Moral Crossroads

Yesterday I was doing my weekly stock-up shop, which includes buying multiple jars of off-brand Nutella and trying to look nonchalant while doing so (I’ve never yet succeeded).

Our local grocery store is in a high-traffic area and the lines are reliably long. When I got to the check-out, there were two lines with about ten people in each. I turned up my ipod and tried to be positive – at least I wasn’t at IKEA on a Saturday.

After a few minutes with little forward-movement, a healthy young woman with two items in her hand approached the line. Her body language expressed frustration at the long wait situation, and I know this because her body language matched that of every other person in the store at the time.

She looked around angrily for a bit and then zeroed in on me. My German is middling to poor, but it’s not hard to understand the request when someone looks at the two items in her hand and then points to the two full baskets in your arms. She wanted to go ahead of me.

I’m not opposed to letting someone cut in front, especially when it’s my own idea and I take the initiative out of the goodness of my own generous heart. But at that point, I was number eight in line, with three or four people standing behind me.

If you were in a hurry for a legitimate reason (gushing blood, screaming children, food poisoning, avoiding ex-boyfriends), wouldn’t you try to go to the very front of the line? Why pick on the eighth in line person? Any rational, desperately bleeding person would go up to the number one or two person, point at the wound, and then cut in with an easy conscience.

My speculations led me to doubt the woman’s motives. What made her so special? Was she manipulating me? I have a thing about being manipulated and being made to feel like a pushover. She should have known that by my scowling facial expression!

If she had clutched at her stomach in pain or had demonstrated need in any other way, I would have ceded graciously. Crying would have worked magic.

Instead, I pulled out one earbud in mock confusion, and said with an exaggerated shrug, “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” (translation: I speak no German). Then I flat-out refused to make eye contact until she stomped off to the back of the line.

I spent the rest of the day dwelling on my depravity. Did I successfully avoid being scammed or did I just succeed in being a horrible excuse for a human being? [Please don’t answer that – it’s a purely rhetorical question.]

Then I ate Nutella out of the jar and congratulated myself that this all went down two blocks from my apartment, and not at Ikea on a Saturday.

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Filed under Berlin, Germany, Outings, Totally Useless

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