Death by trampling of the Wal-Mart worker in New York yesterday - wow. When I heard about that, in 2 seconds flat I went from complete disbelief to outright judgement.
How dare these people allow themselves to be so consumed - literally - by cheap, plastic crap that they would even lightly push the person in front of them, much less rush the door to get inside? I don't care if there's a freaking gold mine on Aisle 3 for $19. Have we lost our ever-loving minds? What a perfect mirror for our society to see their reflection in.
Then I started thinking that it probably wasn't the people at the front of the line who were pushing on the door so hard, those who could actually see the employee on the other side of the glass. I guessed it was the people in the middle or the back who let impatience get the better of them and started inching forward, then footing, then yarding. Their competitive nature overran their manners and sense when a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798 was involved, and they never realized what was happening ahead of them. That's what I guessed.
BUT THEN, I read a news update online which said that people were feistily and angrily shopping and refused to leave even when informed that the store was closing because of a death by trampling. "But I've been standing in line since yesterday," they said. Boy, would I have loved to have gotten ahold of the Wal-Mart loudspeaker system and said, "STOP! Everyone just STOP what you're doing right now. You people, yes you, have just run over a bunch of fellow human beings, including a woman who is 8 months pregnant and a young man who appears to be dead. Now look at the crap in your hands and drop it to the ground. Just drop it. And on your way out, we've instructed our greeters to dispense serious spankings-by-ping-pong-paddle to each and every one of you. Now GET GOING."
Ahem. Yes, well, easy for me to say as a non-shopper and as a person who would rather poke fun at a crowd than be part of one. Then I remembered. I remembered a few of the many times I've trampled over people to score a useless item or get a point across or prove myself. Three examples, if I may:
When I was in college, a bunch of girls from my floor drove to the ocean for a day. We found in the shallow waters the end of a giant wooden spool used for wrapping rope or steel cables around. It's simply a huge circle of wood onto which a bunch of people can sit or stand and float about. Long story short, I wanted that circle for my very own, to make a table top out of. We had all driven small cars, so I called a guy back at the college and begged him to drive the two hours to the coast with his pickup. As we loaded that stupid wooden circle up, there was a family standing there watching us. "You know, that's a neighborhood play thing," said the dad meekly. "Nobody really owns it. All the kids around here use it." I sort of ignored him, made small talk about a different subject, rationalized it in my head, whatever. And off we took with it.
By that night my stomach was in shreds over it, no help to Jason, at that time my boyfriend, who did nothing to alleviate my guilt. I cried and cried. And actually, after enough crying, Jason recognized I wasn't completely lost to the Dark Side and he did console me. The whole experience is something I've thought a lot about over time. That silly circle cost me a bunch of money that I didn't have too. I'd had to go buy rope to tie it down, pay for my friend's gas, and buy both his dinner and that of his girlfriend (whom I didn't know was coming along) at a very nice restaurant. And whatever became of the circle? It leaned up against K House, where I lived, and grass grew around it until I left college. I assume it was thrown out when they demolished the house several years later.
Once, a pair of super soft pants from Old Navy was given to me for Christmas. They were too big on me, so I took them in for exchange. The girl at the front counter said, "Oh my gosh! I just LOVE these pants. They sold out so quickly. We don't have any left, but you could pick something else of the same value." I knew that girl was going to take home those super soft pants, my super soft pants if I left them there. Suddenly, since other people wanted them, they were worth something. So I changed my mind and kept them. Even though they were too big. This was while I was a grown woman.
A long time friend of mine went through a really tough divorce several years back. I'd known all along about some of the relational problems they had that extended back to their dating days, but we'd lost touch during the actual divorce proceedings. When I found out about the divorce later, without knowing any significant current details about it or even pausing to ponder how my friend was coping, I gave her a piece of my mind about her culpability. That was a very bad thing to do. I didn't hear back from her for a little while. Then, instead of blowing me off like she could've done, she was honest about what a jerk I'd been and graciously explained some of the personal details that informed the divorce decision. That was an important and humbling lesson to me, and I hope I learned a significant amount more than whatever amount my friend was hurt.
So, tramplings. Yes, they happen by throngs of people who lose their wits, like Wal-Mart shoppers on Black Friday. They happen by individuals too, like me.