The crazy look

November 26, 2022 Comments Off on The crazy look

I was listening to a guy in AA talk about the crazy look. “You know what I’m talking about,” he said. “You’ll say something or do something and people will stare at you for a second, maybe they’ll blink their eyes like ‘Did he just say that?’ and then they’ll be looking at you like you are completely fucking crazy. Well, I’ve learned something about that look,” he concluded. “It means you’re acting crazy.”

I pondered that for the rest of the meeting, thinking about all the things I’ve written and said and done, and how often people have stared at me in disbelief. I’ve always interpreted that stare to mean “You’re amazing,” or “You’re brilliant,” or “That’s so funny,” or “Wow, I wish I could be like you,” but upon reflection it was none of those things. They were looking at me like I was completely crazy because I had done something that was, well, completely crazy.

After considering this revelation I resolved to start paying attention to the crazy look and using it as a cue. “Maybe if someone is looking at me like I’m crazy, I should stop doing what I’m doing and see if they stop looking at me that way.”

Down at the supermarket we have the awful self-check scanners, you know, those things they put in to 1) lay off employees 2) increase profits and 3) make you do the work you thought you were paying someone else to do.

I hate them because I hate machines and computers and because I hate doing what I’m paying someone else to do and most especially because the little machine always tells me I’m doing it wrong. Replace the item. Bag the item. Take the item off the scanner. Confirm the quantity. Re-weigh the item. Key in your number. Don’t remove your card. Insert your card. Nor am I the only idiot; they have one full-time person whose job it is to manage us idiots, which is of course lots cheaper than manning six checkout lanes.

One of the Idiot Managers is named Samuel. He hates us and I think we hate him. When we get stuck on the machine he walks over and begins giving us instructions as if we’re kindergartners, although no kindergartner would be as inept as I am on this thing. To make it worse, his voice is fake friendly and he never explains anything. Instead of saying “Hey, dumbshit, you have to press the start button first to get the thing to work,” he says “Remove your items from the scanner,” and then when you fumble trying to make the thing work, he repeats it again, just like the machine, and he won’t get to the next step until you’ve done exactly as he instructs.

He is relentless and merciless and no matter how many times you’ve been there he never says, “Hey, moron! Back for some more grief?” No, he’s always friendly-hateful and he beats you down until you have obeyed his every step. When the process finishes, Samuel, who has been standing behind you the whole time, walks away to the next poor soul. “Have a nice day,” he says, which means “You are very stupid and we both know it especially those people next to you who scanned 50 items and a small cow in the time it took you to buy a coke.”

Yesterday, though, my head was still swimming from the Thanksgiving traditions of grief, conflict, abuse, sorrow, and rage, especially rage. I had told myself that my only goal at the supermarket was to get in and out without getting angry, and there I was, locked in a lost and hopeless battle with Samuel. As he said, “Remove your items from the scanner,” for the fourth time, I put up my hands, which were shaking.

“I can’t do this,” I said, and walked out. The saddest part of it was that in addition to my onion, bottle of shampoo, and bell pepper, I’d also left one of my greatest personal treasures, a purple shopping bag from the 99-cent store that I’d found on the side of the highway on a bike ride, adopted, and brought home to raise as my own.

As I held up my shaking hands, out of the corner of my eye I saw Samuel, and you know what he was doing? He was looking at me like I was crazy. And although I continued on out the store, I learned a very valuable lesson when he gave me that look, and I employed it the following day when I returned to re-purchase the onion and the bell pepper and the shampoo: I used the checkout lane, which had a smiling lady at the register and a pleasant older fellow in front of me chatting about something pleasant. The sacker even asked me about my Thanksgiving and happily told me about spending the day with his family.

I wished him a happy holiday season and New Year, and the smiling checker handed me my receipt.

No one looked at me like I was crazy.


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