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Having heard that the weather is supposedly not going to shine on the long holiday weekend plans of those of us in the Northeast, Thursday night I decided to get my shopping out of the way early, so that I wouldn’t have to schlep my groceries home in the rain.

Since it was a balmy spring evening, I traveled out to the bigger of the two  Trader Joe’s in my area, at a time when ordinarily I’d be as far away from the place as I could get. Oh well, I didn’t have to wait too long for a train and when I got to the store, not only was there a dog tied up out front that let me scritch him behind the ears, but the woman for whom I held open the door said “thank you”. I found a cart easily and the place wasn’t too crowded. “It’s a sign”, I thought to myself. “This was a good idea.”

I didn’t have a lot to get and I had made a list (another point for me!). It took me no time to gather all but the last thing I needed…popcorn. I should preface this next part of the story by saying, I love popcorn. Love it. It is the one thing I could never, ever do without. Lately, I have become addicted to Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn. It is my new obsession and I’ve gotten the people in my office hooked, too. It’s not only better, but it’s more than half the price of the last stuff I was obsessed with.

As I approached the desired section of the snack aisle, I noticed that a man and a woman were parked right in front of the popcorn. They had two carts and were loading it with bags by the armful. I had a moment of panic until I noticed that they weren’t loading up on “my” popcorn.  So I parked my cart and I waited…and I waited…and I waited.

By now they are having a debate about whether or not they should get as many bags of white cheddar as they have movie theater butter or whether they’ll need more of the latter and what about this kind popped in olive oil?  Since it’s been several minutes, they either have not noticed me politely waiting for them to finish or are ignoring me.  I decided that I’d waited long enough. I said “Excuse me” and tried to reach around the woman to grab a bag of the Kettle Corn. Again, she either didn’t hear me or she ignored me, but she moved into my path.

I moved back to my cart to decide my next move. If this had been at the beginning of my expedition, I’d have gotten everything else and come back. I could also have just left without the popcorn. But I’d waited this long, I wasn’t leaving without it.  I finally said, in a voice perhaps louder than it needed to be, but I wasn’t taking any chances of not being heard,”Excuse me, are you almost done?”

The two of them, who had by now gone back to loading up both of their baskets, paused mid bag-grab and turned around to stare at me. The man merely looked affronted. The woman gave me a look as if I’d just belched the alphabet and blew it in her direction. Me, I’m standing there with a smile on my face. (I swear.)

A child appeared out of nowhere and said, “We’re stocking up on popcorn”. I was starting to feel like a schmuck while they stuffed their final arm-loads into their carts.  The woman whipped the thing around and clipped the side of my cart, causing it to run over my foot. As she did so I heard her tell me to “Have a nice evening” in a tone that suggested I didn’t deserve any such thing, and she clearly wished me otherwise.  Hubs trailed behind her with his cart, muttering something under his breath while the kid tried to keep up.

The entire time that I stood in the checkout line, waited for the train and then made the return trip, I replayed the whole incident in my head, having conversations that allowed me to explain to them that I wasn’t trying to be rude to THEM, but there are limits. I finally realized that I was being ridiculous and even if they were also obsessing and convincing themselves of how wrong I was and even if they spend the weekend discussing the matter with their friends over bridge and popcorn, so what? If I let them take up space in my head or affect my mood then I really am a schmuck.

The problem is mine. When I said there are limits, I meant that there are limits to what I’ll put up with from other people. I’m becoming less and less tolerant of bad behavior and incivility. The terms “common sense” and “common courtesy” mean that these are things that everyone (or the majority of people who live in our society) should possess and exhibit. They are supposed to be the norm and not the exceptions. I’m turning into Howard Beale from “Network”. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

Truly, I think the universe is telling me I need to get out of this city before I turn into one of those people you see in the subway, that everyone assumes is crazy so they give them a wide berth, railing at strangers and telling those damn kids to turn down their music.

Even if I only think that because I was already thinking it, it’s a sign.

I’m sure more of you, gentle readers, can relate to this than not. I shared my latest tale of urban umbrage with you, what’s your story? Feel free to vent your spleen in the comments.

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