I was in line at the bagel place, and as always, it was full of suits, moms, and students. (I always giggle a little at the suits because they look so self-important in a place like that. I mean, it's not Starbucks, not by a long shot.)
When it's busy, the staff there have all they can do to keep the sandwiches coming. But they are always friendly, and when they get to know you, they'll joke a little - you know how it is.
So the woman at the register made a little joke to one of the suits - she said something like, "is it morning meeting time for you already? Don't you guys do any work?" Ha ha. Just kidding with the customer, making friendly conversation.
But the guy blew up at her: "It's none of your damn business! You're just like my wife!"
I regret that I didn't say anything to him. First, I was shocked, and I didn't really know what to say. In situations like this, the first words that come to mind are profanities, and while he certainly deserved them, I wasn't sure that would be the most effective response. Second, I didn't want to get her fired. It seems pretty unlikely that that would have happened, but I once had the experience of asking a barista if some customers were harassing her, and when she said yes and told me about it, she got fired. And third, I was so taken aback that I was sure I couldn't have heard him correctly - or else I thought that he must have been joking, even though her downcast eyes and forced smile let me know that he was serious.
I did tell her the next time I saw her what an ass I thought he was and why I didn't say anything.
But I wish I had turned to him and said, "Does that make you feel important, tearing down someone else like that?"
Or perhaps, "You must be having a terrible morning, to treat someone else so poorly. I hope your day gets better."