The other day, I found myself having to go to my local Walmart for a few things. I should be upfront about the fact that I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. Frankly, I love the prices. And, who doesn't love being able to get toilet paper, grapes, dog food, and sunblock all in one place? You can even do so while getting the oil changed in your car and your prescriptions filled. One-stop shopping at its finest.
But there's a downside. Something about the place just showcases the weird, the wild, and the woefully rude in people. Now, I'm all for weird. Weird is good. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Just check out www.peopleofwalmart.com if you don't believe me. But that's not what gets to me. It's the wild and rude that scrape at my nerves like nails on the proverbial chalkboard.
Which brings me to my recent shopping trip. I had just arrived and was making my usual circuitous route, pushing my cart towards the health care aisles. As I rounded the corner there, I could hear a woman hollering questions at the top of her lungs. “Well how many do they have?” wafted over the air from a disembodied voice. I continued on towards the back of the store and heard a man hollering back. I realized they were together. Rather than walk up to the products they needed and look together at their options, hubby was standing near the sporting goods trying his hardest to get what wifey wanted by answering her questions. From about 20 yards away.
I was mentally shaking my head, thinking about how discourteous they were, and how much easier it would have been for the wife to just walk over to the shelf and get what she wanted, as obviously whatever was going into that household was only coming in upon her approval, when I was nearly mowed down by three preteen boys on bikes. Yes, that's right. Bikes. Three boys riding bicycles through the store, startled customers jumping out of the way as they plowed through the crowds without warning. I gave them a distinct “What the . . . ?” look and continued on, wondering where the hell their parents were, then thinking maybe the parents' presence wouldn't be an improvement.
I picked up the pace, wanting more than ever to retreat to the relative sanity of my home. As I made my way down the aisles, I had a few near crashes with shoppers who felt the need to ram their carts through aisle traffic, waited patiently as several people made their selections while blocking the whole aisle, and smiled and said, “Excuse me,” despite the rudeness or complete lack of self awareness of those around me. I was determined to get out of there without pushing my mood into the toilet. But I could sense impending failure.
Finally, I pulled up to the checkout lanes. Huge lines behind every single one with a light told me I was in for more frustration. I sighed and chose one of the express lanes, happy I was leaving with well under the 20 item limit. I glanced to my right and saw a man pull up with a cart practically overflowing, standing in the express lane next to me. I had the overwhelming urge to throw a can of peas at his head. But I restrained myself. Partly because my inner Buddha told me that would be wrong. But mostly because I wasn't buying peas.
Having dumped my bags in the car and suffering from an itch to be far away from the place, I began down the main drive between the store and the parking area. I stopped for people in the crosswalk, watching a guy with his face buried in a magazine walk from the store to the parking lot, never once lifting his eyes away from the page. I guess I should have been impressed that at least it was a printed page and not a screen.
But that guy was the last straw. I thought to myself, “What is wrong with people? How did we become so rude, so thoughtless, so completely unaware of ourselves?” I thought, “we,” but I really meant, “they.” I'd like to think I'm not any of those things. I try really hard to be thoughtful of others. To be kind and courteous. I open doors for others, often let people with less things go ahead of me in line, ask people if I can help them reach things when I see them struggling. It's really not that hard. I swear it's not.
I've long thought my combination Southern and military upbringing was responsible for my manners. I still call people “ma'am” and “sir.” I say “please” and “thank you.” I would never, ever ride a bike through a store. I'm absolutely baffled by the overwhelming lack of manners in this world. When did that happen? I remember as a kid, being expected to be on my best behavior at all times. I remember my mama threatening to pull me in the bathroom if I needed behavior modification. I remember her counting to one. Not really sure what would have happened if she got to three. The death stare I got with one was enough to make me worried I'd pee my pants with fear and get in trouble anyway. I can't count how many times I've overheard a mom say, “ . . . two, two and a half, two and three quarters . . . “ What? Fairly sure my mama would have Ninja slapped me if she got past one. Or worse. But it never would have occurred to me to misbehave like that in the first place.
That instinctual sense of courtesy and respect have followed me into adulthood. And I'm grateful for it. I'm proud to be nice. Civilized. I'm careful not to embarrass myself or those I'm with in public. Not to say I haven't stuck my foot in my mouth at times. Hell, I've even wedged that sucker up to my thigh a time or two. It happens. But for the most part, I'm aware of my behavior and how it affects others. I don't understand how this has become such a foreign concept. I mean, how hard is it really to be polite? To be courteous? To not holler at someone from 20 yards away? I figure if I can make the effort to put a bra on before I go to the store, other people can make the effort to act slightly more civilized in return. But if you're going to insist on acting like a heathen in public, just keep in mind that someone with less manners may throw a can of peas at you.