I’m not one to worry about being wrong. When it happens I either forget it or find something, no matter how small, to still be right about to make myself feel better. Those probably aren’t the healthiest methods for dealing with my humanity but they keep my sensitive ego from taking on even more of the consistencies of a faberge egg. A few nights ago though, my normally unshakeable sense of right was fractured. I’m thrown into anxiety making the simplest of decisions because I got into it with a lady at HEB and now I’m questioning my entire life.
Truthfully, it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t get into it with a lady at HEB so much as I got really annoyed by a lady at HEB. I was standing in the middle of the self checkout section, practically vibrating with anticipation for one of the scanners to open up so I can get the hell out of there, and she walks right into the middle of my personal space and asks, “Sir are you in line.” Now on the surface, one could argue her question was innocent. One could also argue the moon landing was fake, and they’d be just as wrong about that too. She knew what she was doing. She knew I was in line. I was standing in the dead middle of the self checkout line watching the scanners more intently than a hawk on a prairie dog town. I couldn’t have been more obviously in line than if I had put velvet ropes and a sign that said, “line starts here,” behind me. So I didn’t feel too bad when I tried to dismiss her with a curt, as least polite as possible, “yes ma’am I am.
It didn’t work. Undeterred in her attempt to jump ahead she said, “which line are you in,” to which I responded, “the self checkout line.” By now I’m full on annoyed. What is this lady driving at? Is she taking some passive aggressive route to allege she got here before me? Is she trying to say I’ve been standing in the wrong spot all along and it’s actually she who is up next? Nope. Worse. She threw the whole system into question and postulated, “yes but which one, there are six different registers and I’ve got my husband in the car.”
I couldn’t believe it! She went full anarchy and actually tried to suggest it wasn’t my position or timing that was wrong, but my method entirely! From behind her a fellow agent of chaos cried out, “That’s true there are five registers there ought to be five lines I’m bout to make my own line.” Oh hell no. I’ll be damned if I watch this devolve into dystopia, like a third line of cars rushing down the emergency shoulder during rush hour traffic. I urged my claim with a firm, “Ma’am! I am in whatever register opens up first, that’s what line I’m in. I’m in the line for the next register to open, that’s how this works.”
“Well I’ve got my husband in the car so I-” I stopped listening, both because the reason behind her deviousness had been confessed, and because a register became available and I wasn’t about to let these jackals scavenge what was rightfully mine.
As I watched two more registers open before I could walk to mine, instantly satisfying both the old woman and her ally in apocalypse, I became increasingly more frustrated. How could they be so insistent? Do they not know how self checkouts work? Is this their schtick? Question and harass until they get their way? Or, worse, am I in the wrong? I use self checkouts ninety percent of the time I go to the store, have I been throwing people off everywhere I go, an unwitting butt of jokes and disdain for my ignorance?
I think it’s ultimately situational. The Academy in my hometown has a single line leading to a bullpen of registers, but every Academy here in Austin has individual registers to choose from. Whole Foods has both individual registers and a partitioned bullpen customers go through a single line to reach. Every self checkout section I’ve ever used is open, allowing the unseen hand of Civility to guide behavior. So I think I’m still in the right. I think what happened that night wasn’t a case of my stubbornness blinding me to the truth, but a case of my righteousness nearly faltering in the face of chaotic maliciousness. Either way I’m still not right, I’ve still been questioning my entire life ever since I got into it with a lady at HEB
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