Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The People of Safeway

As I was walking out of Safeway the other day, I passed a woman who was walking in wearing one of those front-mounted baby carriers on her chest. Nothing odd about that, except the forward-facing passenger was not the usual requisite five-month-old baby. This lady was papoose-ing a tiny little dog. (Either that, or it was the ugliest five-month-old baby ever, but I was pretty sure it was one of those little yappy dogs.)

Now, I was raised right, and as a result, I have never been one to make fun of people. I grew up with the Golden Rule, and I am trying to pass that on to my own children to make sure that they always treat other people the same way they would want to be treated themselves.

But the shock of seeing a lady who had mistaken her pet for a human, and as such, was bringing her cutsy-wootsie, cuddily-wuddily little dog inside the grocery store, got the better of my better judgment. My hand instantly went for my cell phone in an attempt to get a picture of her.

The cell phone was half-way up to ready position when my good raising kicked back in and I stopped myself.

A moment of awkward subterfuge ensued as I reversed the course of the rising phone back down to “just checking my messages” elevation, and pretended to be interested in the screen in case she had seen me.

As I passed by her, staring at my blank screen, I was mildly disgusted with myself. Apparently, due to owning a smartphone, I am dangerously close to crossing the line from civilized adult to thoughtless, totally cyber-connected web monkey. My first reaction upon seeing this woman was, “Man, I’ve got to get a picture of her and post it on Facebook!”

I’m quite sure that when that lady woke up in the morning -- presumably with her yappy dog snuggled up next to her head on her pillow, licking her face in that super-adorable way that he does -- she never could have known that she would cause me, a complete stranger, to have a pretty serious moment of introspection. I walked past her thinking to myself that I am more than mildly hypocritical in this area of my life. The “People of Walmart” area of life, that is.

If you do not know about “People of Walmart,” it is a website dedicated to posting pictures coupled with hilariously sarcastic comments of various Walmart shoppers. With the possible exception of the “everything is a dollar” stores, Walmart seems to attract more human train wrecks per capita than most other stores. A long time ago, people began snapping secret photos of them with their cell phones and posting them online. The site is chock full of people shopping with their underwear on the outside of their clothes, people shopping in only their underwear, and people shopping in the opposite gender’s underwear. Generally, it’s people who have serious underwear issues, or don’t own mirrors, or both.

Here’s my problem. I think the “People of Walmart” site is hilarious. The things some people wear in public cracks me up. (Emphasis on the word “crack.”) So, if I enjoy the website, I should be willing to be a contributor, right? There’s where I got into a serious moral dilemma. When it came time for me to provide content for my own “People of Safeway” Facebook post, I couldn’t do it.

My first thought was not necessarily, “That isn’t a very nice thing to do.” The way I figure it, if you leave the house with a pet strapped onto your chest, you get what you get.

My first thought was, “What am I going to say if she catches me taking a picture of her?”

“Ma’am, can you please hold still so I can take a picture of you to post on the internet in hopes that my friends find your brand of ‘crazy dog lady’ as entertaining as I do?”

There was no way that was going to happen.

So, I guess what I learned about myself is this; my brand of Golden Rule has a lot of personal responsibility attached to it. I will enjoy seeing the picture of you on the internet if you decide to leave your house wearing a dog, but I am not willing to be the guy who personally makes you feel insecure about, or ashamed of, your choice to do so.

I’m still not 100% sure how hypocritical that makes me, but I really don’t care. I’m comfortable with it. I mean, if I ever got so far down the “my pet is a person” road that I was carrying Fifi around in a Baby Bjorn, or if I was going out in public wearing shorts that were eleven sizes too small, I couldn’t honestly expect you not to mock me. In some ways, I would hope that you would. Maybe that would be the kick in the vastly overexposed butt I would need to get back to reality.

I think I just need to get stealthier with my camera.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

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