Opinion » Bill Cope

Mr. Cope's Cave: Rolling Rude

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What I'm about to tell you is probably old news for you. It could easily go back as far as the beginnings of that technology which enables cell phone users to type out little messages on their mobile phones and send them on to people who, if they were honest, would admit they don't give a shit what their friend is up to at any given moment.

But yesterday was the first time I've personally run into this particular embodiment of gross inconsideration, largely because I don't spend much time in grocery stores. And when I do go to such places, I invariably qualify for the ten items or less check-out line. In fact, ten whole items in my cart would probably mean my wife has gone someplace for a couple of weeks, and I've been left to fend for myself. Other than times like those, I scoot in and out fast, only to pick up whatever it is I can't find in a convenience store. Horseradish, for instance. Few, if any, are the convenience stores that carry horseradish.

But yesterday, I had reason to go looking for a very specific item that I know I would find in neither a convenience store, nor my nearest neighborhood grocery store. I knew this, because in the past, I've looked. I knew there was only one place within 20-minutes driving time that I would find this item, and that it was a place I would normally avoid as though it were the very birthplace of ebola.

It's not important to this story what that specific item I went for is, or the name of the joint I went to find it. Just believe me when I say it is a very, very big store where lots and lots of people go—especially on Saturday mornings, which yesterday was—to buy groceries in large quantities. Even on slow days, which yesterday wasn't, you could easily have to stand in a check-out line behind someone with enough groceries in their cart to feed a refugee camp for a day.

Yet another reason I avoid going there is because, and don't ask me why, it seems far too many of the shoppers in this place are oblivious to who might be in their line of fire as they push their grocery carts in and out the aisles. I try to make eye contact with them as I maneuver my own cart through the traffic, if for no other reason than to decide whether they are aware I'm there and will take reasonable steps to avoid a collision. But eye contact is not one of the things you find much of in this place. The result is, it's like trying to walk across a bumper car deck the size of a football field, and the cars are being driven by zombies, all being compelled to find not brains to eat, but canned peaches or discounted cheese.

And to make matters worse, any aisle wide enough to allow two carts to pass one another safely is where the displays go. You know, those random stacks of tomato paste or sundry items the store managers don't know what else to do with. It was in one such aisle, loaded with displays, I encountered this newest threat to the modern world: Shoppers pushing a grocery cart with one hand and composing a text message with the other!

Like I said, you've probably been experiencing this sort of thoughtlessness for years now. And of course, we are all accustomed to the practice of teenagers and other morons doing it while trying to drive a car.

But in a busy grocery store? ... already packed with people who act like they're the only ones in the place? ... that was new to me. There I was, trying to scurry as fast as possible to the farthest corner of this very large store, when coming straight at me is a woman with two toddlers in her cart and her eyes on the little screen in her free hand, punching out a message that she evidently felt was just too goddamn important to either 1) put off until a time when she wasn't inconveniencing everyone around her, or 2) pull over to the side of the aisle until she had completed whatever indispensable message she was sending.

I thought, surely, she will look up before she runs into that young employee stocking a display. But, no. He saw her coming too and had to duck into the same space between displays that I had designated for my own escape. It was too late for me to turn. There was no place to back up. There was nothing else I could do but take my cart by the meshing and jerk it sideways out of her path.

Even with all that, she never looked up. As she passed, she was still pecking away, telling somebody, somewhere, something they probably didn't give a shit whether they knew or not.

I will never know whether her appalling lack of consideration was the result of 1) bad breeding, 2) an ingrained, "F**k you!" attitude coming from years of reading Ayn Rand and listening to Libertarians, or 3)sheer stupidity. But before I found what I was after and got the hell out of that store, I saw the same phenomenon repeated three more times. Three different women, all with the same concentrated apathy to the people around them.

How long do you suppose it will it be before we hear of a "shopping cart rage" incident? And who will be at fault? ... the person who vacantly pushes a full cart over someone else's foot and isn't thoughtful enough even to say "I'm sorry?" ... or the person who retaliates by lobbing a can of Spaghettios at the idiot's head?