I recently read an article in Scientific American about why people leave shopping carts all over the parking lot. (click here for the article) While I did agree with many of the observations, there was one reason that I feel the writer ignored: it was simply inconvenient to put them out of the way. It is much easier to just leave the cart where you finish with it rather than take a few steps to put it in the proper place. We Americans are just plain selfishly lazy and want to not inconvenience ourselves in any way. So what if the next driver has to move the cart out of the way to park? That’s not my problem. Unless some idiot leaves a cart where I want to park.
I’m no psychologist. My training in that field is confined to a couple of low-level college courses, and reading a few books and miscellaneous articles. But I do observe people. Too many follow the rules only if it is convenient. Do you stop at a stop sign if you don’t think you will be hit and there is no cop around? “California stops” are not only popular in California. A friend of mine argued that not to do so when no one was around was stupid. Why bother if you can get away with not doing it? Perhaps he is right. However, as an inherent rules follower, I do stop, even if there’s no one else around. I’m also the one who sits at a four-way stop until I am sure anyone who was there before me has gone, but who also gets very ticked if someone who was there after me shoots across before I go.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not without sin. My Achilles heel is a lead foot, pun intended. I happen to have the need for speed, although I’ve never experienced it in a jet fighter. That being said, I am older and wiser in how I indulge that need now than when I was younger. I will say that I have never been in a high-speed accident or caused one because of my speed. And I do not do it out of convenience. It’s my guilty pleasure as an old hot rodder. My solution would be passing different levels of a driver’s license. If you can handle a vehicle safely at higher speeds, then you have a color-coded placard similar to one for handicap parking. The better the skills, the faster you can drive. From the way some people drive, however, many might be limited to 25 mph!
Back to the matter at hand, Americans’ obsession with convenience leads to many social ills. When combined with a willingness to ignore the rules if one can get away with it, the ills multiply. No one’s around? I don’t want this empty Coke can rattling around in my car. It’s not even safe since it might get under the brake pedal. Toss it out the window. Let someone else clean it up. Sure, I could take it home and recycle, but some homeless guy will be glad to find it along the highway. I’m actually helping someone by throwing it out! And it’s convenient. Unless you get a ticket. Then the cop should be catching real criminals instead of harassing law-abiding people for such nit-picking offenses.
Now that I’m on my rant about lazy, inconsiderate people, I have a real bugaboo with those who walk their dogs and don’t clean up their mess. As one who walks my dog every morning, I feel especially incensed when I see a pile along the side of the road, courtesy of them. Then some think as long as it’s a dirt trail, that’s okay. After all, it’s out in nature and what the dog did was natural. But a trail is not natural. It’s man-made. It’s a path that funnels hikers, and their dogs, in narrow confines that should not be befouled. Sure, your dog doesn’t understand that he or she should keep the trail clean and you can’t put a diaper on her or him, but they have nice little bags for that. Then there are those who clean up after their dog, yet leave the bags on the side of the trail for the poo fairy to pick up. Although I make The Dude do his duty in our backyard before we go on our morning jaunt, there are occasions when he feels the need for a pit stop en route. I would love to just ignore his deposit, but I clean it up and take it home to an outside trash can devoted to only that. It’s inconvenient, but so is much of life.
I’m not big on message posts, but obviously this is one. The term “Me Generation” came from the writer Tom Wolfe and referred to the Baby Boomers. Those who lived through the Depression and the Second War, our parents, made sacrifices, realized that the Declaration of Independence promised life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not happiness. With my generation began the expectation that we will be blissfully happy all of our life and that means life will always be convenient. I want to be happy and I want it now. Instant gratification and huge credit card bills began their symbiotic relationship. Alas, it did not end with the Boomers. If anything, it has gotten far worse.
Do I desire that this post will start a movement that will alter human behavior, that will have people change and put their lazy selfishness behind? Of course. Do I think there is a chance that will happen? Just as much chance of me winning the lottery. And I have yet to buy a ticket. So instead I will use this opportunity to vent and, possibly, give you a chuckle or two as you think of your pet peeve about people who want life to always be convenient. Maybe, just maybe, it will get one person to start putting the shopping cart where it should go when finished with it.