Hump Day: Be honest with the clerk, and get your paws off those grapes

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

Nearly every time I go to a local bulk food store, the clerk mistypes one of the code numbers of an item I’m buying. I watch them like a hawk. Of course, the errors are not on purpose, but I don’t want to pay more than what I should. Who does, eh?

The problem with good ol’ Honest Abe ‍Cormier here is that I’m often too saintly for my own good. Almost every time I correct the clerk, the real price of the item ends up being more – sometimes much, much more. ‘Sir?’ I’d say, most certain that my attempt at good karma will send me to heaven without the mandatory entrance test, ‘You typed in the wrong code.’ Always grateful, the clerk would correct the error and the price would be adjusted.

The problem is that this only seems to happen when I’m buying some rare tea from Mongolia. ‘Oh, that’s better,’ the clerk would say. ‘I charged you for common baking soda. The tea is about 50 billion times more expensive.’ ‘Yeah, don’t remind me,’ I’d mutter to myself.

All I know is that St. Peter had better be writing this all down for when I arrive at the Pearly Gates when I die at the age of 118. ‘Brian, we just called up your Google search history and we really need to talk!’ good ol’ St. Peter would say. ‘But, but remember when I corrected the clerk at the bulk food store 66 years ago and I ended up paying 50 billion times more than I would have had I not said anything?’

‘Oh, come on in! I was just kidding! If Google search histories were one of the qualifying factors for getting into heaven, we’d only have about 37 people here,’ the guardian of the afterlife would chuckle. At least that’s what the nice voices in my head tell me would happen.

Sometimes, being a self-righteous, sanctimonious, morally upright member of society’s upper crust is a burden to bear. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The other day, however, I broke my own rule and didn’t correct the clerk. Since I always end up paying more, I just let it go, although karma would dictate that I probably did pay more – which would explain why a small 100-gram bag of bulk peppermints cost $345. But I wasn’t going to say anything – although in hindsight, maybe I should have. It did seem a bit pricey.

It drives me crazy to see people practically having seven-course meals out of the bins in the bulk stores or the produce section at the grocery store. I’ve literally seen people eat half a bag of grapes while strolling through the aisles. What’s a cashier supposed to do after being presented with a branch full of missing grapes? Charge you for the twig?

Do this at home - not at the grocery store.
Do this at home – not at the grocery store.

I seem to remember doing that as a kid when getting groceries with my parents. I guess I thought it was normal since everyone seemed to be doing it. I know my father certainly did. Even when I brought him to the grocery store in his later years, he’d try to eat half the grapes in the cart before we reached the cashier. I’d tell him to stop, but all I’d get is the evil eye, then he’d swear at me and keep eating.

Then, I’d tell myself, ‘If you love me, Baby Jesus, just send me an aneurysm right now – yes, right here in the feminine hygiene products aisle. I don’t care. I’m not embarrassed. Just make it quick.’ Something tells me my dear old father would have taken the opportunity to finish the grapes during the ensuing hubbub.

I suppose we all try to justify mildly bad behaviour from time to time. We eat a few grapes at the grocery store and ask ourselves, “Who’s it gonna hurt?”

Or we park somewhere downtown we know we shouldn’t and get ticketed or booted – and then claim we didn’t see the multitude of signs or even believe Queen Elizabeth herself when she knocked on our car window to warn us not to park there.

And when we’re asked not to eat the grapes (the ones that still belong to the grocery store) or freak out after getting a parking ticket or booted (after stealing a parking spot to which we had no right), then I suppose we’re guilty of selective morality.

We need to remember that we’re only one of hundreds of people eating ‘free’ grapes or ‘borrowing’ someone else’s parking spot. We can’t just ignore the rights of others like we’re a conquering Viking. Long live sanctimony, I say! Heaven, here I come!

Hump Day: Keep yer yap shut or suffer the consequences

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

Last week, I attended a talk by Dr. Jane Goodall, widely considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. For 90 minutes, she spoke and answered questions without missing a beat. I thought it was fascinating. I was enthralled.

One of the most powerful moments of the presentation was when she showed a video of a chimpanzee who’d been rescued and released into the wild thanks to her organization’s efforts. She had never met the chimpanzee before, but was there on the day she was released back into the wild.

The chimpanzee exited the cage, looked around, and then jumped back on the cage as everyone watched. She turned to Dr. Goodall – whom she’d never seen until that day – and hugged her. Somehow, she knew that Dr. Goodall’s efforts had led to her eventual freedom. I dabbed away a few tears, as did many in the audience. Had I been alone at home, I’m quite certain it would have been an ugly-man-cry moment.

One woman in a row in back of me could not contain herself and let out a few guttural sobs. It was very emotional moment.

During the presentation, Dr. Goodall stressed a number of times how we’re all interconnected with nature. Everything we do affects others – and vice versa. The now-free chimpanzee evidently felt that connection, even though it was the first time she’d ever seen her human benefactor.

It’s true that we’re all interconnected. Some spirituality books I’ve read liken it to a silver thread of which we’re all part. If someone moves, the thread moves with it, affecting everyone along the thread, some more than others. It’s an interesting way of visualizing the concept. It also makes you think twice before taking an action which you may regret.

I’ve been reminded a few times over the past weeks that we’re all connected and that you never know when your actions may affect others. Now, admittedly, these tales aren’t exactly up to par with Dr. Goodall’s story, but there’s a certain relation to connectivity in both.

We're all connected... and what do in the world impacts others.
We’re all connected… and what do in the world impacts others.

While my best hair days are long gone, I do still need the occasional haircut. Not wanting to stand in line, I try to arrive at the ‘beauty salon’ (so to speak) right at opening time or about 20 minutes before closing. My cut is not complicated. ‘Number two all over’ – which translates into ‘buzz-cut using the number two blade.’ It’s quick and easy money for any hairstylist. The entire haircut is over in a maximum of 10 minutes.

Recently, I arrived at my usual before-closing time and – to my horror – saw a couple of people walking toward the door ahead of me at the same time. “No! No! No!” I thought to myself. “Why aren’t you home in bed or watching television or something? Don’t you realized you’re inconveniencing me?” I was not impressed. Some people! They could have at least called first to see if they’d be putting me out. Jerks!

Anyway, I gave them a look of death as I went in and glared. Such an inconvenience. “Brian?” one of them asked. Well, it turned out we knew each other. And here I was giving them the evil eye. It was good to reconnect after so many years and we had a good little chat. Thankfully, my loud self-righteous sighs of disgust at first had not been heard.

One of my pet peeves is people who hog three parking spaces by positioning their car so badly that you’d think they were either visually impaired or so selfish that they didn’t care how many spaces they were occupying.

At a store recently, I was ‘this close’ from going in and telling the one customer in there that they’d parked horribly and didn’t they see the lines, etc. I glared. Surely, the laser beams coming out of my judgmental peepers would cause them to spontaneously combust right then and there. Get out the marshmallows!

“Are you Brian ‍Cormier?” the person asked. They read the column. They never miss it. And once again I was thanking Baby Jesus and every donkey, cow and lamb in the manger that I kept my big ol’ sanctimonious yap shut tight.

Like I said, these aren’t exactly soul-shaking example of interconnectedness. No lives were altered, like the chimpanzee’s was by Dr. Goodall, but the consequences of my potential actions toward people I was unknowingly connected to could have had embarrassing and hurtful consequences.

Our actions affect others. Period. I need to remember: the next time I pull on that silver thread, I could end up with a silver noose around my neck – one of my own making.