Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Sass met wearied indifference at the express lane... and guess who won?
In the midst of a hectic week of Passover cooking, serving, and cleaning up after a houseful of guests...o.k., my married children and their adorable offspring, my garbage pail up and died. I was rocking two other garbage pails at strategic locations in the kitchen and truthfully, the foot lever on the main garbage had declared itself on strike months ago, but it seems as if the Passover strain was getting to everyone. So off I went to the store that in a wink to the universe, rhymes with smart. Every time I enter the hallowed halls of the 'smart' store, I swear on my pinkie finger never to step a toe in there again. My experience last week was no exception.
I raced down the appropriate aisles until I saw the trash receptacles (even garbage cans choose to be politically correct). I tried the foot lever, it seemed sturdy and the front panel had a large sticker on it boasting of a one-year warranty. Grabbing the large round cylinder in my arms, I was good to go, until I saw the checkout lines snaking toward me, daring me to choose one of them while knowing full well that the one I would select would having a delay resulting in a call to the manager who would be in a meeting...I stood frozen in indecision until I saw the express lane. Success! I waddled my unwieldly package over and plopped it down on the floor to wait my turn. And wait I did.
The woman in front of me began to unload her cart and was still unloading after she reached item ten. Item eleven began to make its way onto the conveyor belt when the cashier made a half-hearted attempt at stopping her:
"You can't buy that, you got maw than ten."
"I AM buying it, and this, and this, and this..."
She continued to unload the REST of the wagon. Didn't even look in my direction. Didn't even acknowledge that in a free and democratic society we have all agreed to abide by the clearly written and unwritten law of the frequent shopper, Thou Shalt Not Desecrate the Ten Items or Less line. There is a special Hell reserved for people who do, and in a more upscale shopping establishment appropriate steps would have been taken. I knew I would be alone in my protestation of her flagrant disobeyance of the law and since there was no one on line behind me to rabble-rouse, I sucked it in and remained silent.
Another feeble attempt by the cashier who seemed to be taking a nap in between scanning each item:
"You're not supposed to buy maw than ten things on this line."
"Well, I am!"
And she did. I was fascinated. She packed up her purchases, no manager was called over, no sheepish apologies were offered about running late to get the kids from school or that she'd left a pot cooking on the stove, just a moment of freewheeling unabashed political incorrectness.
I thought about her on the ride home and wondered what I was always apologizing about, what we, collectively as a nation, was always apologizing about. Every word we say nowadays is parsed. The President can't even compliment a female attorney general without an immediate outraged response from the media and watchdog groups whose existence is predicated upon catching people being human and saying stupid things, sometimes.
Don't you dare call the woman serving soda at ten thousand feet a stewardess, she's a flight attendant...the person on the phone whose accent and poor connection makes them sound as if they're speaking underwater is not someone in India (who's being paid half of what an American would be paid) she is a service care coordinator...seriously, what does that even mean? A fireman....nope, don't even think about it, it's firefighter to you, thank you very much. Be afraid to speak, be very afraid.
And here I had just stood in line behind a woman who is probably a fair representation of the collective mentality of many Americans who are simply trying to get through their day, make some purchases and basically keep their focus primarily on themselves, not about what's happening anywhere else, in other countries, other states, even what's happening right behind them. She had exactly one goal in mind, to service herself in any damned way she pleased, disregarding anyone and everyone that might get in her way. It was so the antithesis of liberal America and the rhetoric spewed by the talking heads on TV and in the papers that I actually found it refreshing and mildly amusing, even if I was the recipient of her lack of largesse, the unwitting victim of her general disdain.
I came into my kitchen filled with my children sitting around the table, enjoying each others' company and with a sigh of satisfaction set down my new purchase.
My son jumped up, "Great! A garbage pail (political correctness only goes so far, even from a liberal college freshman) that finally works!" He pumped the foot lever a few times and I was glad to put the whole episode from my mind. As I headed to the laundry to search for some clean linen I heard him call after me.
"Ma, the bottom of the garbage pail is cracked. You're probably going to have to return it if you don't want garbage leaking all over the floor."
I hid my smile and poked my head around the door, "I think I'll send you to do the return."
Perhaps it was time for the college liberal to get a civics lesson into the mind of middle America.