Human Nature Nuggets

Unlike sheer instinct, human nature involves individual thought as to how we should handle or improve various situations. As homo sapiens, we never know what will happen as a result, but each of us tries by doing what we think is the best solution. Here are some examples…

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving: How It Can Bring Out the Worst in Us

I was caught in a traffic jam inside a grocery store last week—a jam-up of people so intent on buying food for their Thanksgiving festivities, they were rudely trying to force themselves and their carts ahead of everyone else.

The usual amenities of going up on one side of a main aisle and down on the other didn’t exist, and soon everyone was at a face-off—one solid mass of people coming from one direction, confronting another solid mass going the other way. The crowd was at a standstill, because nobody was willing to back up. Rounding the corner from a side aisle, I had inadvertently entered the mess and become trapped. Tempers began flaring, as the urgency of getting home so they could relax and have fun built up.

My human nature is to help others, so I struggled to shift my cart aside so a bewildered-looking woman facing me could get through. This, in turn, would have allowed a group of shoppers behind her to get through too, and ease the congestion. But a young man to my left rammed his cart against mine and snarled, “Haven’t you got any brains? Shove her cart out of the way so we can go!”

I wanted to tell the dummy how he was making matters worse, and that if he moved his cart momentarily, he and everyone else would be free to go. I wanted to tell him that he was probably 30 years younger than her, and for sure wasn’t being a gentleman. I wanted to (let’s just say physical assault on him entered my mind, even though he was at least six inches taller than me). I scanned the faces closest to him…no support there. They had become infected by his words. The woman tried to pull her cart back, but couldn’t. Too much “piggy syndrome” in the faces closest to us on her side, too. One wrong move on my part, and there seriously would have been a riot. As for the people further behind on both sides, they were oblivious to the situation. Impatience ruled.

All of this, because of a holiday meant to give thanks for our bounty. I’m not going to say what I actually did. Instead, put yourself in my situation. How would you have reacted, and what would you have done?

7 Comments:

Anonymous Maureen said...

Darlene, That's awful! I'm so sorry you had such a horrible experience. That must have been so scary and upsetting.

My first instinct would be to try and ease the congestion like you did by trying to let that woman through. I think the crowd mentality would be very frightnening though so I'm not sure how I'd manage the situation after that. I would probably be tempted to just give up shopping, leave my cart and get out of the store.

It sounds like it was an absolute nightmare! It's bad enough when people behave so badly but it's even worse at this time of year. Shame on them.

11/28/2005 6:46 AM  
Blogger I_Wonder said...

You had an interesting and frustrating experience. I tend to stand on the edges of crowds for this reason -- not to avoid being trapped but to be able to remain somewhat aloof from the situation. In group situations normally good, kind, intelligent people take on mob mentality and give up their personalities, values and freedsom. This is terribly disappointing.

11/28/2005 1:22 PM  
Blogger Zareba said...

I was shocked when I saw on TV the news footage about Black Friday shopping the day after Thanksgiving in the US. Here in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving on a Monday in October, giving us a long weekend, and no shopping rush afterward. I'm not saying we do it better, I doubt that we do, only that the significance of Thanksgiving seems to be lost everywhere. Our stores are full of Christmas items before the Halloween ones have been put away for another year. The Christmas lights are going up, the stores are humming with frantic mothers, trying to do their Christmas gift shopping with tired, cranky toddlers in tow.

The magic and meaning of our holiday celebrations have gone out, leaving only a commercial money grab! The stores are fighting to stay open 7 days a week so they can make more money. The traditions are being subverted so that more money needs to be spent to keep up with the neighbor's decorations,the name brand clothing the children wear, the amount of candy they get on Halloween and Easter....it is such a prevalent situation that i don't have any suggestions as to how to bring back the magic and the true meaning of our lives.

It is heartening to see others feeling the same way that i do, and I can hope that the dissatisfaction with the status quo will continue to spread.

...Z

11/28/2005 8:25 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

That is sad indeed. I wish the movement for Buy Nothing day, which is that day, would catch on.

11/29/2005 7:39 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Thanks for your empathy, everyone! I think my first reaction was shock. I had been in such a good mood before that. I go to that grocery store (one of a chain)at least three times a week, and have become friends with many of my fellow shoppers there, some of the managers, and most of the cashiers and other workers. I'm usually weary by the time I get there, but I always hum along with the background music.

I could tell immediately that someone had to ease the bottleneck so people could start moving. The most logical move would have been to let the woman get past, but the others seemed oblivious to the situation. I was in the most logical position to let her move, and actually, I think if the young blankety-blank hadn't lashed out like that, the other people would have let me allow her to get through, despite their impatience. But once he spouted off, everyone nearby lost it.

Amazing how the bitterness spread, even to me! Now I truly understand what they mean by crowd mentality. But at least I was able to hold in my anger, remain sensible, and back away, instead of joining the pack. (That's what I did, by the way. I backed away into the side aisle behind me. In some ways it seems like a cowardly move, but nobody was about to listen to reason. Hopefully my leaving helped ease the tension, but I'm still wondering how the mess was resolved. And I still feel bad that I couldn't help the woman.)

"I wonder"... You're right, by leaving her stranded I did give up my values, but I'm so glad I had the wisdom to choose to leave. I'm hoping that this move helped the others regain their usual good personalities.

11/29/2005 9:22 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Reflections: I think that guy very likely is always inconsiderate. I'll be he's also the type who wouldn't stop his car or slow down if a mother and child were trying to cross in the middle of a long block in 20 degree weather. Ooo, I'm still stewing!

On the other hand, today I had several stops on the way home from work, and traffic was crazy. But I slowed down so other people could cross, other cars slowed down when I tried to pull out from curbs... yep, I'm convinced the majority of people are like you who have responded here--just downright good, caring people!

11/30/2005 7:07 PM  
Anonymous sherrie said...

Hi Dar, what a terrible experience in the store. You made a wise decision after realizing that you could not control the situation. I would have done the same thing, even if it would have been soooo tempting to tell the young fellow off. It would have escalated the mob mentality. Love Sherrie

12/01/2005 6:10 PM  

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