Sucker, sap, idiot, goody-two-shoes: That’s me. Why? I stop at stop signs. Even more hilarious: I stop for the entire duration of the stop light.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that this is no longer required. Dozens of times, the car in the next lane will pause at the intersection, then bolt through. I stare, agog: You are undermining the entire fabric of Western civilization!
Or at least tugging at its loose threads. Your attitude toward your role in society is summed up perfectly by your attitude toward a red light. The ideal Minnesotan is someone who stops at the sole red light in a small town at 3 a.m., waiting for it to change, because we have all agreed to do this for the general welfare. I don’t grant myself the right to ignore this law.
Exceeding the speed limit, that’s different, because I am a goody-one-shoe, and the naughty one’s on the gas pedal.
There are two reasons for this surge in sign-scoffing. One: People don’t think the cops will stop them, because they’re busy. They’re not exactly running lights-and-sirens on 911 calls of someone with expired tabs.
Or: Something about 2020 has made everyone slightly stupider. I’ve noticed myself doing dumb things. The other day at the self-checkout line at Target, I called over the Guest Advocate because the price was wrong. The coffee was two for $10, and it rang up as two for $12.
You always ask yourself: Am I sure I’m not the one who’s wrong? “Sorry, sir, that price was for the Ethiopian Fair-Trade Shade-Grown, and you chose the Guatemalan Equity-Trade fertilized during a lunar eclipse.” But the advocate just said, “What was the price?” because they’ve factored every scam under the sun into their profit margins. Even the scams grown in the shade.
I realized I had chosen whole bean, which I did not want because I never trust myself to operate sharp motorized blades before I’ve had the first cup of coffee in the morning, so I said that I didn’t want them, anyway.
“OK,” said the advocate. It is no skin off their nose. They begin and end each shift with the same amount of nose skin. Then I double-beeped a container of raspberries and called her back. “I’m usually much better than this,” I said.
“OK,” said the advocate, no doubt thinking: “He’s going to hold up dollar bills to the screen to pay.” I felt stupid. Then I watched a guy approach the terminal, beep a 12-pack of Charmin and leave without paying.
I guarantee that guy ran the stop signs in the parking lot, because those are, like, mall-cop stop signs. They have no real authority.
I thought about this year’s steady incremental rise in minor lawlessness all the way home and wondered if people are just more brazen and entitled, or whether we’re all 10% more stupid. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I knew the answer to that when I found two bags of whole-bean coffee in my shopping bag.