Archive for December, 2014

The State of the World

“Please give me your report, Agent 302,” The Supervisor said.

“Sir, you assigned me to follow an average man on an average day while he completed his tasks.”

“I trust you found it interesting as well as productive.”

“Somewhat. I followed him to the grocery store. He dodged and weaved through the aisles as if in a death-race, sometimes bumping into other carts, raising his voice at others to make way, as though there was nothing more important than the gathering of his food and supplies.”

“He sounds like an impatient fellow.”

“Indeed. On more than one occasion, he encountered someone who left a cart in the center of the aisle and wandered off, leaving him little choice but to knock the cart out of the way, sometimes a little more forceful than I believed necessary. The look on his face spoke volumes, and if he chose to vocalize his thoughts, I’d expect he’d say, ‘not everyone has all day to read the labels of every single solitary package in the store without consideration of other shoppers!’”

“Your man seems on a mission,” The Supervisor observed.

“Yes, not made any easier by the reactions of the label readers.”

“How so?”

“Responses ranged from an idle shrug, a blatant display of apathy, more often a dirty look, or in a few cases, a nasty comment which often included profanity. The more of these types our man encountered, the more impatient he became, and impatience breeds frustration, which I feared might have led to anger and perhaps violence.”

“That would not be good.”

“In another aisle, he encountered two women with carts facing opposite directions, standing next to each other, making conversation without regard to other shoppers, as though that particular aisle was designed specifically for them. This left the man with no choice but to turn the cart around in a huff. He certainly could have made a scene, but thankfully chose a path of lesser resistance.”

“Your man possesses a degree of self-control.”

“Yes, but he continued to be tested while speeding through the remaining aisles. Some shoppers lingered, appearing to analyze every possible brand of a particular food product to perhaps determine the best choice.”

“Finally the man arrived at the checkout area and chose the 20-items-or-less line, but when he counted the number in the cart, there were 25. His face once again betrayed his thoughts. What if he stayed in the line? Would the clerk actually count the number of items and ask him to choose another line? The person ahead clearly had in excess of thirty items and if they could flaunt the sign and disregard others, why couldn’t he?”

“It seems it is one thing after another.”

“I agree, and at this point he probably felt like a higher power had singled him out for a life of frustration. He stood there for a time, lips pressed together, knuckles turning white, but to his credit, he finally turned the cart around the chose a different line.”

“I expect by this time you gained a measure of respect, perhaps even admiration for him,” The Supervisor noted.

“Most certainly, but his burdensome journey was far from over.”

“Please explain, Agent 302.”

“When he found a line with only two people in front of him, each with carts no more than half full, his face clearly brightened and his shoulders relaxed. Less than a minute later the light above the register flashed and the clerk called for a price check. His eyes closed, his head dropped. He appeared defeated and deflated. He turned and looked behind him at two more shoppers who joined him in line and apparently realized at this point it’s futile to try another line. With the way the day was going, it would most assuredly be worse, so he remained and waited his turn.”

“Some days it is not worth going out of the house.”

“Or getting out of bed which for him would have been a better choice. Fifteen minutes later, he paid for his items and walked out to the parking lot, his jaw tight as he muttered under his breath.”

“I get the distinct feeling his day of frustration is yet to end.”

“You are right. He walked outside and stopped for a moment and looked around the parking lot, which at this point contained rows of vehicles as far as the eye could see. He seemed to struggle with recalling where he parked and threw up his hands in disgust. Finally he decided he’d better start searching, because it certainly wouldn’t come to him. He walked down the aisles with purpose and was fortunate to find his car in the first row he selected.”

“Things are improving and the future looks bright.”

“Not for long. When he arrived at his car, he noticed someone parked their pickup truck in the space next to him who either didn’t see the freshly-painted white lines or didn’t understand their meaning.”

“What do you mean?” The Supervisor asked.

The pickup truck parked too close to the driver side of his car to allow him to open the door wide enough to enter.”

“So much for a bright future.”

“He cursed aloud and kicked the fender of the pickup truck with his foot.”

“It would seem he approached the breaking point.”

“It would appear so, because he brandished his keys while looking in every direction. I believe he planned to deface the pickup truck in some manner, but he saw me and changed his mind.”

“What happened then?” The Supervisor asked.

“He opened the trunk of his car and put in the packages, then went around and entered through the passenger side door. I noticed he struggled a little with maneuvering over the console in the middle, perhaps wondering if he should have purchased a car with a bench seat.”

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”

“Truly it is. I wondered whether he planned to wait for the owner of the pickup truck to return, but the ice cream was melting, the milk was getting warm, and given the attitudes of others to this point, what good would it do? He decided on discretion and started his car.”

“It sounds like a wise decision.”

“I believe so. He needed to back up and pull forward a number of times before clearing the space without inflicting damage on the pickup truck. What happened next bordered on the ridiculous.”

“Oh?”

“He needed to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision with a car coming straight at him.”

“I don’t understand.”

“The rows in the parking lot are all one-way and large white arrows painted on the ground clearly indicate right-of-way, not to mention anyone with a speck of common sense would notice the cars pointed at an angle and even if one missed seeing the arrow, it should be obvious they were going the wrong way.”

“What did he do?”

“First, he pounded on his steering wheel, then put the car into gear with the engine still running. He got out of his car and walked over to the car in front. The driver rolled down the window and they engaged in a shouting match. He asked whether the man was blind or stupid or both. The other driver simply told him to ‘get a life, what’s the big deal, and can’t he just move to the side because there is room enough for two cars.’ He threw up his hands and walked away before turning and said, “you know, I don’t think blind people should be allowed to drive.”

The Supervisor chuckled. “It would seem our man is prone to sarcasm with a dry sense of humor.”

“After what he endured to that point, I expect he wanted to buy a gun and blow his brains out.”

“Indeed. Please continue.”

“He returned to his car and by this time several cars were behind him waiting for the situation to either escalate or resolve. One driver beeped his horn but it might have been directed at the oncoming car going the wrong way. Our man got into his car and moved to the right to allow the “blind driver” to pass, not bothering to look in his direction. I mean, what else could he do?”

“A sign of surrender, perhaps.”

“Perhaps, but it doesn’t end there.”

“I find it hard to believe he could endure much more.”

“At the end of the street he stopped at a red light. There were three lanes. The ones on the outside were left-turn and right-turn only, while the middle lane offered the option of turning right or going straight. Our man waited in the middle lane with his right turn signal flashing, and a red sports car driven by a young man with a young girl in the passenger seat pulled up to the right-turn only lane. The window was down and music blared from the car radio. Our man didn’t so much as acknowledge their presence, keeping his eyes focused straight ahead. When the light turned green . . .,”

The Supervisor raised a palm. “Don’t tell me, the red sports car drove straight ahead and cut off our man before he made his turn.”

“Naturally. He slammed on the brakes and laid on the horn for a good ten seconds. The response from the other driver was a one-finger salute out the window.”

“More apathy and blatant disregard for others.”

“Yes, but by this time I expect our man felt too tired and defeated to do much else, so he continued on his way. He arrived at a four-way stop sign in a subdivision. I learned later his house was two hundred yards down the street. His car was the only one waiting at this time and when he pulled ahead, a car from the left drove through the intersection with clearly no intent of slowing down, much less stopping. Our man slammed on the brakes and turned his car to the right in an attempt to avoid a collision but in my opinion, it was not possible. The other driver slammed into the back door on the driver’s side, which was fortunate. Otherwise, lives might have been lost.”

“This is very sad, especially since he was close to his home.”

“Most certainly. The noise of the crash attracted a number of homeowners, which turned fortunate for the offending driver.”

“How do you mean?” The Supervisor asked.

“Our man was bleeding from a head wound but otherwise his injuries didn’t appear life-threatening. He flung open the door to his car and jumped out and ran over to the other car. The driver was a young man, probably no more than eighteen or nineteen years old. Our man dragged him out by the shirt collar and threw him to the ground. Two men who came out to respond to the accident stopped him before he inflicted harm upon the young man.”

The Supervisor sat back and tented his fingers in front of his mouth. “Our man had a quite a harrowing day and it sounds as if everyone he encountered couldn’t have cared less.”

Agent 302 took a deep breath. “I don’t know whether this average day in an average man’s life is typical, but it seems these people all have their heads stuck in a dark and foreboding place very offensive to the olfactory nerve.”

The Supervisor smiled. “You do have a way with words, Agent 302, and I must tell you, your report coincides with that of our agents around the world.”

“Thank you, sir. The people all seem to be in a hurry and won’t take a few seconds to obey the laws decreed by the powers on the planet, and from what I’ve learned these laws do not seem overly restrictive or demanding. Like most laws I suppose, they exist to keep the planet safe, but most people appear too focused on themselves.”

“I see. What is your recommendation?”

“I believe we need to abandon our plan to insert ourselves into this society and find a different planet to harvest. These earthlings will most certainly be more trouble than they are worth.”

“I agree. You have done well, Agent 302. We will leave this decaying world.”

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