We’ve all seen a Karen before. You know who. Sunglasses on (even though she’s inside), fresh highlights in her pixie cut, and that ridiculously toxic side-eye that just screams “Can I speak to your manager?”
Karen is everywhere and nowhere at once. In shopping malls, checkout lines, and parking lots all across suburban America. She drives high and mighty in her white Chevy Suburban, and can be seen corralling her screaming kids, Jaxxon-Leigh and Rylenn across Walmart.
But no matter where Karen is — Target, McDonald's, Starbucks — she gets results by going right for the throat. She’ll whine, curse, call corporate, and nickel and dime you senseless. It’s a war of attrition. Nine times out of ten, this usually works out in her favor but there are some managers that just can’t be swayed.
Enter our protagonist, Sergeant John. He doesn’t work at a big box store, but is an employee of one of the biggest organizations out there, the one and only United States Army. And the U.S. Army doesn’t do refunds, gift cards, or special exceptions either.
As fate may have it, Sergeant John and Karen are about to meet on the fields of battle. John may have survived several tours in Iraq but Karen is about to unleash a torrent of unbridled angry mom energy on him and his unit. Operation Karen Storm will be an operation for the ages; a tale of brave men, bratty kids, and the great lengths entitled parents will go have it their way.
Prepare yourselves for battle soldier, there's a war to be fought.
It all begins one Fourth of July in the heart of Washington, D.C.
Our hero, Sergeant John finds himself stateside on this picturesque day in the capital city. A trained, active duty infantryman, John has the great dignity and honor of being attached to a special unit today, The Old Guard unit (TOG), a special drill team that is responsible for the ceremonies, honors, and funerals in the D.C. area.
This includes making up other units such as the Sentinels on guard at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, the U.S. Army Drill Team, and the U.S. Continental Guard Team. The Old Guard Unit also has the distinction of the oldest active unit in the army. In essence, these guys are as famed in military circles as the Royal Guards at Buckingham Palace; a huge deal.
John’s unit’s specific task that day is to man the massive three-inch anti tank cannons of the Presidential Salute Battery. They’ll be firing off blanks for the bass line of the 1812 overture in the main performance. A high honor.
John volunteered for The Old Guard unit right out of basic and is reaping the rewards and privileges. The day is bright and easy. John and his comrades enjoy a cookout behind a roped off area of the mall.
So far, the crowds have been thin. But as evening draws near, people begin to pack the mall shoulder to shoulder in anticipation for the fireworks show. Occasionally, people ask if they could join the cookout but are politely declined. Authorized personnel only.
John looks out onto the Washington Mall. It's a beautiful day, but little does he know that there is a storm brewing, gaining strength and corralling forces in his midst. He stares out into the void and the void stares unwittingly back. Hurricane Karen gathers in the gulf.
Until suddenly, like a rain cloud...she arrives.
Sergeant John recalls his first contact like the calm before the storm:
“I was near the edge of our area when I hear something behind me.”
No, it wasn’t an enemy recon team...it was something much worse.
“I turned around and there she is,” retells John, “Pinched face and a haircut that says ‘I want to speak with your manager’s manager.’”
The enemy was at the gates.
“Excuse me young man,” asks Karen, “Could you ask your father to take this rope down? This is supposed to be a public area for everyone and my kids can’t see the Capitol.”
At first glance, he sees no danger in the seemingly harmless lady. He's battled the Taliban before, what's the worst suburbia can throw at him?
In the most polite customer service voice he can muster he replies:
“Sorry, ma’am this area is reserved for members of The Old Guard and their families. If you’d like to come back a little closer to dusk, we’ll be taking the rope down around then.”
The Old Guard? Karen has never heard of this before. John happily explains his unit’s role as the primary ceremonial unit of U.S. Army and their mission to guard the president.
Karen puts a hand over her eyes and scans the mall.
“Well, I don’t see the president anywhere. Shouldn’t you be escorting him somewhere then?” she scoffs sarcastically with an eye roll.
Alright, so maybe this is why John got a job killing people instead of customer service. Maybe dealing with people just isn’t his forte.
Dumbfounded, he can only let out an “Uhhh...” before his commanding officer, Major Daniels, comes to the rescue to handle the situation. John takes this as his cue and heads back to his seat. Let the big dogs take this one.
Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Daniels and Karen hashing it out. Phase one. The whining. Karen looks especially annoyed, but the Major doesn’t budge. She leaves in a defeated huff and the soldiers go about their holiday. Boom. End of story. Mission accomplished, right?
Well, if you thought this was the end of Karen’s bold campaign then you’re as sorely mistaken as Napoleon at Waterloo.
Two hours pass by and the afternoon continues without a hitch, until the enemy rears her ugly head once more.
Karen waltzes back, but with reinforcements this time: two Capitol Police officers.
“What the…?” Major Daniels mutters under his breath.
John lets his manager handle this one again.
“Hi officers, what seems to be the problem?” asks Daniels.
“Major Daniels,” says the officer exasperated, “Karen here says that your soldiers were making lewd gestures and comments towards her family. Is this true, sir?”
The Major, who runs a very tight platoon can’t help but chuckle.
“Absolutely not, I’ve been supervising them all day, nothing even close to that has happened today,” replies Daniels.
“Yeah...that's what we assumed,” sighs the officer scratching the back of his neck. "Well, case closed. You boys enjoy the fireworks now and carry on."
The officers turn to Karen who is furious now and explain that the army has permission from the police to be posted here.
“You mean you're going to just let them sit there and hog up all the space!? I drove my kids nine hours to see this!” Karen exclaims.
“Ma’am, these men are here with the expressed permission of the Capitol Police and the District of Columbia. There are signs literally right there that explicitly state that,” says the officer pointing at a sign three feet away.
In the spirit of the Fourth, Major Daniels tries to extend an olive branch to Karen. Shouldn’t today be the last day to quarrel with your fellow American?
“Ma'am, we're cleaning up our area right now,” assures the Major, “As soon as we are done we will be removing the rope to let everyone in. If you can be patient we can get you and your family right up front here in about 20 minutes.”
It may have been Karen's blind rage but whatever Major Daniels said went flying over her head. Karen proceeds to stare at the men, much like a cow stares at an incoming train. In a dramatic huff she makes a 180 and walks away without a word.
Looks like it's the last they’ve seen of Karen. The soldiers shrug and get back to cleaning up.
Army: 1 Karen: 0
The illusive victory...until all heck broke loose.
It was all quiet on the western front while the soldiers started breaking down the barriers recalls the Sergeant.
“We were just finishing up, taking the ropes off of the pylons and stacking them in the arms of another guy in the platoon, when out of nowhere, here comes Karen, trailed by her four children and obviously stressed spouse.”
A bold surprise attack!
"It's about time! Get out of my way!’ Karen screams. Unaware of his impending doom, Private Perkins is steamrolled by the charging Karen. The poor grunt didn’t even know what hit him.
Freeze-frame here. Let us establish that Private Perkins here is a six-foot tall, combat-trained army infantryman. If we look up the definition of a soldier in a dictionary, there's going to be a picture of Private Perkins because he is the quintessential grunt. Not a pushover and not someone you knock over lightly.
With this in mind, Karen was booking it like an offensive linemen.
With the force of an M1 Abrams tank, Karen spearheads through the cordoned area like a bulldozer in flip-flops and capris, her four children following close behind like foot soldiers.
The element of surprise certainly worked as Karen and her troopers make big initial gains into the Army’s territory taking no prisoners.
Private Perkins is instantly knocked out of action. The steel pylons that he was holding go flying in every direction like shrapnel from a bomb. One hits him in the face, chipping his tooth and splitting an eyebrow open. Another flying pylon nails Karen’s kid in the leg. The boy, no older than 12, is wailing like he lost a limb. The situation has turned FUBAR. This was war.
John darts into action and helps Perkins off the ground. The Sergeant looks out onto the carnage. It’s like a scene from Platoon but without the Charlie Sheen monologue. John and his men stare despairingly into the beady eyes of defeat. All seemed to have been lost.
Karen wastes no breath on a red-faced tirade and threatens to sue the U.S. Army for uh...ruining her family’s vacation somehow.
“You call yourselves soldiers? You aren’t real soldiers!” she yells at the men.
Steam blows out of her nostrils like a locomotive. If Karen was Bruce Banner, this would be the part where she goes full Hulk and smashes the entire U.S. military with the rage of a thousand wrong orders at McDonald's.
It looked like all hope was lost but then the Major arrived. The hag’s combined mega Karen strength was no match for the enraged Daniels.
The Major activates his mad drill instructor energy a la Full Metal Jacket.
“STOP!” he shouts, quieting everyone within 50 feet. “THAT IS ENOUGH. YOU HAVE BEEN HARASSING ME AND MY SOLDIERS ALL AFTERNOON. WE HAVE TRIED TO BE NICE, WE HAVE TRIED TO BE RESPECTFUL. YOU HAVE BEEN NOTHING BUT RUDE. NOW YOU'VE INJURED ONE OF MY SOLDIERS. THIS. STOPS. NOW!”
You could hear a pin drop in the Capitol Mall. Karen stands, mouth agape and speechless.
The offensive had been halted.
“I think Karen might have had a small stroke there,” recalls John.
She kind of just stood there motionless, white as a sheet, as if she had seen the devil himself. The cops, who heard the commotion come running back to the cordon not even a minute later.
“Ma'am, you are under arrest for assault and harassment,” they announce.
“Wait, wait, what? No, no! These fake soldiers were harassing ME!” she sputters. “P-please...but I drove n-nine hours! Nine hours!”
Karen tries every excuse she can but is handcuffed and reluctantly agrees to her terms of surrender. The officers search her and find three bottles of stolen pills and two stolen credit cards on her person. The tyrannical Karen had finally been captured. Mission accomplished. Ladies and gentlemen, we got em.
To add insult to injury, the aggravated Private Perkins pressed charges. Karen’s family on the other hand disappeared as soon as they took her away, probably in embarrassment.
After the perilous fight the soldiers laughed off the episode, manned the proud, booming cannons of 1812 overture, then laid back to watch the fireworks.
“We laughed about it for a long, long time,” admits John.
It was certainly a memorable Fourth that year for Sergeant John and his men, now proud vets of Operation Karen Storm. For any power hungry Karens out there tread carefully when messing with the infantry and please, for the love of god, read signs.