Chris Johnson

Goodness of the world all depends on how people act with 11 items in a grocery story

It’s not unusual for me to get into a little bit of conflict at the grocery store. I go out of my way to be polite and nice to everyone, so it’s not unusual for me to bounce back to my smart-aleck tendencies when someone charges out in front of me with their buggy and then completely ignores my smile and my “excuse me” even though they were the ones who should be saying excuse me.

So, when someone does something like that, hears my polite apology for being in the wrong spot during their error and then growls and scowls at me, I usually respond something like: “First time pushing a buggy, huh? Yeah, it’s complicated.”

And while I’m more likely to get into an argument with a guy outside the grocery store, I have found over and over and over that guys are more polite to each other inside the grocery store. Sure, a few minutes ago we might have been flipping each other off and aggressively tailgating on the road over a misunderstanding about what the word “yield” means, but in the grocery store it’s all like:

“Excuse me.”

“Oh, no, excuse me.”

“Have a good one.”

“Go Dawgs!”

However, I had a major conflict last week at the grocery store that stopped me in my tracks. I was standing at the “10 items or less” lane and looked down in my basket. I had 11 items. Gulp.

I’ve been known to challenge a rule or two. In high school, I wore shorts just long enough to pass for “not shorts.” I drive six miles per hour over the speed limit. And I vote at least three times in each presidential election.

But this 10 items or less thing, that’s kind of sacred. I’ve grabbed four items before and gotten stuck behind someone with the gall to put 25 items on the express lane belt, leaving me to wonder: 1. about their ability to count and 2. whether I’ll have time to accidentally run over them in the parking lot. “Oops! Sorry!”

The store was nearly empty. There was no one ahead of me in the express lane. There was no one behind me. I just couldn’t do it. I walked a good 20 feet to get to a regular checkout lane. My conscience was clear.

There are just some rules I can’t break in good conscience.

I can’t cheat on a golf course — and as someone who consistently shoots in the low 90s, I’d probably get a pass from folks if I nudged a ball out of a bad lie here and there.

I could never park in a space reserved for the disabled. I know there are many able-bodied people who do, especially when they are borrowing a car with the proper credentials. But there could be 50 such spaces available and no one else in the parking lot, and I can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s because my grandfather who lost both legs in World War II didn’t have many parking spaces to choose from before he died or maybe I’m just not a jerk. I don’t know.

I think my inability to run 11 items through that lane springs from my belief that the world would run much better if folks would just do right. Don’t litter. Don’t drive slow in the fast lane. Don’t disturb the peace. Don’t cheat in sports. Don’t lie. Learn the difference between a two-way stop and a four-way stop. Don’t let your kids be bullies. And never, ever root for the New England Patriots. You know, stuff like that.

A wise man once told me that if he could rewrite the Bible, it would be just two words — “do right.” I realize that’s sacrilegious to some and too open to interpretation to others, but I do like the simplicity of the “do right” concept.

You can start small, too — such as using the “10 items or less” lane if you have, say, um, 10 items or less. This stuff ain’t hard, folks.

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