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The Laws of Human Nature

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How can a high school student serve a community greater than not only feeding the masses, but providing it with the softest, yet most absorbent toilet paper as well? Pshh, saving third world countries from natural disasters can wait, especially with Mrs. Willendorf impatient in the checkout line for another store-brand (not Kraft; she fears the sharp points on the rectangular shape of the package), 16 oz. package of shredded cheddar cheese (not sliced or in chunks) to make little Jimmy’s mac’ n cheese and chicken nugget lunch tomorrow. Yes, for just seven dollars an hour I was the defender of the domestic arts. And as important as this period of my life was to the good of mankind, surely in this supermarket the laws of human nature must have been not written, but printed on the back of every receipt that left the store.

Indignation was a local pastime at Zagara’s Marketplace. To truly grasp what the range of topics to complain about was like, one must first stare at the sun until one’s eyes melt. Once the vision is gone, one’s sense of injustice will not be limited by the sense of sight. From a cashier’s grievance of how soft the buttons on the register machine were to a customer grumbling about the “loudness” of the pomegranate display, man’s greatest virtue has never been more eloquently displayed. This is not to say that there weren’t legitimate reasons for protest. There was. And understandably, the gnashing-teeth-on-metal-fork grind of an eight hour day left little patience in most people to be bothered with questions of which way to swipe their credit card. But this is what you signed up for. The exit required no more than ten confident steps out of the Automatic Sliding Glass Doors of Justice. As for myself, I welcomed each chance to flex my whining muscles. When speaking to anyone older than 50, topics of most conversation involved grouching about the weather or the supervisors. With everyone else, the thing to do was grouch about the people older than 50.

When you really think about it, there are only two types of people in the world, those who believe in the inherent good of man and those who work in retail. As a former member of the latter, I can safely say that truer words have never been spoken. Posted on a wall, mug shots of fruit thieves banned from the store hilariously highlighted (or lowlighted) instances of human greed. And employees were just as guilty. The culture of working at a supermarket revolved around ripping off “the man”. Newer, creative ways to waste time from doing your job was encouraged. That meant cashiers pretending their registers were closed, walking aimlessly around the store, and stealing candy bars from the checkout displays were met with little acclaim. But these were not bad people, mind you, just misguided. They were the ones who you root for in the game of life only to be disappointed when they struck out looking. Needless to say, my enthusiasm for a comfy career in supermarket security seemed to be lost in the aisle of endless enticing brands of cereal boxes. Oh how I pity the man that has to choose just one.

When business is slow, I like to imagine. One thing I can’t imagine is a situation where my life would depend on my ability to recreate a scene from the prehistoric age of the Neanderthal. But if I had to, I know that at one supermarket, things wouldn’t be much different. Think about it, Mrs. Willendorf would be right there beside me, homemade spear in hand, battling a cheese mammoth in the effort to save the world from the dangers of sharp packaging.

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