I’m a bit territorial. It started with having my own bedroom as a child. While most kids go through the “Mine!” phase when they’re two or three years old, I hit that stage about fifteen years later when I first began college. Can’t say it ever really went away either. My first roommate. Lovely girl. Pre-med student… And in our room 24/7 studying – or as I saw it, in my room 24/7 studying. It all just went downhill from there.
Case in point: I’m one of those people who gets mildly irritated when I notice a car following me to my parking spot, especially if I see other spaces open in the vicinity. I’ll turn and give a big ‘ole smile – “Sure, you can have my space!” Then I’ll take my sweet time putting my bags in the trunk, pulling on my seat belt, adjusting my rearview mirror. That spot is mine until I am good and ready to leave it.
Same goes with those coveted seats in a crowded bar. Maybe my friends and I are ready to leave. Maybe not. Maybe I’d like to take in the ambiance for a couple minutes more. What of it? If I see you lurking behind me or I can feel your beer breath on my neck or I can hear you yelling drunkenly to your friends, “Those are about to open up!” forget it. You’re not getting our seats.
Yet I’m not evil all the time. Just depends on my mood. However, the one place where my territorialism rears its ugly head on a regular basis is at the store. Specifically, a store with a conveyor belt. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about unloading your desired items and then having to wait to purchase them that brings out the worst in people – or just me.
That said, I feel all Americans – in fact, all citizens of the world – should be entitled to wait in line without getting their bums bumped every thirty seconds by the shopping cart of some impatient mom who thinks that moving ahead those oh so critical two inches will actually get her out of the store any faster. Then there’s her screaming tot who’s throwing a tantrum because she won’t buy him the toy/candy/DVD he so desperately must have. I know she wants to get the hell out of Dodge. I also would like for her to get the hell out of Dodge. Doesn’t mean I’m cool with her attempt to bully me through checkout. First bump I’ll ignore. Second bump, she gets a look. Third bump, I will “kindly” ask her to back off.
That’s the typical irritation I experience. However, while recently at the grocery store, I encountered a new and intriguing kind of annoying shopper: The Conveyor Belt Stealer. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Please explain what that means.” Happily.
You see, I was just minding my own business, laying my items on the belt while waiting for my turn to checkout. When all of a sudden this mom and her son pull up behind me and begin putting their groceries on the belt before I’ve finished with mine. Isn’t there an understood rule of shopping courtesy? You don’t start unloading until the person in front of you is done? I looked at them incredulously. I never had this happen before. For a second, I even cracked a smile because it was so absurd. What was I supposed to do? Hand over my items one by one to the cashier? Instead, I locked eyes with the mom and (probably rather tersely) said, “I’m not done yet.” She didn’t actually respond, just looked over to her son… but they stopped. Problem solved.
So now I’m checking out. No bagger in sight, but it’s fine. I slide my cart to the end of the lane and begin to bag my own groceries. However, the petty side of me begins to grow, as the cashier doesn’t so much as mutter a “thanks” for the help. Instead, she just tells me my total and proceeds to watch me bag the rest of my groceries. Okay, beginning to get a tad angry… Like Bruce Banner on the verge of Hulking out. I finish up, but as I attempt to pay, I see that Mom Belt Stealer and Son Belt Stealer have pushed up their cart to block me from even getting close enough to hand the cashier my money. At that point, I could no longer contain my fury. I barked at them, “I’m not done yet! Move your cart back!” Again, they didn’t say anything to me, nor did they move. So I moved the cart for them. Yes, I bumped it back just enough to hand over my cash and then proceeded to angrily stomp away.
That’s when the mom finally spoke… in Russian. I think. Oh… maybe they don’t speak English. At that point, I somewhat sheepishly pushed my cart out of the store while rewinding the events of the last five minutes. I still maintain that you just don’t take another person’s belt space while they’re trying to unload their items. On the other hand, I probably just raised my blood pressure by about ten points only to vent on someone who didn’t even understand what I was saying. So… Next time I’ll use the self-checkout kiosk. And perhaps pick up a book or two on Zen.