Mea Culpa, Me a Jerka

I don’t know if you’re within the sound of my voice, dear gentleman I passive aggressively wronged at the entrance to the Shenandoah WalMart last Monday morning, but let this stand as my public apology to you. I’m sorry.

You were entering the store, I was the guy in the blue flannel shirt, exiting with a half-full cart of groceries, sundry items and my youngest daughter, Jojo, in the kiddie seat. We met midway through the interior automatic sliding door and I incorrectly commented that you and another gentleman right in front of you (not sure if you guys were together and I need to double this apology) had “opted to come in through the out door.”

Again, I’m sorry. I was wrong. It was the “in” door and, aside from being a cheeky, sarcastic jerk, I was apparently disoriented after coming from the Customer Service desk prior to leaving instead of my normal route via the checkout aisles.

Here’s the deal: At the register, following a brief, blitzkrieg shopping venture, I was anxiously preparing to conclude while chatting up the staff and goaltending Jojo’s relentless attempts to push, pull or pilfer anything within arm’s reach. Maybe it was the mild chaos I seem to tote in tow, but the cashier dude forgot to scan my coupons ($4.00! No sneezy pittance!) and had to direct me over to Customer Service to process a cash refund. So close to just waving it off, I decided ($4.00!!!) to go ahead and get my due.

Naturally, a counter that had mere moments before been as free and open as the Serengeti was, when I arrived with an increasingly fidgety toddler, occupied by a couple with some return situation so complex as to require two employees hovering over the terminal with the intense, focused expression normally demanded by an abstract calculus problem. As the minutes clicked by and Jojo became ever more erratic and impatient, I felt my chest tighten, my calm breathing morph into heavy sighing and the gears in my bitter brain start to grind against one another.

Wait, no, it wasn’t their fault. I’m doing it again. That cashier seemed a bit new at the task and made a simple mistake, maybe it was even mine as a novice coupon presenter. Did I hand them over too late? Too early? Plus, returns at the Customer Service desk always involve a bit of deduction. Was it from a different store? Did they want cash, a dis-charge to their debit card, a replacement? I’m sure the clerk and manager were doing their darndest to resolve the situation and focus on the customers at hand.

To those three, for my implication of ignorance over the previous two paragraphs, I solemnly, here in view of the greater community, apologize.

Where were we?

Oh yeah, got my four bucks finally and, not exactly boiling but, due to the restraint of my annoyance and angst at an unexpected 5-7 minute detour of our little lightning strike grocery store hike, at least bubbling with latent sarcasm and huffery, I headed toward the door.

I feel obliged to insert, here and now, the depth to which I detest the practice of using the wrong door at the Shenandoah Walmart. In clear, concise, impossible to misunderstand directions they are boldly labeled “Enter” and “Exit.” These are not simple suggestions or guidelines, these are calls to action. Using the correct one might indeed require a person or even group of people to walk an extra 10-15 feet depending on where they parked the vehicle and happen to be orienteering whence, but geez does it help with the flow of foot traffic and eliminate those annoying little head-on encounters.

Of course, even with the proper ingress and egress procedure, you get the frequent rubber neckers and purse checkers who choose to halt precisely in the middle of the “road” and bring everyone behind them to a complete stop…but that’s a gripe for another day.

“Flow” is a bit of an obsession for me. I generally like to move briskly through the world, whether on foot, in a car or even between the Points A and B of my mind. At least in the first two environments, American civilization has come to fairly basic accord on how to accommodate both the slow and the speedy, the coming and the going. You drive on a certain side of the street, road or highway. If that particular parcel of pavement is wide enough to allow for multiple lanes, you remain in the one on the right side until and unless you need to move around someone else. It’s a beautiful, elegantly straightforward solution and only requires universal understanding and acceptance to function to all of our benefits.

If you choose or, more accurately, blindly default to the chaos of operating independent of said simple rules, the whole thing falls apart and leads to, at worst, bone-crushing, viscera-spewing collisions and, at best, a harmless though overly worded diatribe from a frustrated, middle-aged former sports reporter. Thank the fates you’re only experiencing the latter in this particular instance.

So, there I am, “flow” foremost in my mind, approaching a simmer of annoyance and primed for a righteous, passive-aggressive encounter and – click – misfire. Again, sweet, unsuspecting, “Enter”-abiding citizen who met my muted, misdirected mini-wrath that Monday morning, I was a jerk and I’m sorry.

But it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Oh, sure that time, but…