What the Hell is wrong with us?

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So, I have a story to tell, and a question to ask, and a theory. But before I start, I want to apologize in advance to whoever I need to, because I’m an old, fat white guy and I don’t pretend to have a clue about how to talk about some of this stuff or what the right use of pronouns are here. I’m not exactly what you’d call “woke.” I’m not even sure how to define “woke.” But here we go. First, the story:

My wife and I needed to replace our kitchen faucet. On Friday night, we head out to a local Home Depot in search of said faucet. We find one, and since I hate to have to make multiple trips, I buy a bunch of extra stuff, some of which I’ll need to return later.

On Sunday, I commence repairs. All is going well until I’m reattaching the water lines and I discover that I only have one with the correct fitting on each end. Crabbing at myself for not paying attention, it’s back to the store to get the right one. There’s a long line at the returns counter and when a lane opens up for me, I head over there. I’m crabby about the stupid mistake and I’m crabby about waiting in line but as I approach the lane, I realize that the person at the register is obviously a biological man in the process of transitioning into a woman. She smiles at me and says, “What can I do for you?” I explain that I’m a moron who isn’t very efficient at buying what I need on the first trip and I have to return my mistake and get the right part. She laughs, rings up the return, smiles and says, “Thanks for shopping at Home Depot.” Off I go to get the right part. Except…

Upon my return home, I discover than in my intense concentration on getting the one end right this time, I managed to get the other end wrong! So back in the car. Back to Home Depot. Back to the return’s lane. And… wait. Wouldn’t you know, when the lane opens up for me, it’s the same person. She gives me a sympathetic look and says, “Got the wrong one again?” I said yes and grumbled about how this seems to be how it always goes… and while we’re waiting for the register, we talk about how home repairs always seem to require a minimum of two trips to the store. When the receipt comes out, she says, “Thanks for shopping at Home Depot!” and there’s a little pause and she says, much more quietly, “And, thanks…”

I walk back to plumbing, get the right part again, pay for it and go out to my car and just sit there. That final “And, Thanks…” was absolutely haunting me. Most people just don’t do that. And I fairly quickly figured out that a lot of people probably just try to get away from someone they don’t understand as quickly as possible. I wasn’t doing anything different — I always talk to cashiers. It’s one of my more annoying habits, according to some people. But this time, it apparently made some kind of an impact. And it bothered me. It bothers me days later. That just 30 seconds of social interaction made enough difference in her life that she felt compelled to say thanks. I don’t pretend to know what her days are like but based on that little interaction, I imagine they must be fairly shitty. I guess I’m at least happy that I didn’t make her day worse.

Which leads me to my question: What the Hell is wrong with us? Between politics and religion and all the crap going on in the world, right now we seem intent on making each other’s lives as unpleasant as possible. Forget at the macro level like politics. What about the micro level — how we treat each other on a daily basis. I swear that people now just take pleasure in making other people miserable. We cut each other off in traffic, we cut into lines, we scheme and connive to get one rung higher on the ladder than our coworkers. We’re inconsiderate at restaurants and grocery stores and in parking lots. People talk in movies. Going anyplace, doing anything, is awful.

I remember growing up: My dad used to constantly tell me “Son, it’s not your job to make other people’s lives worse.” And I’ve always tried to live that way. But lately, it feels like I’m the only one. People constantly quote scripture at me to justify whatever sociopathic thing they’re doing or whatever crappy belief they hold. But it seems to me like they’ve completely misinterpreted what they read and went the exact opposite way with it.

I’m no theologian, just a guy who struggles with the world and my own beliefs. But it seems like a lot of the Bible could be boiled down to the phrase, “Be less shitty to other people.” Maybe I’m wrong… but that’s what I get out of it. Be less shitty to each other. Maybe when you see a frazzled mom pushing a stroller and a shoe, a toy or a pacifier comes flying out, how about if you pick it up and hand it back to the mom. Instead of walking by, going “…yeah, that’s a shame.” Hold the door for someone. Just do something, anything considerate for someone else who happens to be right next to you — it takes just a few seconds out of your life.

So that’s basically my theory. Maybe if just 10 seconds, a few times a day, we could all find a way to be less shitty to each other. Maybe we’d all stop feeling quite so drained at the end of the day. I don’t know. What do I know? It just seems like a place to start. So that’s my theory: Be less shitty to each other.

I guess we can fix politics and religion next week…

Jeff is the CEO of EXOGAL, a US manufacturer of high-end audiophile stereo equipment. He’s a proud Graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.