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Today Must Be Idiot Day

posted Thursday November 8th, 2012

I snapped tonight in the check-out line at Walgreens.

Back story: What the fuck is up with Walgreens? I’ve been shopping at the same store for more than 15 years, and until a few weeks ago, no one said boo to me when I came and went, and I liked that just fine. Then one day I walked in and the same clerk who’s been ignoring me for years called out a super cheery, “Welcome to Walgreens!”

I was quite startled. I smiled slightly and went on my way.

“Be well!” the same clerk bellowed after me as I left.

Clearly there’s a memo floating around from Walgreens headquarters, because the same thing has happened — regardless of the clerk or time of day — ever since. I find this incredibly annoying. It went on for a while at Safeway, too, but someone must have clued the Safeway folks in, because suddenly it stopped. No such luck at “the corner of happy and healthy.”

“Welcome to Walgreens!” the clerk gushed before Sophie and I had barely crossed the threshold this evening. I was not in the mood. I’d had a long day that promised to stretch into a long night when I realized that not only had I forgotten I’d promised to bake a birthday cake for tomorrow, I was lacking ingredients.

I find myself grocery shopping at Walgreens more and more these days, and I must say I’ve started creeping myself out. But there’s no Circle K near my house (yes, I’d stoop that low) and despite the fact that it’s somewhat gross to buy groceries at Walgreens, it’s convenient.

So there Sophie and I were, in Walgreens. Immediately, the requests (er, demands) began. I told Sophie she could spend $5, tops. During the time we were there, she decided we needed to buy the following: a baseball hat for Ray; a Monster High doll; chocolate-covered pretzels; deodorant; a jumbo bag of Cheetos; Halloween decorations on clearance; Lunchables; chocolate ice cream; a Justin Bieber birthday card that sings; playing cards; and fuzzy purple socks.

(I am not making that list up. And it’s only partial.)

We settled on a small bag of Cheetos, a lemonade, the Bieber card (and another one for the recipient of the birthday cake) and the fuzzy purple socks, along with several grocery items. By the time we got to the check out counter, I was completely wiped out.

“I don’t want a bag for this!” Sophie announced to the clerk, waving the Cheetos at him. But he wasn’t looking. He was in a heated conversation with a guy who’d come back into the store to insist he’d been overcharged for an energy drink. The clerk and the customer  exchanged some heated words, and finally another clerk at the next register explained sales tax to the guy, who calmed down and left.

Ignoring Sophie, the clerk began scanning my items.

“Geez, what, is it, idiot day or something?” he asked the other clerk. And they proceeded to go on (and on and on) about what a loser and a terrible human being the energy drink guy was.

Any other night, I probably would have agreed, even nodded my head or chimed in. But something about what the clerk said bugged me. And something in my head went “ping.”

“Hey,” I said. “Hey!”

He stopped and looked at me.

“That’s not cool,” I said. “You have that whole fake thing about `Welcome to Walgreens’ and `Be well!’ — really, what’s the point when you stand there and badmouth customers in front of other customers?”

He just looked at me.

“No bag for this!” Sophie said, holding up some dental floss.

“Don’t worry about him, Sophie,” I told her, swiping my debit card then grabbing my bags and her hand, shaking my head in disgust.

It wasn’t til I got home and told Ray the story that I realized what had really bugged me. The clerks kept calling the energy drink guy an idiot.

And now I must admit that I’m the biggest hypocrite, EVER. I call people idiots (not necessarily to their faces or loudly to crowds in fluorescent-lit drug stores) all day long. Stupid, moron, you name it. Retard, no. I don’t use that word anymore. But I disparage people for being — well, for being idiots.

We all do it, constantly. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. (Not true; I’ve never heard Sophie call anyone stupid. Maybe once.) And it never really bothers me. But suddenly, tonight, all I can think of is examples where it’s happened. And it keeps happening.

I sat down to watch a movie while my cakes were baking. “Mr. Holland’s Opus” was on; I’ve never seen it, it’s a great movie. But there’s Mrs. Holland, announcing to her husband, “Our son is deaf, he’s not retarded!”

Because let’s face it, aside from being cruel or a thief or a liar, being dumb is about the worst thing you can be, right? Maybe even worse than those things. I don’t blame Mrs. Holland; I’d say the same thing.

So how does my cognitively challenged kid fit into such a world?

Damned if I know. I’m not smart enough to figure that one out.

We got in the car and I opened Sophie’s Cheetos, handing the bag back to her as she buckled herself into her booster seat.

“So now we can’t go back to Walgreens, right Mommy?” she asked.

Smart kid.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

5 Responses to “Today Must Be Idiot Day”

  1. I do not appreciate being greeted when I enter a store either. And when you hand me my receipt, please do not address me by name. We are not friends. I am not even making eye contact with you. My favorite thing at a grocery store: self check-out.

    I absolutely love Sophie’s shopping list.

    I really, really disliked that movie, Mr. Holand’s Opus. Since I work with deaf kids my friends kept telling me about the movie and that they thought of me when they saw it. Which just made it worse.

    I hope it felt as cathartic to write this post as it did to read it.

  2. I think, when we say “idiot,” we don’t just mean dumb but also selfish, ungenerous, in love with hearing one’s own voice, careless of others, hypocritical, and a host of other things.

    It’s not so much school intelligence as it is emotional intelligence, and maybe also what my husband calls door-opening intelligence. You know the way some people always know whether to push a door or pull it, and others just stand there, grunting in furstration, pulling when they should be pushing? I don’t know if Sophie has door-opening intelligence, but I know she does have emotional intelligence.

    Sophie may sometimes be uninformed, but I don’t think she is ever ungenerous.

    She is not an idiot.

  3. door-opening intelligence. i love that. thank you, elaine (and ben).

  4. noan: i want to talk to you about that movie!

  5. I’m with Elaine. It’s unfortunate, definitely, that words we use to describe behavior (or, okay, if we’re being frank, people) that’s basically inconsiderate have that spillover into defining people who are less intelligent, which is no big deal most of the time. For me, I don’t think there’s any shame in being uninformed, developmentally delayed, or cognitively impaired. When I call somebody “stupid” or “idiot” (behind their backs), I think it comes from desperately wishing they simply didn’t know better, when I know they do. In fact, I never use those words to describe people who don’t know or don’t understand something. Hmm.

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