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Yet Another Manipulator

24 Oct

I’m so tired of manipulative assholes. They’re very fortunate that I need time to process and that my default is to be nice to people…even when they’re manipulative assholes. Furthermore, I recently figured out that often when I meet someone with bad vibes, I tell myself I’m just nervous around them because I have social anxiety; it’s not until I’ve seen this person repeatedly that I finally realize they’re bad news. I have a history of putting up with bad people multiple times before I finally get fed up and can no longer be polite to them.

At least this time, I’ve managed to process on the same day as the incident. Perhaps some day it’ll take seconds after meeting the bad person, and I’ll turn around and walk out on them or hang up on them or have a great retort…whatever the circumstances warrant.

This Monday, I was at my second appointment at the gym and, after talking about my missing cat during my training, I spotted a pet supply store a few doors down. I happened to have some “Neko is Missing” fliers with me, so I decided I’d go in, ask if they’ll post the flier, and buy some cat food while I’m there. So I went inside the pet store.

The store owner approached me immediately, and I showed him the flier and explained that my cat is missing.

He asked how long she’s been missing. In hindsight, I should have said, “Six days,” since that’s when I discovered that she was no longer hanging out at a couple of neighbors’ houses and had wandered further away and was allegedly spotted at a nearby condo complex. Instead, I replied, “Since early September.”

He said, “That’s too long ago! It’s too late.”

Instead of punching him, I went into shock. “Actually, it’s more complicated than that. She was eating at a neighbor’s house for weeks and hasn’t been for the past week.”

He didn’t apologize for his callous and cruel remark. He glanced down at the flier he was holding and said, “Well, I’ll help you, but you have to buy stuff here.” He asked about my regular pet supply store, and I told him I go to The Healthy Pet; I didn’t mention that they’re very nice and respectful toward their customers and care about animals, unlike him.

I was in a stunned state and acting as though he was one of my toxic relatives, who wired my brain in early childhood to side with bullies against myself and to tip-toe around toxic assholes who are similar to them. Yet underneath that early childhood conditioning, upon which I acted, I already knew that he was devoid of empathy and compassion, didn’t care about animals, and was blackmailing and manipulating me.

I went into the store with the intention of shopping for cat food (if you have five cats, you can easily understand), so even if he weren’t blackmailing and manipulating, I would have done what I did: make a bee-line for the cat food aisle. I quickly discovered that he doesn’t sell any of the food that my cats are accustomed to eating, but I picked up a few cans of cat food that I thought they’d like, and I grabbed a cat snack, and I carried them to the front counter, never mind how ill at ease I was with this asshole.

As soon as I reached the counter, he said, “You shop only here from now on.” He pulled out a bag of dry cat food and tried to sell it to me, but it contained duck, and I doubted my cats would like that. “You only come to this pet store from now on.” He must have said that at least twice, and I was too stunned to tell him off and march out, as I wish, in hindsight, I had done. The seoond time I thought, I’ll alternate with both stores. I can’t stop going to The Healthy Pet. He kept offering me different dry cat foods, and when I agreed to buy one bag of cat food and get the other half off, he still wasn’t done: he gestured toward a freezer containing raw food for cats and dogs and gave me a used car salesman spiel about that, too, as he already had for dry catfood. I didn’t buy any of the raw cat food, but he gave me a couple of free samples and said, “From now on, you only shop at this pet store.”

He asked me about the cat food my cats normally eat, and he dismissed their favorite dry food by saying that those brands charge too much. Um, they’re quality organic and grain-free catfood from the Pacific Northwest. He asked about their wet food, and I told him; since he asked more about it, such as what size the pouches are, I searched on my smartphone and showed him an image of one pounch of my cat’s favorite food. He said he’d sell it to me at a lower price than The Healthy Pet, and he whipped out a binder that was falling apart and showed me lots of handwritten pages, claiming that he can special order the cat food and that he does that all the time. He wrote down the type of catfood and, unfortunately, took down my first name and phone number.

I spent $91 in that store, even though in the twenty minutes or so that I wasted there, the store owner had proved that he’s a manipulative sociopath. He didn’t even try to hide it. He fucking flaunted it. Sociopaths don’t usually flaunt their evil in front of someone they just met; they usually lure you into a false sense of security by doing a performance, pretending to be a wonderful human being, and you might know them for yealrs—you might even marry them—before it becomes obvious that they’re judging and manipulating you. They’re devoid of empathy and compassion and don’t even have a conscience.

As has happened so often with sociopaths and narcissists, I reacted to the manipulative store owner like a deer in headlights. I reacted as though I were at a family reunion, with the very relatives I describe in my novel Skeleton from the Closet.

After I was no longer at the pet store, I carried the catfood out to my car and soon found myself waking up. I realized that within minutes of my setting through the door, the store owner proved that he is callous and doesn’t care about animals. During the time that I was there, he proved that he’s evil.

I finally realized that there was no way in hell that I’m ever setting foot in that store ever again, and even if my regular pet store charges more than that store—which, judging by the price tags I saw, is not the case—I would continue going there. I got home and gradually shifted from deer-in-headlights to righteous indignation.

I’m getting quicker at seeing through the bullshit of toxic humanoids who are too similar to the evil side of my family (and incidentally, I’m No Contact with that side of the family, except my sister and some California cousins who weren’t successfully brainwashed). I’m getting quicker at noticing red flags but still need to reach a stage in which my immediate reaction is to turn around and walk away.