Hello Loyal Eshrinkblog readers!
This is Maggie, daughter and editor of Eshrink’s blog. We’ve been on hiatus with technical difficulties, both computer related (more detail in a future blog post I’m sure…here’s an oldie but a goodie about computer stuff) and health related. Since Eshrink has been using his hospital stay and convalescence as an excuse to slack off, I decided I better find a way to get us jump started before all of his loyal readers abandon him for YouTube! In his defense, he tells me he is working on a masterpiece (the one he already finished once, but the computer deleted it)…in an attempt to lighten the load and return to our Curmudgeon Roots (a.k.a., a safe place to complain about “first world problems” in hopes we can all find some common ground, deeper meaning, and comfort), I’ve taken on a point/counterpoint about the EXPRESS LANE…specifically, violation of the Express Lane/Line…whatever
Today’s topic: The EXPRESS Lane (note EXPRESS in all caps). We’re talking about the 10 ITEMS or LESS lane at the grocery store.
I was at the grocery store today on my lunch break when I had to face the ugly truth: I exhibit rule bias.
I race to the checkout lanes, five items in my hand, and when I turn the corner, the line of people stretches across the aisle into the produce section! I have my coat on, balancing my items in my hand because who would need a cart in the express lane? Apparently, people who can’t read; people who don’t think the rules apply to them; people who think their time is way more important than anybody else’s; and people who just don’t pay attention. Anyway…the non-express line is longer than the “express” so I evaluate the situation.
Side bar: the lesson I’ve learned to successfully navigate these “First World Irritations” is to conduct mental gymnastics in order to make me feel better about said irritation, excuse other people, and somehow make myself feel like a kind person who is helping the world. The mental gymnastics can be exhausting…more detail below.
Okay…back to the grocery store and the rule bias…or even “bigotry” I mentioned earlier. In front of me…WITH THEIR CART…was an elderly couple. I didn’t want to be too obvious as I stretched my neck to inventory their cart, but I counted at least 20 items. In the past, I would have simply said to the Express Line Delinquents, “Since I have less than 10 items, do you mind if I jump ahead to check out?”
Side bar: However, I waive that option if I’m not in a hurry and want to make myself feel like a good person by saying to myself, “I’m not in a hurry, I bet they have to pick up kids, get to work, are having a bad day, on their way to visit someone at the hospital…” it goes on and on.
I had a colleague who told me he viewed behavior above (in addition to politely telling loud talkers in a movie theater that their talking is making it hard to hear the movie) as me being confrontational. Really? Confrontational? I just feel it’s way more productive and actually nicer than muttering under my breath, “How rude! Who do you think you are holding up the express lane!” I find the annoyance leaves much quicker after I say something to the person in a polite/professional manner. I’ve had different responses in the past that range from “Oh my gosh…I’m so sorry…I didn’t see the sign” to “Sure…go for it” and only one or two snotty, “I’m in a hurry…I don’t have much more than 10” or the “What are you…the line-Nazi” look accompanied by an adolescent eye roll.
But during this “express line breach” the fact that I was in full hot flash, in a hurry, and irritated did NOT prompt me to correct these express-line violators. And that’s when I realized, I’m a bigot (if they wouldn’t have been a cute, elderly couple and it was a yuppie-looking GQ guy, or Escalade-driving stay-at-home mom, I would have felt obligated to enforce the 10 ITEMS or LESS RULE and “make a scene” as my dad used to threaten). Instead, I decided to ride it out…mentally telling myself that the cute elderly couple might feel awful if I pointed out they were breaking the rules, also…it’s a lot more difficult for them to stand in a long line than me, and finally it’s just not that important in the big scheme of things. Once I decided to accept the breach, I felt better and low and behold, a cashier opened a new line and waved me over…
DAMN…another dilemma! When a new line opens, you always send the people IN FRONT OF YOU WHO HAVE BEEN WAITING IN LINE LONGER THAN YOU to the new line…or at least give them the option. But I just didn’t have the time! I rationalized that the new line opened as my reward for the mental gymnastics I successfully completed to fully accept the Express Lane Rule Breakers with a good heart…but that’s how it starts…it’s a slippery slope as they say 🙂
Eshrink: I’m turning it over to you. Express Line Violators is the subject. What do you think is the best way to handle them? The rules are clear, the penalties are severe…treat them all the same? We are nothing if not a grocery store of rules? Maybe some passive aggressive tactics are warranted? Write below the line please.
ESHRINK EXPRESS LINE RESPONSE
On a planet of 7.7 billion inhabitants, it is clear there will be many different opinions as to what is acceptable behavior. Amongst the animal kingdom, there appear to be unwritten rules which have evolved in the service of the survival of each species. Since we humans with our big brains can find infinitely more ways to screw things up, we have developed millions of rules, most of which are ignored. Nevertheless, there have been many examples of the serious consequences to a society when there is no enforcement of rules as we now see in Central America, and even worse when rule makers and enforcers are corrupt leading to all kinds of atrocities. Our own country is now experiencing a crisis of sorts over the interpretation of rules.
As a matter of fact, for many, the reason for rules has been long forgotten, and some seem to enjoy circumventing them whether by robbing a bank or cheating at the check out line. I must admit there is something satisfying about “getting away” with something and there are instances when civil disobedience is honorable.
Although I consider myself to be a follow-the-rules kind of guy and would never consider violating the 10 items or less rule, I do recall pleasurable feelings regarding my violation of the “though shalt not steal” rule about 75 years ago. My friend Bill and I with malice aforethought carefully planned a midnight raid on the cider press In Jake Davis’s apple orchard. Although our presence was announced by Jake’s coon hounds, we managed to escape with a gallon jug of freshly squeezed cider which we proceeded to drink under cover of a near by haymow*. It was one of those clear crisp October nights when the grandeur of that night sky with its limitless canopy of stars was overwhelming, and one could hardly doubt the existence of a God. Nevertheless, we wallowed in our sinfulness without thought of retribution and quibbled over who was drinking the most cider. Now , I can attest to the fact that a half gallon or so of fresh apple cider can have a dramatic effect on an adolescent colon. This can be especially disconcerting when said adolescent spends much of a cold autumn night perched over a privy* hole.
You may be wondering what this has to do with the question at hand and the answer is probably nothing. However, I do remember thinking that I would never ever steal anything again. Could it be that by extension, that mantra includes other forms of ethical behaviors, leaving me stuck with the compulsion to heed the 10 or less item sign?
Regarding Maggie’s query as to how to handle the problem, I have no answers, but as usual can offer a complaint. Rules are made to be if not broken as some would have it, at least to be tested (a la the Trump response to congressional queries); consequently if there are no penalties rules are unenforceable and therefore worthless. If a store makes a rule, they should be prepared to enforce it otherwise, as Maggie points out, they are complicit. As for confrontation of the offender- probably not a good idea in the era of concealed carry permits.