I have often said that if you want to know about someone’s character (their true nature), you have to watch them at the grocery store -- when they think no one is looking.
I am a people watcher. And, in my mind, there is nothing more telling about a person’s character than when I watch them roaming around my local market. It’s in this tiny slice of food-dom that humanity converges into some kind of eerie who-can-be-the-rudest festival, where the biggest asshole wins.
I watch the woman silently tapping her foot and rolling her eyes as the elderly lady in front of her tries to carefully select her produce. I don’t blame the elderly lady, she’s on a fixed income after all. But home girl with the Coach handbag only cares about herself.
I see the mom feeling her kids grapes in the store that she just picked up, even though you are charged for grapes by the pound. It’s dishonest and she’s “stealing” because she is unprepared. It’s maddening.
I watch people count their items in the 10 items or less lane, see that they have 14 items, but slip through anyway. They are after all, “special”. The rules don’t apply to them.
I observe the folks who discard their cart, leaving it solidly in the middle of a parking space. You know, because the rules don’t apply to them either. Why should they have to pick up after themselves?
Truly, I could go on for days about the immoral behavior I observe while watching my fellow man (and woman) at the market. But, instead, I’d rather tell you how I deal with it.
When I come across an old woman, carefully selected her fruit or vegetables, I volunteer to help her, instead of greeting her caution with heavy sighs. I suggest things she could get in order for her to get the most for her money. I’ve actually had some lovely conversations this way.
I smile and nod at the mother who is feeding her kids grapes, raising an eyebrow in silence, hoping that one day she learns to behave better.
I am that asshole who says something when I’m behind that person who has the 14 items in the 10 items or less line. Usually they don’t like it, but that’s not my problem. You see, I follow the rules. In fact, after having done this on several occasions, many a haggard and tired clerk will usually relish me with praise. One person’s asshole can be another’s hero.
When I see someone who can’t be bothered with putting their cart back, I do it for them. And I hope they see me do it too. Perhaps if they do, they might have a little bit more sympathy for the kid who has to run around a parking lot in over 100 degree weather, collecting their mess.
I always smile at the random strangers I see in the market. I use the words, “Please, thank you, excuse me and I’m sorry,” religiously. Not because I want other people to notice, but because it’s the right thing to do.
Because if you want to change the world, you have to start with one person at a time, especially when you think no one else is watching. Because they are.