I was in the supermarket this morning when I heard hysterical laughter, of the kind that I associate with teen-age girls, coming from the next aisle. My guess was confirmed when I heard a young voice say, presumably to a store employee, “Sorry. It slipped out of my hands.” I couldn’t hear his reply but a few seconds later the store’s loudspeaker system boomed with a request for a clean-up on aisle 4.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a checkout line behind two high school or college age looking girls. As they came to the checker, one of the girls said, “We’re the ones that caused the mess. You can charge us for two sugars instead of one.” The checker replied that there was no need for that and the transaction concluded.
A few years ago, Readers’ Digest ran an (admittedly unscientific) experiment where they dropped wallets with owner I.D. in shopping centers around the world and then recorded in which cities the wallets were most likely to be returned. There was quite a discrepancy, more than could be accounted for by chance.
While I am far from a global, or even American, trotter, I have lived in and visited a number of places. To me, more important than the number of museums, the public transportation system or even the number of kosher restaurants is the stress level of daily living. I don’t quite know how to index that, but I do know that when I lived in Los Angeles, going to the supermarket was an arduous chore that I did as rarely as possible. Entering the library meant stepping over vagrants in alcohol or drugged induced stupors lying on the library steps. Driving meant being constantly vigilant against people trying to gain three seconds by not letting you change lanes or by cutting sharply in front of you.
Where I live now, in the Pacific Northwest, supermarket shopping is more of an excursion, an energizing activity that breaks up a work day. Whether I am errand hopping to the post office or bank, or dropping in at the library, driving around, parking and running in and out of buildings is enjoyable.
When I was a little girl, my parents instructed me, among other things, to stand to the side while waiting to get into an elevator so that people getting off would have a clear path; to give my seat on the bus to an elderly person, and to speak softly in public so as not to intrude on other people’s lives. I have a feeling that not pocketing the money from someone’s lost wallet never even had to be articulated; it was just understood.
My thanks go to the parents of the young women ahead of me in the check-out line who taught their daughters to accept responsibility. As far as I’m concerned, if every citizen learned that lesson, we could improve everyone’s standard of living without adding a single cent to the deficit.