this is a phrase i used to see fairly often on bumper stickers, and i used to think i wanted one for my car. it’s funny, yes. ironic? sure. antagonistic? perhaps. but as the years have gone by, i’ve attempted to adopt a positive outlook on life, and so i chose not to purchase this bumper sticker. despite the fact that it’s not always easy to see good or to be a positive force in our world, i think i have done a good job of not letting the turkeys get me down. over the past two weeks, however, i’ve encountered my fair share of gobblers and have uttered those three little words: mean people suck.
two weeks ago today, i was running a work errand at target, when i decided to make a pit stop in the restroom before doing my shopping. as i was washing my hands i noticed a set of keys sitting on the edge of a nearby sink. instead of picking them up, i chose to find a target employee to let them know about the keys. leaving the restroom in search of someone in a red polo, i overheard a woman say, “well, we must have set them down somewhere, honey. let’s re-trace our steps.” i turned to find a mother of three pushing a cart, complete with baby, while her two older kids, worried looks on their faces, went in all directions; no doubt, this was their attempt to “help,” but i think it just frustrated mom even more. i approached her and alerted her to the keys i had seen in the restroom. she looked at me and uttered a relieved, “oh!,” then looked at her daughter and asked her to go find the keys on the sink in the bathroom. and then she promptly turned to follow the girl. “you’re welcome,” i thought, as they walked away. okay, so this woman wasn’t mean. just pre-occupied and, i’m sure, flustered. even so, a quick “thanks” would have been nice. nevermind. i’m just a whiner.
this past weekend, though, i experienced random acts of meanness as i stood in what i thought was a line at jewel, a local grocery store. “the jewel,” as we chicagoans call it, has four self-check-out stations for which standing in line has confused many a customer. is there one line for these two stations and another for those two? is there a separate line for each of the four? if so, where do you find room to stand? the management recently decided to do their best to make it easy on us by posting a sign between the two areas, stating that customers should make one line up to the sign and then use the next available station.
when i went to pay, i saw two people in line, but off to the side of the sign. no big deal. but because it was busy and the line they had begun forming would eventually extend into the line for the next check-out aisle, i decided to stand toward the center of the stations, just a step or two away from the person in front of me. after a couple of minutes, i saw a cart inch up to my left, just behind the woman in line in front of (what i thought was) me. when she stepped forward, i did the same, and the cart inched even closer. a man said, “uh, the line is over here, ya know. we’ve been standing here a lot longer than you.” i explained, as kindly as i could, that i hadn’t seen him there when i got in line, and that i was standing where i was to avoid getting mixed up in the next line over. this fifty-plus-year-old man looked at me with disgust and said, as though he were five, “well, that’s not the way to do it.” i stared at him in disbelief and said, “it’s one way to do it,” to which he replied, “it’s not a good way.” oh. my. gosh. i rolled my eyes at him, said, “whatever,” and went to the end of the now-much-longer line.
by the time i made it to the check-out station, i had stewed over this incident enough that i was angry, and i tossed my items down on the ledge. after paying for them and starting to walk away, i realized that my container of cool whip was nowhere to be seen. i looked back at where i had just been and, there, on the floor behind where i had checked out, was the errant whipped topping. i returned to pick it up and headed back to the end of the line—again—this time in a huff because not a single person in line behind me called it to my attention. “what is with people?” i screamed inside.
as i crouched down to double-check my receipt, the man in front of me in line offered to let me go ahead of him. what? what’s this? kindness? from a stranger? unheard of! on this particular day in the line at jewel i was convinced grace didn’t exist. i thanked him, but said that it was fine and that i could just wait, but he insisted. so i took my container of cool whip up to the next available station, this time fighting back tears of frustration, and put $1.97 on my debit card—of course i didn’t have enough cash—and was on my way.
for me, the worst part about these instances (at jewel, that is—key-less target mom no longer qualifies) is that i didn’t intentionally do anything to provoke this man’s snarky comments, nor did i give anyone any reason to stand by silently as an item i intended to purchase fell out of my sight. even though i know it’s not true, i felt invisible and insignificant, and i hate that i let the situation do that. maybe david is right and that man is unhappy and takes it out on innocent bystanders. or maybe he’s just a jerk. i’ll never know, and i can’t stew over it or it will make me crazy.
it’s not always easy to see good or to be a positive force in our world, but it also doesn’t take much to be kind and show someone grace. as aesop wrote, “no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” i’m going to work on remembering that, especially on days when i’d rather speak those three little words.