A school bus on the road? It’s 5:30 p.m., and this yellow, diesel-y lumbering metal nightmare is actually making stops to drop off students. How can this be? I’m tired, I just want to be home, and of all the slow, smelly luck: Here I am stuck behind this … this bus!
Wait a second here. Am I actually waxing catastrophic because I’m driving 10 miles slower than I prefer, occasionally stopping for eight-second intervals to allow these poor critters to finally get home after what must have been a nine-hour day? Gee, since when did I become so special?
Well, that’s just it. I’m not special. That bus had every right to be on the road at any hour, really, and heck, it had more occupants than me. Younger and more promising, too. So, where do I get off with this sense of entitlement? When did it all become about Elizabeth in Elizabeth’s day, and to the backburner with the rest of humanity?
I don’t know. I guess I have gotten impatient over the years, and almost everything I do in my day is just one more hurdle I must hoof over before I get to be home where it’s quiet and warm, and where my heart hangs his baseball cap. But it’s not like my day is oh-so draining. My job is pretty cool. I get my weekends off, full benefits, and I’m cautiously confident in my ability to remain relevant and valuable to my employer. (I hope).
Maybe it isn’t my age or present phase of life at all. Maybe the me-first mentality that I sometimes reveal is really just me offering my regular contribution to the overall sense of collective entitlement our whole society sinks its claws into, about ourselves. And I kinda blame this on Wal-Mart.
Don’t be fooled – I have mad love for the only retailer I can afford most of the time, but my unique perspective as a former teenaged employee who worked at the original Staunton store (you know, near Blockbuster Video), conjures up a groan-worthy memory. Through my training, I learned that customers could return an item bought there and get a full cash refund without a receipt, and few or no questions asked. At least, back then they could; I know the store has tightened up on that policy since, as they should – if only you could have seen some of the stunts consumers pulled on powerless returns clerks. It’s the funniest thing, though; I also remember that I couldn’t help noticing soon after learning of such a generous policy, people everywhere seemed more demanding, more irrational, more easily offended. No, not just Wal-Mart customers – I mean, people everywhere. A wait in line at the grocery store checkout was suddenly a personal insult worthy of loud declarations of indignation from the guy behind me, or a polite explanation of store policy to the customer in line in front of me was suddenly grounds for a lawsuit against the offending retailer. “Ridiculous,” I would think. Many times the poor retail employee would be reduced to tears, possibly embarrassed for the appalling behavior she had to helplessly withstand until the werewolf would dart away, finally leaving her to seize her teary way through the next shopper in line.
Of course, much more noxious is the sense of entitlement many people in the ol’ USA still feel toward being exempt from physically challenging, sometimes smelly work. This scares me, and it should scare you – especially now with unemployment percentages rocketing toward a workforce Black Hole of No End. And if Mike Rowe of TV show “Dirty Jobs” was right recently (wait – he’s always right) when he hinted that a more voluminous return of the employable to blue-collar work would aid in the recovery of our yo-yo economy, then we could all finally give ourselves the cold, hard slap that forces us to accept that no one is too good to “dig a ditch,” as a wise woman told me. After all, if it weren’t for a few grounded, self-assured, gotten-over-themselves-a-long-time-ago individuals, no one would be gearing your kids home to you as you idle in your SUV at the bottom of your long and winding driveway.
– Column by Elizabeth Geris