any job, and when I’d left the company in question, I walked away without resentment towards anyone.
“I still work there,” he went on, “but since that time I’ve found Jesus Christ and I know I was wrong for how I acted towards you. I only acted that way because a couple people I hung around with back then, were doing it,”
I’d never had a situation like this happen to me, but I did accept his apology, before he got up and went back to his own table. A moment later, my daughter and lady friend returned from the bathroom and we left the restaurant.
I couldn’t get the incident out of my head for a few days. I kept wondering how many other people mistreated others, or acted negatively just because their friends were doing it? I’m positive it happens quite often. In high school, it’s called peer pressure, but in our adult lives we call it being a follower.
Followers have a problem being themselves, unless they are alone. They don’t move unless someone else is moving, and they don’t think unless someone else puts a thought in their head. They can totally disagree on a topic, or have no opinion of a topic at all, but will show total agreement towards the opinions of their friends just to fit in, just to be accepted.
I’m not a scientist or statistician, but I’d be willing to believe most people are followers and they know they are, because when they are alone, they admit to themselves how they really feel. I’d even argue following is a basic trait in our human nature. We are born following our parents and older siblings and we don’t learn to think for ourselves until much later in life.
Imagine how different the world would be, if following was like chickenpox or some other disease we usually acquire in our childhood; once you get it, you can’t catch it again. Wars have been allowed to start because followers were afraid to say they were against it. Senseless crimes have been committed for the same reason.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you can go your own way, or follow the crowd, take the time to ask why? Are you following, or do you truly agree? You can’t keep the truth from yourself.
D.L. Russell is an author of Horror and Dark Fantasy and the co-founder and editor of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful Publishing. You can also visit his blog at www.dlrussellsblog.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 1 print edition.