When your bascart has a mind of its own…

Dear Amy: Here’s a typical scenario: I am walking on a trail that is only a few feet wide. Someone is coming toward me. Neither of us is wearing a mask.

I step off the trail to give the other person (and myself) space. The other person walks by without saying anything.

Am I wrong in thinking I should receive a “thank you” for moving aside?

Or, I’m in a market with the aisles marked as one-way and a person with a cart (with or without a mask) is coming in the other direction. I’ll either retreat from the aisle or face the shelves to allow the person to get by.

I passingly wonder if I should remind the person that they are walking the wrong way, but again, a “thank you” would be nice.

And then there are masks in general, the wearing of which seems to be devolving into a political statement.

I wear a mask in public (especially indoors), not because it protects me (most masks available to me will not prevent airborne viruses from getting through), but because it protects other people.

If we were going to be courteous to other people, wouldn’t we all wear a mask?

I realize that courtesy and etiquette in the age of COVID-19 is a minor issue (and it is a minor issue to me). But I think things would be a little better if we were more courteous with each other (and less political). Am getting too worked up about nothing?

I’d appreciate your thoughts.

— Seeking Too Much Courtesy?

Dear Seeking: You might benefit from some perspective. I wonder if for every instance of rudeness, there might be two or three of people demonstrating social kindness. But — rudeness takes up a lot of space.

In every instance you cite, I agree that you are being courteous, and the other person should acknowledge your courtesy. But — people don’t always behave in optimal ways. In American culture, we don’t seem to have a very rigid code of social conduct. This means that some people interpret their own personal freedom as license to behave however they want, claiming a sort of sovereign rule over what should be shared public space. (This is how going without a mask somehow becomes a political statement, rather than one of protecting public health.)

Also — lots of people weren’t raised as well as you may have been. Or — they’re having a bad day, are stuck in their heads, or distractedly walking the wrong way down an aisle accidentally.

One minor tip from me, to others: People should not necessarily wish for a verbal acknowledgment from a maskless person if they are also maskless.

As you know, the virus seems to be spread primarily through aerosolized particles expelled when people speak, cough or sneeze. A silent wave, thumbs up or head nod might be preferable to a verbal “thank you.” (c) Ask Amy

Seriously? The only justifications for not constantly saying thanks are: having a bad day, being stuck in your head, or being distracted? Hello, what about introversion, shyness, paranoia, lack of ability to engage in minor interactions, and/or a desire to avoid wasting social energy? What about the fact that social distancing was meant to make life easier for those of us who hate interacting, and the forced thank-yous would be counterproductive to that goal? (Okay, I get that social distancing was meant to prevent the spread of disease, not to bless introverts; but can’t we introverts have our moment without the good-manners police destroying it for us?)

My dad and I were taking a walk earlier today when a man passed us. He waved at both of us, and I managed to wave back and smile. For me, this was huge, and it sucked a lot of my energy away. He seemed encouraged by the reaction he got from me. (I suspect a lot of people in my neighborhood take perverse delight in trying to open me up.) That was fine, but then as we circled back around, we passed him again. I saw him coming, and I had no more social energy to give him a second time. He waved again, in quite a showy manner, and said, “How are you doing?” He peered closely at me and added, “Good?” I shied away from him and was unable to offer up the niceties I’d given the first time.

People who expect a thank-you–or anything at all, for that matter–from a complete stranger would do well to remember that everyone’s different, and that we aren’t all wired to engage in on-the-spot socializing. The letter writer isn’t getting worked up over nothing as much as she’s having unrealistic expectations of others. I would never project my own level of socializing onto a complete stranger and expect him/her to match me, introversion for introversion.

And on the topic of walking in a certain direction up a grocery store aisle: um, no. Not happening. And here’s why: dodging. I’m a master dodger because I attended a public middle school. If you also attended a public middle school, then I’m sure I don’t have to expand upon that point. Thank you.

My dodging skills are amazing. Feint left, dodge right, make my move during the brief moment that the old lady in front of me pauses to inspect her produce. It’s all about predicting the other person’s next move, and acting while the iron is hot. If you slow down and doubt your intuition, you’ve just lost. Dodging isn’t for the weak of heart. Sort of like cutting your own hair. But I digress.

The point is that I’m a great dodger, but I absolutely cannot incorporate walking in a particular direction with dodging. It’s amazing that I dodge as well as I do. Let’s not complicate it or otherwise make it more problematic. Thank you. (I should explain that my local grocery store is chaotic, and it has seriously bad feng shui. Not kidding.)

So I’d be unlikely to get mad at anyone for walking the wrong way, since I myself am guilty of it. What would anger me, though, would be someone who’s hogging the area and won’t let me past.

I passingly wonder if I should remind the person that they are walking the wrong way, but again, a “thank you” would be nice.

If someone were to “remind” me that I’m going the wrong way (are there signs up? Seriously? I just go where I go), my response would be, “WHAT?!”

(That’s not me trying to be rude. I have hearing issues, and I’m paranoid, and I hate being accosted for going the wrong way, of all things. I mean, it’s not like I’m driving a car. I’m just pushing a bascart. Geez.)

(Why Kroger’s named the carts “bascarts” is completely beyond me. Where were their heads during that staff meeting? Weren’t there any viable options other than “bascarts”? You could insult someone with that! “You bascart!”)

Anyway. “WHAT?!”

“You’re going the wrong way,” this letter writer would tell me.

Blank stare. Three seconds would pass. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. And then I’d flee the scene, noble bascart abandoned, not bothering to determine which way I’m supposed to go.

But that could just be me.

Run, Meg, run!


2 thoughts on “When your bascart has a mind of its own…

  1. “Also — lots of people weren’t raised as well as you may have been” — come now, Ask Amy, no need to inflate the letter writer’s high horse any more than it already is. And okay, that doesn’t really make sense, but it did in my head before I wrote it down.

    Liked by 1 person

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