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.
Glenda - November 22, 2019 7:24 am
Great post, it’s true and humorous!
Karen - November 22, 2019 7:25 am
I am saddened that this happened to this woman. I once was rude and belittling to a young man working at American Eagle. At CHRISTMAS. I went back to apologize to him later, but he was not there. I went to see a
a therapist, and he told me I was angry because my father had recently died, and it was unexpected. There is no excuse for being unkind. I still wish I could apologize to that boy.
Meredith Smith - November 22, 2019 10:31 am
Sean, I live my life by the mantra of being Kind. Thank you for this column. (And thank you for making it funny too!). You are a crack shot!
Meredith Smith - November 22, 2019 10:44 am
Karen, I am sorry. It sounds like you did everything in your power to make things right. I am sure that boy, who works in retail, has recovered. I know that doesn’t heal your memory but hopefully it helps. Have a lovely Christmas Season this year and know that from this vantage point you seem to be a wonderful person. ❤️
Leigh Amiot - November 22, 2019 11:49 am
If you ever come through Valdosta, Georgia, let me know, and I’ll make you and Jamie some spaghetti sauce from scratch. There are only two things I can think of I make better than my mother did, and spaghetti sauce is one of them. She made, drum roll, Chef Boyardee. (The other thing is cream gravy.)
When I was a young wife and mother, I browned hamburger and added it to Prego (not Ragu, hope I’m not being a jerk) and thought it was gourmet offerings. A Better Homes and Garden cookbook taught me a better way to make spaghetti sauce.
Naomi - November 22, 2019 12:33 pm
This is for all the young parents who read your blog. Please let your boys join the Boy Scouts and your girls join the Girl Scouts. It might not keep all of them from becoming jerks, but it sure teaches all of them out to treat people.
Ala Red Clay Girl - November 22, 2019 1:04 pm
A great reminder to be kind – especially needed at this time of year with the holidays approaching!
Karen - November 22, 2019 1:07 pm
Thank you, Meredith. ❤️
Lynda Clemons - November 22, 2019 1:16 pm
I find the more I do the unexpected kindness, the less I see the jerks. It’s amazing how often I see little ways to make someone’s day a little nicer. In turn, so many taller people help this short woman reach one-on-one of-reach items in the grocery store m. 😊
Brenda Paragould AR - November 22, 2019 1:39 pm
Karma. One day he won’t be able to reach the chips, just sayin……
jswearen - November 22, 2019 1:52 pm
It’s called loving somebody forward. Taking an act of anger and a**holery and offering a kinder option.
Shelton A. - November 22, 2019 1:54 pm
I am tall and constantly get asked by short folks to reach stuff for them. If they ask, “Can you reach those….”, I reply that I can indeed reach them. If they ask, “Would you please reach up and get me…”, whatever, I do it. It gets annoying to be someone’s ladder every 2-3 minutes (it is on-going every trip to the store). Can I reach them, yes; will I reach them, depends on how I’m asked. Politeness scores points, being commanded, not so much. Got to tell you, Sean, now it all depends on how I’m asked. It gets old after a while when you are interrupted repeatedly while trying to get your list covered. Story viewed from the other side of the coin.
Phil S. - November 22, 2019 2:13 pm
More good sermon material, Sean. You are over-the-top Biblical. We are all a bit jerkish. Thanks for reminding us. It’s that cheap spaghetti sauce we eat.
Connie Havard Ryland - November 22, 2019 2:26 pm
Thanks Sean. I’m a very short, older person and it’s often hard to reach things on shelves. However, I will step on another shelf to reach it myself before I ask someone to get it for me. People can be mean and rude. Love and hugs.
Mariam - November 22, 2019 3:05 pm
Please advertise when you get him on an event in Valdosta! I live 30 mi away & will be there…. we went to lake city last night to see him! Such a treat! Good luck !
Rebecca Cotney - November 22, 2019 3:26 pm
I try so hard to be kind & respectful. I volunteer to reach things on high shelves when I think people are struggling & I always try to look people in the eye & smile, I often get one back. I’m not out for sainthood just trying to do what I hope others will do for me one day.
Jan - November 22, 2019 3:49 pm
Love this column! Unfortunately, this is the world we live in! It takes no more time or effort to be nice than it takes to be a jerk. As my mother would say, “Please play nice! If you don’t, no dessert” or worst of all … “go get a switch and bring it back”.
Brenda Harvey - November 22, 2019 3:50 pm
Wow, this really resonates with me right now. Well said!!!! I am really burned out on dealing with jerks.
Linda Moon - November 22, 2019 5:19 pm
That new-fangled internet, darn it! Grocery store digressions in my world usually occur when “someone” (no names disclosed) forgets the list or just needs clarification from the actual list if it’s in his/her possession. I’ll add one phrase to your concluding advice to Be Nice. Be Kind, too. Put the device down and make eye contact with people. You’ll probably be nicely surprised to see some kind people who are not JERKS!
Jackie - November 22, 2019 7:03 pm
It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by so many turkeys.
Martha Young - November 22, 2019 11:12 pm
We should be called the Ununited State of Jerks ! It’s getting worse by the day.
Mary Rice - November 23, 2019 12:20 am
Saw Sean last night in Lake City, Florida. If he ever appears anywhere close to where you live be sure, make that be positive, to go to his show. Was an 8 hour round trip for me driving on I-75 (the highway that frequently resembles a parking lot cause there are too many cars on it). He is great to read but wonderful in person. Was the best birthday I’ve had in many a year.
Carol - November 23, 2019 12:51 am
I hope one day to see and meet him .
Got to remind my children my bday is next month two days befor Christmas, just make it one big gift 🎉🎂😀
D S Doom - November 23, 2019 1:36 am
“There is no valid reason to be rude” R Gray
jack - November 23, 2019 2:31 am
You shoulda…………… Well Jerks will be jerks cause there is a Jerk DNA that cannot be extracted. I drink green tea, it is and anti-jerk serum that wards off jerks. Well maybe except some distant kin. It never works on ’em.
Enjoyed the read, and I see we have a lot in common about the million varieties of something that at one time was simple.
Sherry & jack
Judy - November 23, 2019 3:51 pm
I think most of us agree…there is no valid reason to be rude. None. We may get “get tired of being asked” but I can almost guarantee the asker would rather not need to ask. I am not short, nor tall. I will do my best to climb without destroying anything before I ask for help. But when I do ask, or if it is offered, I am profusely grateful. I am a nurse, I can vouch that what goes around comes around. The way we treat other people is important.
Alan Darden - November 23, 2019 11:25 pm
I think it would be a good idea if you would send this to our esteemed legislators (Both House and Senate) in Washington.
Dawn Bratcher - November 24, 2019 2:03 am
‘Tis the season to keep this in mind —Just be kind! ❤💙💜💚
Anne P. - November 24, 2019 3:33 am
Like my grandmother always said- “now don’t be ugly”. There are lots of ugly people now a days. Sad.
Bette - November 26, 2019 5:00 pm
I find just the opposite. As a little old lady, walking with a cane, almost every time I’m out people ask me if I need any help carrying packages, putting groceries in the car, etc.
Tim Galloway - December 18, 2019 11:25 am
There has always been rude, angry, people, who in our mind are acting like jerks. Some of that may be how they were raised, but some may be what they are going through. Extend Grace and try to show kindness where you can. Yes, and Scouting does try to teach manners and respect through their programs The Scout Laws are a Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, & Reverent….
Carolyn Molyneux - December 18, 2019 3:19 pm
May that guy get a bag of Soviet style stale potato chips flavored with seaweed in his Christmas stocking.
Jim Baker - December 18, 2019 9:38 pm
At 6′ 4″ I never considered it an inconvenience to help someone.
Jim Baker - December 18, 2019 9:39 pm
I’ll always be happy to help
Carolyn Clark - December 21, 2019 4:52 am
When I was a child and we were saying goodbye to aunts, grandmas, etc, they would tell us “Be sweet.” We need more of that.