Elaine: I will never understand people.
Jerry: They're the worst.
i have a hate-hate relationship with the general public. it's just the people i don't actually KNOW -- you know, the strangers i encounter in public in everyday life in a grocery store or riding the tube or walking down a sidewalk. they all seem to be assholes, you see. i often feel guilty and anti-social about feeling this way, but the above exchange from an old Seinfeld episode makes me feel a little less... alone in my feeling.
not too long ago (when i lived there) i thought people in Los Angeles were assholes. not my friends, of course, but the larger, general population. the sea of aggressive faces behind the wheels of the latest Mercedes sedan or more likely BMW sedan (BMW drivers were always the worst on the road, possibly because they were secretly envious of the Mercedes drivers and trying to prove something to the rest of the city). but it wasn't just people in traffic -- it was the people who bumped into you on Rodeo Drive without saying excuse me. the folks who stood in an elevator riding with you for 13 flights and never cracked a smile or even a nod. that sort.
but i had no idea what was in store for me when i got to London. people simply don't look at you. no one in London makes eye contact. ever. people shove into you on the street and don't say excuse me. people hover over grocery shelves with their shopping trolleys for prolonged periods of time blocking your access to the mustard or eggs without bothering to make room for other shoppers. they knock your purse off your shoulder or kick your suitcase without apologizing, and even better, most of the time they have seem to have liquor on their breath.
i assumed this was a plague of the city -- any city -- but it turns out i was wrong.
yesterday i was in a West Yorkshire-area Tesco. Tesco is a large, well-stocked chain grocery store here in England -- like Ralphs in California -- and West Yorkshire is a pleasant, quiet part of England with rolling green hills and moors dotted with sheep and cows. i was in Tesco buying some filet mignon, accompanying fresh vegetables and the ingredients for a homemade cherry pie.
when i got to the register there was just one person in line in front of me. super, i thought. it was a middle-aged white woman in a Rolling Stones t-shirt. she had a cart. in the cart were about a dozen bottles of low-level champagne. she started putting them on the conveyor belt. since the belt was rather long, my partner and i started stacking our purchases on another, totally separate, area of the conveyor belt. before we were even finished doing this the woman in front of us grabbed one of the grocery "separators" and slammed it down right on the edge of where our food started. she then used the separator to shove back all of our food even further away from the register, knocking a few items over in the process.
umm... excuse me?
the important thing to point out is that the woman was only buying the aforementioned dozen bottles of champagne. they were already being placed on the conveyor belt and she had a few feet (literally) of extra room between the end of her precious cheap champagne and the beginning of our pile of food. why did she feel the need to crush our food and shove it so far away from "her" part of the conveyor belt?
because even when you're in the countryside -- even when you're in the north of England in a tiny village of a town -- people are assholes.
i won't even go into how long the woman took to PAY for her stinking champagne. i'll just say that i stood there in line, seething. which seems to happen almost every time i leave the house these days. i admittedly end-up seething mad over the behavior of a total stranger who has acted rude for no reason. i stood there. and i seethed. i stared directly at the woman's face for a long time, hoping she was about to have the balls to look at me back, where she would see how ready to fight i was.
but she didn't look at me. because NO ONE looks at ANYONE anymore. it's much easier for people to go about their business of being fuckheads if they keep their eyes averted and avoid being reminded that they're treating their fellow man like garbage for no reason.
this is not unique to England, America, London or Los Angeles. this is a breakdown in western society. too many people live in bubbles, and to each man or woman, their own personal bubble is all that exists or matters. the concept of smiling or speaking to a stranger is utterly foreign, and this is not healthy for human beings on the whole. it creates a global army of apathetic jerkoffs. people who have become so into themselves that they can't even smile unless the recipient of said smile is someone they already know or need -- they can't say "pardon me" after they're barreled into you, perhaps unless they've done it in front of a large crowd of disapproving folks.
i have a lot more to say on this topic but i'll leave it at that. if you want to get away from assholes you're going to have to do a lot more than go on vacation in the country. you might have to join the NASA space exploration program.
and to the woman in the Stones t-shirt at Tesco who shoved my food? if i see you again i'll kick you in the god-damned throat.
and no, i'm not over-reacting.