Don’t Be One of Those People

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 behave like 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 accidentally injure four or five aspiring curmudgeons just backing out of your driveway.

I do not mean to be critical here, and I’m not saying these people ARE jerks, but facts are facts. And the fact is lots of people ACT like jerks nowadays. It’s become “trendy” and “hip” to be a jerk. Personally, I blame the 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. Here are some of the following potato-chip flavors actually on the market:

—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 supermarket food. Like, for example, spaghetti sauce. Your mom was either in the Ragu Spaghetti Sauce camp, or the Store-Brand-Generic Spaghetti Sauce camp. I hated store-brand canned foods.

Back then, we had lots of crummy store-brand foods. They usually came in white-labeled, no-frills tin 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 getting back to my story. 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 an annoyed look. Then, after a few seconds he actually sighs and says, “You’re tall enough, lady, get them yourself.”

Let’s pause for a moment.


Did you hear that loud sound in the far-off distance? That was the sound of 2.3 million ultra polite Boy Scouts of America having a heart attack in unison.

And it gets better.

After the man acts like this, a college girl nearby 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.

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. Before I can attempt to intervene she walks away.

And that’s what got me. Here was a sweet woman, who looks like my mother, actually APOLOGIZING to people who are acting like jerks. As though she did something wrong.

So as I was saying earlier, this world has too many people behaving like jerks. Maybe these people aren’t literal fools deep down inside, but they are certainly putting on a great act. And I’m hard pressed to find many differences 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 toward your fellow man. I’m not criticizing you because you have your reasons, and your own circumstances. Certainly, a pandemic has not made life any easier for anyone. 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 the people in your life are kind enough to treat you with respect. Because you absolutely deserve it.

And so does everyone else you meet.

Be nice. Please.


  1. Te Burt - November 23, 2020 12:28 pm

    It sems the innate good manners that were a hallmark of Southern gentility, no matter your economic status, have disappeared. My mother tried to get me to say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” for years without success. And that was in the 1950s in Tennessee, when and where those were de rigueur if you were to be accepted into polite society. She’d be proud, though: I never did pick up the habit, but I learned that good manners were based on real reasons: You don’t get kicked out of the laundromat!

  2. Greyn - November 23, 2020 12:36 pm

    The jerkish have always been amongst us. Unfortunately such behavior is fast becoming the “ new normal” and this less subject to challenge, O tempore, o mores. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with all that is deserving of indignation, scorn, and outrage. A periodic retreat to the old reading niche is good medicine.

  3. Beryl - November 23, 2020 12:37 pm

    Mean, entitled, arrogant, ruthless, jerks are everywhere. The only control I have is how I respond to them. Do they annoy me, surprise me, make me wonder what has happened to the the simple act of kindness, you bet. I try to pause, with a breath, and find a way to connect to their humanity. It’s that simple AND it is NOT easy. It puts the onus on me. As with any change in behavior, it requires practice. Being a jerk back to a jerk only cultivates more jerk-like behaviors. Calling out a jerk puts them on the defensive and the expletives get louder and more offensive. Shaming a jerk it probably what caused them to become jerks. I am not making excuses for the behavior. Giving kindness back is what stops a jerk in their tracks. Even if it’s only for a moment, a new seed has been planted. Then when a further kindness is granted to this fellow human a change, for them, can occur. Don’t let other people’s behavior make your into a bitter person transforming you into the next member of the club, “Don’t Be One Of Those People”.

  4. Debby - November 23, 2020 12:41 pm

    Hi Sean! I’m a newcomer to your blog after reading a few of your amazing books! I find myself looking forward to a new story every morning. Thank you! Love your humor and sense of decency. Happy thanksgiving from Maine!

  5. Rhonda - November 23, 2020 12:47 pm

    AMEN! I see it everyday. I prayed about and God said, Well Mama, Do something about it. So don’t surprised if you act ugly in front of me and I dress you down. Not like a stranger, but like your MAMA. And I am good at it! I reached the wise old hussy stage of my life at the exit right moment in time!

  6. David Charles Clubb - November 23, 2020 12:49 pm

    When I was a kid living in North Carolina, if an elder asks for help, you give it without any discussion. Still is how we live. If my friends observed that situation and outcome, we’d given her the requested chips and met the old boy in the parking lot after he finished shopping for a re-education in proper manners.

  7. Heidi - November 23, 2020 12:53 pm

    I used to work at a large retail hardware store. Nothing was worse than Christmas time when we started to run out of Christmas lights. People got so mean when they couldn’t get the strands they needed to finish their displays. We all dreaded Christmas. Sad huh. Kindness matters.

  8. Bud Carroll - November 23, 2020 12:56 pm

    Actually I LOVE seaweed flavor foods. Japanese and Korean diets are FULL of this very healthy food. The more crunchy kind is my favorite. Strangely, while I’m a crunchy p.b freak, I don’t want p.b. flavored potato chips.

  9. Melanie - November 23, 2020 1:12 pm

    Lord yes I remember the black and white boxes. 🤣
    I think it may have had a profound influence on my wardrobe for the rest of my life. 😆

  10. Pilgrim, Jax Fl - November 23, 2020 1:13 pm

    I was going to leave a comment. But I can’t say it better than others already have.
    Have Blessed Holidays, in spite of the jerks.

  11. Jean - November 23, 2020 1:17 pm


  12. Grace - November 23, 2020 1:25 pm

    They were love insecure so they pass it along. Sad. They need kindness training. The ones that need love the most are the hardest to give it to.
    Keep a kindness reminder in every piece. Sean. Thanks.

  13. Shelton A. - November 23, 2020 1:27 pm

    Great column! You didn’t reach enough people, though. Shame. Good reminder for me and I appreciate it. I’m tall, so I get asked to reach stuff for others a lot. Helps to contain jerkish notions in general.

  14. Jo Ann - November 23, 2020 1:38 pm

    That could have been me asking someone to reach something high on the shelf. I’m vertically challenged & getting older by the minute, so I’m less likely to climb the shelves as I once did frequently. But, in my case, no one has ever declined to help, thankfully. If I had seen the action that you described, I’m afraid I would have said something, but not with the expletives, I hope. The older I get, the less I care what jerky people think of me. One advantage of being old!!

  15. NAOMI - November 23, 2020 1:40 pm

    So far, I have not run into any of these jerks. People open doors for me; they have helped me load my groceries, etc., and almost all of the tell me to have a good day.

  16. Mary Nell - November 23, 2020 1:51 pm

    ❤️ well said. I enjoy your Podcast

  17. Priscilla Moody - November 23, 2020 1:53 pm

    You are so spot on and this is sad…but you are wrong on the spaghetti sauce. My mom never opened a jar of any kind of sauce. Always from scratch with Sunday’s left over roast, if there was any left over.

  18. Julie Young - November 23, 2020 2:02 pm

    I literally lol’ed at this comment. Thanks, Melanie!

  19. JANE B MAJORS - November 23, 2020 2:03 pm

    SO TRUE…… kind and give grace. I hope you got her those chips Sean………

  20. Dottie Doherty - November 23, 2020 2:21 pm

    I have to say I’m kind of short and every time I have asked someone taller to reach something for me, they have always responded with a smile and whatever I was reaching for. How sad. And it wasn’t only Boy Scouts having a heart attack, that was all decent people shaking their heads in disbelief.

  21. E. Ann - November 23, 2020 2:57 pm

    I’m with Pilgrim above; great comments to today’s column have been stated already! Thank you all! Their superb comments came because of your insightful words as usual, Sean. Thank you too.

    It is amazing that so many people think they can call out bad behavior in others by behaving badly themselves. The man was obviously angry already and gave up on his own habit of helping short people in general and ladies in particular to the detriment of one short lady. Instead of ignoring such jerky behavior and helping the short lady with her request, the young woman, who no doubt believes it is her role to be an enforcer of certain anger-based beliefs, turned into an angry jerk herself by ignoring the lady and engaging in kind with the angry man. The poor, short lady witness to this crude scene remained a lady herself, sighed, apologized (?!), and sadly walked away without her chips. Sounds familiar; I am a polite, short lady who apologizes often and is used to the kindness of strangers helping her in grocery stores and elsewhere. I too have noted sad examples of such jerk behaviors due to unfortunate changing norms. I too, on occasion, have also acted like a jerk myself, but usually without the use of dirty words.🥴 And I haven’t been inside of a grocery store this year (surgery; pandemic; home deliveries, etc.).

    We all hope the madness of polarization assailing our minds, behaviors and lives due to rampant demagoguery, non-stop manipulations and the trials of this pandemic will only be a passing bad patch. We all hope humanity will emerge from bleak year(s) triumphant and better for these difficult experiences thereafter. You are helping to make it so with your writings, Sean of the South. Thank you!

  22. Phil (Brown Marlin) - November 23, 2020 3:05 pm

    Amen, Bro! Reminds me of that old song by Glen Campbell, “Try a Little Kindness.”

  23. Susie Murphy - November 23, 2020 3:12 pm

    Yes. Just yes.

  24. Don Helton - November 23, 2020 3:55 pm

    Am I to believe this little old lady moved so fast that you couldn’t have stepped into the situation. The problem is not only a serious overload of jerks out there, but there are also far too many “good people” who “don’t want to get involved”. Otherwise known as wimps. This seemed so much unlike you. tsk, tsk.

  25. Mindy Fernandes - November 23, 2020 3:59 pm

    I love this

  26. Deborah L Blount - November 23, 2020 4:11 pm

    Well said. Amen.

  27. Sarah Dyess - November 23, 2020 4:25 pm

    Great reply, Beryl! Well put ~~ “Being a jerk back to a jerk only cultivates more jerk-like behaviors. Calling out a jerk puts them on the defensive . . . ” I see this not so much in person but VERY much so on social media. I agree that it’s simple but not easy to try to connect their humanity, show empathy, and plant seeds of kindness.

  28. DRD - November 23, 2020 4:42 pm

    Please, please, PLEASE, tell me this isn’t true. The college age lady didn’t just say “wow.”: and get the chips for her? Yowza.

    We teach best by example, since scolding just creates more ugliness.

  29. Laura - November 23, 2020 4:54 pm

    To this day, I don’t wait for someone to ask for my assistance reaching things. I immediately offer if it looks like they are having a tough time. That college girl should have stepped up and helped out instead of calling out the jerk male (won’t call him a man, he hasn’t earned it). It’s really not hard to just be polite and helpful.

  30. David Doom - November 23, 2020 5:33 pm

    There is never a valid reason to be rude. Maybe we need a re-release of “What the world needs now is love sweet love.”

  31. Linda Moon - November 23, 2020 5:49 pm

    There are lots of “wheres” with jerks, but they’re not to be found in every “where”, thank goodness. You are right, Sean…. the internets have changed people. When Mr. Zimmerman sang about the times that are a’changing long ago, I don’t think the great Dylan even envisioned some of the changes. I’m living for one sunny day when my guy and I can meet you again at a LIVE event…no internets allowed. I’ll be nice, and I promise to be nice to two old guys between now and then who need some extra TLC!

  32. Denise Walker - November 23, 2020 6:11 pm

    What happened to our world???? Your article is timely and sound. Thanks for bringing it to our collective attention. It is a good reminder to all. Thank you

  33. billllly - November 23, 2020 7:23 pm

    This is why a short older lady should wear high heels to the grocery. It probably wouldn’t make her tall enough to reach the product she wanted, but it would make a hard stomp to the instep an effective response.

  34. Geoff - November 23, 2020 7:56 pm

    Why didn’t you reach up and give her the chips? I am sure the old lady was not sprinting away too fast for you to catch her.

  35. Celia B. - November 23, 2020 8:05 pm

    This old retired school teacher has a difficult time not correcting young and old when they act like jerks, or are insensitive to the feelings of others. Being small in stature, but big in voice, and proper manners, you best not think I’ll ignore your bad behavior. So far it has worked, but with today’s feelings of “It’s my RIGHT!”, I’ll probably need to dial it back once we regain some normalcy.

  36. elizabethroosje - November 23, 2020 11:09 pm

    Man, that would have been awful to see! I always feel shocked and discouraged about this sort of thing. I had a friend who went through a really hard time with this sort of thing and she just kept reminding herself of this: “hurt people hurt people”… What a lot of the hurting who hurt others don’t seem to realize is how GOOD you would feel if you actually were NICE to people; it’s like when you smile you can actually feel better and laughing, even better yet. Just keep your eye on all the GOOD that you have so beautifully told us about; that is perhaps the best solution to seeing painful situations. God bless you Sean!

  37. Amy - November 24, 2020 12:08 am


  38. Christie - November 24, 2020 1:21 am

    And thats my grocery shopping experience every single time. Everything is out of stock, out of reach and now significantly over-priced. People run disabled, slower shoppers down in their haste. Its a harrowing experience and I lose my appetite for food and humanity at the same time.
    Be kind has become a catch phrase, a cute little wooden plaque to display. We need to spread kindness not just plaque it. Even behind our mandated masks, I still smile at people. People need hope and kindness. Great article Sean.

  39. Deanna Cignetti - November 24, 2020 2:57 am

    Your column made me tear up, especially the sentence about be sweet.Our 95 year old father passed away the first part of November. He ended every phone conversation with “ we love you and be sweet”. I am going to try to live by his words “Be sweet”

  40. Susan Kennedy - November 24, 2020 11:26 pm

    I wish I had been there. Poor little lady…

  41. Kathy - November 25, 2020 1:58 pm

    Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always be a little kinder than necessary – J.M. Barrie I agree.

  42. Barbara J Schweck - November 26, 2020 3:52 am

    In America, you can be anything that you won’t to be, so choose to be kind!

  43. Robert Chiles - November 26, 2020 4:36 pm

    Well, at least there wasn’t a gun battle

  44. Sandra Siegel - November 27, 2020 7:03 pm

    I wish that more time and money was spent on improving the human condition than dreaming up different flavors of potato chips.


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