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.