In Which Politeness is NOT A Bourgeois Concept To Make The Underclasses Shut Up.
Hello, couple shopping at Trader Joe’s in Fresh Pond! Gosh, sir, that is one well-pressed Oxford shirt and Dockers! You truly do belong here! And your daughter, too! WHAT? That’s not your daughter? That’s your wife!? Well, color me embarrassed! I got thrown by the faux-suede jacket, short hemp skirt over black tights and mid-calf faux-suede boots. But now that I look closer, I can see that sees closer to seventy. I beg your pardon!
It’s not that I hate all of Cambridge, just a great number of the people there. This might sound odd, but the Trader Joe’s in Newton, MA feels much more egalitarian than Cambridge. It makes a certain kind of sense, I guess, since Cambridge is the liberal touchstone of the East Coast (as opposed to the most liberal place on the East Coast which would be Provincetown). Almost everything in Cambridge costs more than it’s worth. Especially these two.
Here’s the set up – I’m standing in line waiting to checkout. In front of me is a fresh face woman in her late twenties. In front of her – these two. I’m happily listening to the audio version of That Is All by John Hodgman. There is an irony in this which I’ll save for the end. I’m not really paying that much attention but it’s starting to feel as if this line, consisting of me, the woman in front of me and the Cantabrigian fucktards is moving very, very slowly. Given the appropriate amount of personal space we’ve given each other, I hadn’t really noticed that the Ms. Cantabrigian had left and come back with some new item. On her second (possibly third) trip, I did. But, happily ensconced in my book, I shrugged and continued listening.
On her third (possibly fourth) trip, I took out one of my earbuds to pay a little more attention.
And then she took off on a fourth (possibly fifth) trip. I spoke to the woman in front of me.
“Um…is she honestly…”
“Yes,” said the woman with more grace than I could have mustered, “she’s shopping.”
“What th-”, I sputtered, comic book style. “Man, I know I could move but if I moved I’m sure the line I moved to would have some problem, too.”
The woman nodded but made her decision to move to another line. We smiled and shook our heads at each other. I pushed me cart forward taking her place.
“Excuse me,” I said, politely addressing the couple in my best Eddie Haskell voice. Mr. Cantabrigian looked over, assenting to allow me to speak. ”Are you guys…ya know… really famous or something?”
The two of them stared at me blankly, seemingly not understanding the question.
“I’m sorry,” said the man, “I’m not sure I understand the question.”
“I just want to know if you two are really famous. I mean, like…ya know…FAMOUS.” I waved my hands in a kind of TADA/Jazz Hands hybrid gesture to drive home my point. I’m not sure if it was their age or narcissism that prevented them from understanding either word or the pantomime. But they didn’t. So I continued.
“I just kind of figured that both of you must be really, really famous to think that you can shop AND checkout at the same time. Only the really famous or incredibly rude would inconvenience other people like you’re doing. I’ve been waiting probably about 5-10 mins while your wife runs back and forth. Which is fine because I’m enjoying my audio book. But I just wanted to know if you were famous or just rude.”
Oddly, they wouldn’t respond. They put their heads down, but only slightly as the cashier scanned and bagged. But Ms. Cantabrigian stayed put at least. I felt a little let down. I reached into my shopping cart and pulled out some scones.
“Hey,” I said brightly, “Did you get any of these? They’re my favorite! You should go get some. There’s still plenty of time! I can show you where they are!”
Their shoulders drooped a little.
“No, really,” I continued, “They’re amazing. You’d like them. Blueberry Scones. Yum!”
I continued to attempt to engage them and they continued to attempt to ignore me until their bags were in the cart.
“Bye! You guys are great! Thanks for holding everyone up! Hope it was worth it!”
As the cashier unloaded my stuff, she shook her head resignedly.
“That’s not even as bad as they get,” she sighed. “Thanks, though. It’s good to see someone call them on it.” The cashier at the next register agreed.
And THAT is the issue. THIS is where we stand in America today. In a sane, classless society, as we’re told America is, the cashier should have the power to say (politely) after the third trip back, “I’m sorry. Why don’t you finish your shopping and get back in line?” At a bare minimum, they should be able to ring for a manager, whose job it is to make things run smoothly, to kindly instruct these people on the etiquette of living in a civilized society. Rule #1: Don’t be a dick to those around you.
Instead, had the cashier spoken up, she probably would have gotten reprimanded. Had the manager spoken up, Mr. and Ms. Cantabrigian would have put up a fuss and stormed out railing about their rights to be the biggest assholes on the face of the earth and not be called out on it.
After I got checked out, I saw that an old friend appeared in the next checkout lane. I waited for her to get checked out and told her the story. She shook her head in amazement.
“Is it me or rudeness really being bred into people?”
“I think it’s being bred,” she said seriously. “I see this kind of thing more and more. Especially on the roads.”
Someone recently yelled at me via Facebook for asking them to be polite. “POLITENESS IS A BOURGEOIS CONCEPT TO MAKE THE UNDERCLASSES SHUT UP.” I swear to god, that’s what she said. I responded that if politeness was a bourgeois concept then she would have no problem with me calling her a cunt. And I did so.
Surprisingly, given her Marxist definition and rejection of politeness, she got upset.
It’s odd how that works.
I’m well aware of how old I sound right now. Honestly, I do. And despite calling people cunts and annoying strangers in lines at Trader Joe’s, I consider myself to be a polite person. I do my best to be civil. I honestly believe that something like holding a door for someone (regardless of gender) makes the world a little better place. Or stepping out of a line because you’re actually not done shopping yet. Kindness is kindness. Sometimes it comes out in standing up for a cashier who’s getting jerked around by a wealthy, 0ver-privileged pair of narcissists.
Or maybe I’m just being an asshole.