Saturday, March 31, 2012

Running with the Herd

It has come to my attention, dear readers, that mankind (at least those that can be found frequenting grocery stores for their daily needs) has retained an interesting piece of its past. At some point in our history as a race, we were more animalistic than we are now. We, especially those of us in the Western world, have evolved beyond the need for a tribe mentality.

I am an individual. I make decisions on my own. I go buy things when I damn well please. And when I am good and ready to leave, I will make my way to the checkout lanes.

It just so happens that all of the other individuals out there in the world decided to shop right now. And they’re all mucking up the checkout lanes! What bastards, each and every one of them.

That woman and her 4 screaming children: bastards. (Well not the children. Their father is over at the service counter getting lotto, so we know who he is. Though, they are still little bastards for being so loud. So yes the children too.)

That crotchety old man in the electric cart: a bastard.

A nun, the parade of non-English speakers, the lunch breakers, that smelly homeless man and the myriad of other folks who resemble the normal people I know: every single one, a bastard.

All of these individual bastards have decided to make me late for the rest of my independent day.

Let me tell you something. In my nearly six years of working in grocery stores, I’ve had loads of time to observe people. On the whole, human beings are fascinating creatures. So many of us think we’re completely autonomous and make every last decision on our own.

I call bullshit!

I’ve developed a theory as to why customers flood the checkout lanes in waves and then completely disappear. For anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour, the front end will be dead. A few people trickle through lanes here and there, but nothing big. During this time, I can always feel the pressure building. I see all of you individuals as you mull about the store holding on to your personal shopping carts (all of which are identical, but that is neither here nor there). Some of you rush by in a hurry desperately seeking that one item you forgot for a party. Some of you have been in the store for hours deciding which sugary cereal will stifle your children long enough for you to enjoy a cup of coffee. Many of you wheel your overflowing trolleys around in a daze as if you are waiting for a sign.

And then: SNAP!

Whatever mystical barrier that was holding you all back breaks, and every single one of you individuals rushes to the nearest cashier. This happens every single day.

My theory is this: we individuals of the Western world have preserved in our heads some biological imperative to move with the herd. Think of it as a subconscious need to leave with a group. Safety in numbers, isn’t that what they say? No matter how long any individual has been shopping, the lot of you will always move together. I would say it was just a coincidence if it wasn’t a daily phenomenon.

If you find yourself in disbelief and wish to call shenanigans, I think you should go observe for yourself. Best case scenario, you can come back and rub it in my face. Worst case scenario, you get to open your eyes for a while and see some interesting shit.

As for those few that trickle through during the interims, I have another theory. Many just have luck on their side or some remarkable timing. But there are some who deliberately choose those times. They will wait until they see the rest of the herd is long gone before making a move. Perhaps those of us that can see the biological imperative in action and consciously choose to avoid it are genetically defunct. Mother Nature forgot to implant that seed in our brains.

Or perhaps we’re the truly evolved individuals.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a cashier.

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