More Tragedy at the Grocery Store

Six people, including me, in a matter of minutes, disintegrate into selfish pettiness…

The woman in the “15 Items or Less” checkout lane with well over 20 items piles her tower of cans onto the tiny conveyor belt, careful not to look back at us.

The checkout clerk announces the 15-Item limit loudly and bitterly without making eye contact with the violator, thereby not solving anything, just being publicly pissed off.

A customer who, when an adjacent checkout line opens up, saunters past our entire line with 2 bags of ice and deftly takes the first spot.

The woman behind me runs over to the customer with the ice bags and argues that she was next line when, indeed, I was (though my dexterity is stymied by a cumbersome shopping cart and a 13-year old).

The 20-something man behind her starts commentating on the whole scene under his breath and at one point physically pokes the woman with the ice bags to get her to respond.

And then there’s me, passive-aggressively laughing at the man’s comments, because I’m pissed off and tired.

It got ugly.

I was jetlagged: in reentry mode after a fabulous vacation and a delayed flight that placed me back in my hometown at the lousy hour of 3 am.

That’s my excuse. I’m sure the others had theirs. And I’m sure they rationalized them after the incident in their own blog or to their spouse or cousin or whatever.

A curious thing happens with us humans: when someone points out something we did wrong in public, instead of apologizing and explaining our situation, we tend to dig in and lash out. This is nearly inevitable if the forced engagement between parties is short-lived, such as in a grocery store or on the freeway (hence my recurring analyses in these posts).

Had we been on a boat with just the 6 of us, this would have played out completely differently.

I believe it’s these little cuts that are killing us, particularly because, in a world where we’re steadily losing decision-making power and spending less time in our physical spaces, these few engagements are all we have left.

Although we’re millions of people, we are, in fact, on a boat. And we are in trouble.

As we slash at each other with our tiny little knives, we cut into the delicate light wood of the boat too and we’re so busy tending to our superficial wounds, we don’t notice the water seeping in at our feet.

Not yet, anyway.