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Social Etiquette

At the party,
you’re shoved into a room
because your feet keep pushing you around,
because they’re bossy and without direction,
because they realize that, without them,
you would never stand up for yourself.

The room has nothing for you,
and you,
nothing for it.

The only other organisms
are sewn into the bushel of beige carpet
and nestled under the rims of beer bottles,
solidified in cells of saliva.

Your feet push toward the hall
when another organism,
similar in size,
froths forward into the room
by the same footy misfortune.

You hesitate departure,
pretending your placement has purpose,
only to clear your throat
and let out a single interested hum,
looking at pictures on the wall
as if you’re still the only one:
a compulsive fidget of acknowledgement,
impersonal, impassive and indirect –
like being thirteen and uncomfortably shifting
your position on the couch
while watching a sex scene
in a movie
with your parents.

Turn to leave again,
orphaning your bottle
to its brethren.

Make eyes for the first time,
raise brows,
half smile,
as not to be rude.
Leave.

Harsh Words at the Big Bird

I would like to share with you an occurrence that happened to me last week. Something mundane enough to probably happen in any given store, on any day, yet interesting enough to take note and question. The setting is a Giant Eagle grocery store. Let’s begin:

There’s about ten lines open and about five people in every line. Somehow, around 50 people decided to come to the grocery store, make their selections in amounts of time that could all be seemingly unrelated, but end up at the front registers all at the same moment. The lines were practically empty when we walked in, and now they’re all full. The workings of the universe never seem to favor an even distribution, as our statistical bell curves like to fantasize. Instead, the supreme forces like to take long pauses from their work – perhaps they’re napping or eating or something; I’m sure forces can afford to work at their own pace – then they compile all doings into a single instant, making it sometimes hard to navigate life around, or through, their dog-piling of occurrences.

Because it’s 6:30 on a Friday, everyone is just coming off work, stopping at the grocery store for a few of the weekend’s items, and then fleeing home to unwind. But now, in this small insignificant, unmemorable moment of their lives, they are impatiently locked into ten relatively even lines, afraid to move their place, yet constantly on the lookout for a row of persons that could be shorter. But there is no such row. I watch as new fish from the ocean of frozen food and toilet paper swim upstream into the creeks of their choosing. Most glide back and forth across the creeks until they realize that one isn’t any better than the next.

I place my more-than-full basket on the ground in front of me and kick it along with the edge of my foot as those ahead finish up and make their escape, while my girlfriend dips back into the ocean to grab “one more thing.” She gets back up by the time we’re the penultimate to ring out at the self-checkout. The consumer ahead of us is a fat, black woman, wearing a beige, coffee stained, one-piece dress that hangs slightly off the left shoulder. She idly lifts items from her cart and fumbles with scanning them onto the conveyor-belt.

“Is she gunna fucken take all day,” says, in an audibly loud voice, the restless, 20-something, fat white girl behind us, “Does she not fucken realize that there’s a line here?”

I looked back at the foul-mouthed fatty and then up at the woman ahead, seeing if she appeared to hear. If she would have looked back and showed any sign that she did hear, I was going to shrug my shoulders at her and audaciously exclaim, “Dumb white bitches,” with a sympathetic shake of my head. But she never did.

“You know she can probably hear you,” said my girlfriend, turning behind. Her method of retort was direct and aimed at the core. My method would not have been so forthright. “So. I don’t care. Maybe it’ll make her move faster,” said the gutter-jaw, standing next to what appeared to be her more mum mother. “Are you ladies in a hurry?” I butted in. “Yah, we actually are,” she said. “Oh, damn, well… we’re not. So get comfortable,” I said, with a cheerful smile. She made some sort of huffy noise, and her mom finally spoke up and told her to take it easy.

I spent a good minute or so mentally trashing the woman behind us. How could she be so inconsiderate? I realize that she might be in a hurry, but that doesn’t call for being disrespectful. Initially, I planned on making the girl wait a good long time, as I slowly punched in each barcode manually. But then, as if a higher ethical being grabbed hold of my words, I said something completely contrary to the arsenal of attacks I was previously stewing over.

“Would you ladies like to go ahead of us?” I asked, “You only have a few things.”

“No. We can wait,” said the girl.

By this time the woman ahead was getting ready to pay. My girlfriend, also moved by some act of divine morality, took the liberty of helping her bag her goods, in order to get the line moving quickly.

Why would we do this? Why would we give this brat the satisfaction of bullying her way through the line, when instead we could have made her sweat it out a little longer? The answer to this I’m not entirely sure, and frankly I don’t think it really matters. Although, what was most amazing was the girl’s response to my invitation of granted passage: “No. We can wait.” As if all the bickering about being in a hurry never even happened.

I’m not very well versed in either the behavioral or social sciences, but I would like to speculate that the girl was slightly embarrassed over her outcry. Personally, I don’t think that she was in a hurry at all, but rather, I think she frequently has inclinations to complain about situations in her life for no other reason but habit. It’s been said that at a certain age, people generally get stuck with the face they deserve, and this portly precious looked like a pig that spent its whole life dissatisfied with the quality of her mud. At least pigs have the satisfaction of enjoying orgasms for 30 minutes; I doubt this girl’s ability to enjoy anything for 30 minutes without blurting, “Is this gunna fucken take all day?”

Anyway, dear reader, and I probably say that in a singular sense, what are your thoughts? Why do people publicly display rudeness to others, only to bite their tongue as if they could care less when their demands are given in to? I don’t know, maybe I’m the asshole in this situation. After all, I’m the one with the long-winded cynicism.