This holiday season has the potential to be a good season as long as you aren’t a total jerk.
The question is, how do you NOT be a jerk when the world is full of jerks? They’re literally everywhere. Waiting on every corner. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to flatten four or five jerks just backing out of your driveway.
Lots of people act like jerks nowadays. It’s become “trendy” and “hip” to be a jerk. Personally, I blame that there newfangled internets.
Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and I saw something very jerkish. Three strangers stood in an aisle, browsing shelves. A man, a college-age girl, and a little old woman.
They were all standing at the shelf of potato chips. You know the aisle. Every store has a potato-chip aisle. In this aisle are roughly 127,024,211 bags of Frito-Lay products.
Which just goes to show you that times have certainly changed. When we were kids there were only three kinds of chips available. Fritos, potato chips, and those stale pretzels your mother used to buy which tasted like leftover rations from World War II.
But today, thanks to society’s great thinkers and brilliant minds, we have tons of chip-brand choices. They have such weird flavors out now that I cannot imagine normal people actually spending money on these things. Chips such as—these are actual flavors:
—Cinnamon and Sugar Pringles.
—Walker’s Shrimp Cocktail Crisps.
—Flaming Steak Chips.
—Peanut Butter potato chips.
—Lay’s Nori Seaweed Flavored potato chips.
I wish I could have been at the marketing meeting when someone came up with seaweed potato chips.
“Hey, I have an idea, Frank! Let’s make a potato chip that tastes like material scraped from the bottom of the ocean floor!”
“I love it!”
“I second this motion!”
“All in favor, say aye!”
“We’re all gonna lose our jobs for this, aren’t we?”
Food has definitely changed over the years. Not just chips. When I was a boy, everyone’s parents basically fell into two camps when it came to food. The Ragu Spaghetti Sauce camp, or the Store-Brand-Generic Spaghetti Sauce camp.
Back then, we had a lot of crummy store-brand foods that came in white-labeled, or yellow-labeled, no-frills cans with bold government text on the labels, reading: “Meat Product” or “Chickenish Soup.”
These were manufactured by wholesale grocer brands with names like “Best Value,” or “Pride Save,” or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Food!” And while this generic stuff LOOKED like actual food, it would squirm on your plate and occasionally make little snarling sounds when you stabbed it with a fork. But it was cheap. A lot cheaper than name-brand food.
So blue-collar people like my parents could buy this stuff and save bundles of money in the store.
Take spaghetti. Expensive designer spaghetti noodles with brand-name Ragu ran around $2.19 per supper. Whereas knock-off-brand spaghetti dinner would only cost the working man $2.16. The savings spoke for themselves.
So my mother served Soviet-style spaghetti sauce growing up, but all my friends’ mothers used Ragu because—I can only assume—they loved their children. When I would eat spaghetti at my friends’ houses, I would smuggle Tupperware containers in my trousers so I could bring leftovers home.
These are the things that go through my mind when I am in the grocery store. Like when I saw these three people I was telling you about. I almost forgot about them.
So here’s what happened:
The old woman asks the man if he would be kind enough to reach upward and get a bag of chips from the top shelf.
The man gives her a dirty look. Then, after a few seconds, he actually sighs. He rolls his eyes and says, “Why? Just get them yourself.”
Let’s pause for a moment.
Did you hear that loud sound? That was the sound of 2.3 million Boy Scouts of America gasping in unison.
And it gets better. So after the man acts like this, the college girl reacts to his remark. She says, “Hey, man, you’re a real @*#&$!, you know that?”
I won’t tell you the actual word she used, but the human body has seven holes, and this word refers to one of these famous orifices.
So the man says back to the girl, “Nobody asked you, @&*#!”
The young woman says, “Quit being such a @&*#!”
By now the old woman is so mortified she is shuffling away, chipless. Finally, she turns around and says to them, “I’m really sorry,” and settles for a bag of army surplus pretzels. Even after I tried to intervene.
And that’s what got me. Here was a little, sweet woman, who looks like my mother, apologizing to people who are acting like jerks.
So as I was saying earlier, this world has too many people behaving like jerks. Maybe these people aren’t actual jerks deep down inside, but they are certainly acting that way. And there is no difference between acting like a jerk and being a jerk.
So maybe you are out there reading this and wondering if sometimes you behave a little unkindly. I’m not criticizing you because you have your reasons. But I want you to know that it’s not too late to start being sweet. All you have to do is try.
And when you sit around the supper table tonight, in the warmth of kith and kin, I wish you love, happiness, kindness, and above all, I hope your mother loves you enough to use Ragu.
Be nice. Please.
No chips were harmed in the making of this column.