Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Civility in Real America

I'm consuming way too much news. For a while (read: during the 2016 election), I was ignoring most everything. I deleted that Apple News app and put myself on a media blackout.

I do think I was happier then. Obliviousness has its benefits.

Then the world became too dangerous to ignore. The headlines are burdensome, but it's become obvious that ordinary people need to pay attention. Bad things are happening.
Living a quiet life in a sleepy suburb north of Pittsburgh, it's easy to delude oneself into believing that these things are all happening elsewhere. The border with Mexico. Big cities. DC area restaurants. Even the frequent protests calling for police accountability in the shooting death of Antwon Rose can seem distant though they're really just a 30-minute drive away.

Here in southwestern PA 'burbs, we're all just minding our own business. Those trendy "elite" fads take years if not decades to make it here. We're insulated. So even in these tumultuous times, we're living our lives the same way we always have. Aren't we?

Maybe not.

A few weeks ago, circumstances led me to put in an order for a Wal-mart pickup for 6pm on a Monday. I've used the Wal-mart grocery pickup regularly for about six months (this is not an ad, my blog is too cool for paid promotions). My usual plan is to grocery shop via app in the evening and schedule the pickup for the first available in the morning. On this particular Monday, I missed it. Needing groceries and totally unwilling to actually go INTO the Walmart, I took the evening appointment.

It hadn't rained in weeks, so it was Alanis Morisette ironic that on the evening of my sojourn to Wally World, the area was pummelled by torrential downpours. Some areas were hit with 2" of rain in an hour. There was significant flooding.

My husband drove the whole family over to the Pittsburgh Mills where we were to pick up the Walmart order and pop into Sam's Club for items that were absolutely required for the next day. We arrived at the grocery pickup parking lot. No one came out. Three more cars parked to wait for their groceries. No one came out.

Finally, I called the phone number on the sign in front of our parking space. The friendly grocery pickup person said that they don't come out in an active lightning storm (makes sense) and I should go to the store to get the order.

So that's a good bit of info for future Walmart pickup orders. We managed to fling the food into the trunk without getting completely soaked. Just mostly soaked and there was still Sam's Club.

We decided that I would go into the store with my daughter and my husband would come get us when we were done. He could put the car under the loading dock awning at the appropriate time.

We set out to effect this plan. It was like Armageddon in the Sam's Club. All of the emergency exit doors had several inch deep puddles extending in a six-foot diameter semi-circle into the store. Employees were running around with trash cans, moving pallets, and catching torrents of water coming in through the roof.

Meanwhile, in the parking lot, my husband assessed the situation and determined it would be least disruptive for him to maneuver the car and put just the back end under the roof. He was in constant communication with me (that was fun in the floody store) and was sure not to inconvenience any other shoppers looking for relief from the rainstorm.

The owner of a big black pickup truck that had parked under the roof for his ENTIRE Sam's Club shopping trip returned just as my husband was getting out to open the trunk.

"You better not *&^@ing block me!" was his opener.
"Excuse me?"
"You better not be @#%%ing blocking my truck!"
"It will be okay," my husband said. "You have room to get out."
There may have been even more expletives from the truck guy, I'm not sure.
"You have a blessed day, sir," my husband says.
The truck driver drove off (he could do that because my husband hadn't blocked him) and gave my husband the finger.

At this moment, I came out of the store with my cart and my daughter. I was feeling pretty smart because it was still coming down in buckets and here was my ride where I could load stuff in near complete dryness. And Tim, my husband, is smiling and waving at this black truck.

"Did you see someone you know?" I asked.
"I made friends with that guy," he said.

We exchanged storm stories on the way home and marveled at this mature (nearly elderly) gentleman's word choice. How did he manage to get so instantly angry? Does a lack of national civility work its way into our insulated bubble that quickly?

There's no way to know for sure. It is frightening to think that our fellow humans are walking around with that much rage inside them at any given moment. It's as though we're missing positive role models and our calm suburban lifestyle isn't that insulated at all. Perhaps this loss of small-town civility is a bigger warning sign than the daily national news headlines. It will definitely be harder to ignore.