Today’s column is a reflection on two fronts: Common courtesy and plastic bag bans. And first, my usual disclaimer when I dip a toe anywhere near political issues: I’m not going to get political. In 20-plus years of writing this column, I don’t get political. I did write a column once about 15 years ago about how maybe we’d all be better served by ignoring vicious political attack ads, and that didn’t end well for my inbox, so if you have a strong opinion on plastic bag bans, super! But I’m not really here to debate that.
First, let’s talk common courtesy. I was in line at a store recently and was ready to check out, with about a dozen items cradled in my arms. I did not have a basket or cart, because as usual I came for only a couple of items and my hubris got the better of me.
As I approached the open lanes, I saw that two were lit up. One had a backlog of three people. The other, on the right, had one. As I approached the open aisle, I noticed that the woman checking out on the left was having some issues with her purchase, and the clerk was on the intercom trying to get some assistance. It was clear there was going to be a delay on the left.
I stopped short of the conveyer belt and made eye contact with the second person in line on the left. I said, “You can go in front of me.” She smiled politely and said, “It’s fine. I’m in no hurry.” Same offer to the third person in line. Same answer.
So be it.
As I stepped up to my spot in line, I set my order down on the belt. The person in front of me also began having some checkout issues, so both of our lines were stalled. More shoppers began backing up behind us. After several minutes of zero progress, a clerk emerged from somewhere and took a spot to my right, behind another register. She said to me, “Sir, I can take you here.”
Now some of you may be thinking Fast Pass jackpot! And my response is NO! Bad shopper! I said to the clerk, as I motioned to the folks standing still on the left, “They’ve been waiting longer than I have. Can you get them?”
The second woman in the left line was very appreciative and took me up on the offer. As far I know, she could have been there for hours. The third woman said she would just wait it out.
Assuming my line would be moving along soon enough, I sat patiently. And nothing happened. As the woman who had been in the left checked out to my right, I noticed motion behind me. It was the woman who had come up behind me in line and had absolutely heard and seen what all was transpiring with the stalling lines. Did she offer the spot to me? To the woman in the left lane who was still waiting? Of course not. She darted like a greyhound to get that open spot.
And the other folks behind me? Scurried like rats to line up in the only functioning lane in the store. Every shopper for himself, I guess.
Eventually, my lane and the left lane figured out their issues and started moving forward. As I was checking out, the clerk asked me, “Did you bring your own bag? Because otherwise we have to charge you for a bag.”
I normally bring my own bags to the store, but had not on this trip. But the way she phrased this kind of annoyed me. I said, “Look, I know you don’t make the policies, but you don’t HAVE to charge me for a bag. Corporate chooses to charge me for a bag. But no. I’ll just carry everything.”
At that point, the woman who had been third in line on the left lane and patiently waiting as the jackals swarmed to the functioning lane, extended a hand with a bag in it. “Here…” she said, handing me a bag. I smiled and told her thank you. She nodded back. She gets it.
At the end of the day, the episode just reminded me of two things we should all remind ourselves: (1) Be mindful and courteous of other people and (2) Remember to bring your bags.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at www.mikeslife.us.