We did something horrible and wonderful today.
You're slightly depressed. You figure a little shopping therapy will do you some good; blow a little money on yourself as a distraction from whatever is pissing you off. You picked out a shirt you kind of like and you're standing in line at the register.
The person in front of you is chatting with the sales clerk. "Do you think this top is too thin for spring?"
-"Oh, no- you can layer that easy. It'll look good!"
Feeling a little more confident with all the assured agreement bouncing around, you attempt small talk with the folks behind you.
"At least it isn't snowing anymore out there, amirite?" you say with a smile.
But they aren't looking at you. They're looking at the shirt you picked out.
-"You're not going to actually BUY that are you?"
"Oh my god."
-"Worst goddamn shirt I've ever seen."
"We've seen a lot of shirts."
-"That's the worst."
-"It should be burned."
How would you feel if that happened? These people are assholes, right? That's the correct answer, don't feel bad. People like that are oblivious to the feelings of others, devoid of empathy. The only thing they care about is their own goddamn opinions. They jump at the chance to tell people what they think, like anyone gives a shit.
Now imagine it isn't a shirt.
Imagine it's Rapala Tournament Fishing for the Wii.
Grandma and I stopped at Kohl's today to get a cheap pair of pants. All of my pants look as unemployed as I do. It's hard to find anything in a 28 waist / 30 length in most stores nowadays, but Kohl's is cheap and sometimes I get lucky in the 70% off section.
While Kohl's is mostly just clothes, they also sell luggage, kitchen gear, linens, kitsch decorations and the like. Remarkably, they also have a video game section.
It's mostly just mediocre titles that are already a bit old. The prices aren't very good either. But it's not like you can complain, nobody really shops for games there. It's just a little impulse buy for the kids you dragged along. Maybe a gift. Something that makes that extra thirty second drive to the WalMart parking lot where the same $30 game can be had for $15 that much more painful.
I just got the pants.
As we stood in line, the girl in front of us solicited all sorts of fashion advice from the sales clerk to satisfy her choices.
Behind us in line stood Roger.
I don't know if his name was Roger, but he looked like a Roger. So we'll call him Roger.
Roger looked like the kindly sort of guy who would listen to your stories at work and reply, sincerely, with "that's interesting!" He was in his 40's or 50's, dressed for the weather, and had a bit of a scruffy beard. He motioned with a catalog he was holding.
"This is the last day to use the coupon, I think!" he told us.
-"That's right!" Grandma replied. "I think I threw mine away, though. I didn't know we were coming up here."
"Oh, they'll give you one at the register to scratch off if you ask, usually."
-"They're pretty good here about that."
And then I saw what Roger was holding.
Rapala Tournament Fishing for the Wii.
I thought I was just being helpful.
I thought he needed to know.
I thought I could do some good.
I wasn't thinking at all, now that I think about it.
I reached out my hand and said quietly: "Don't do it."
-"Don't do it?"
"I got it for her for Christmas at Target for $20, I think. It was really, really bad. Just terrible."
-"Oh. Good to know, I suppose."
"Look, you won't hurt my feelings if you get it anyway, I'm just saying.."
-"That bad, huh?"
Grandma confirmed my testimony.
"It really is horrible. The graphics on the Sega Genesis were better than whatever they did to that game."
Then Roger looked down at his shrinkwrapped, ready for purchase copy of Rapala Tournament Fishing for the Wii, and looked absolutely crushed.
I felt about two inches tall.
I wanted to look away, hurry up with my pants and not witness this man's disappointment, but I couldn't help but notice he slowly put the game on a shelf selling some Dr. Seuss books.
Then it got worse.
He looked at a watch he was going to buy with the coupon he made sure to bring.
"Now I don't know if I want this, either," he said, completely serious.
This wasn't sarcasm. With one critical hit, we had destroyed his impulse buying joy. We had not only inserted hesitation into his Wii game purchase, but now EVERYTHING seemed to suck.
I tried to intervene.
"Yes, but.. your coupon! There's probably a really good game back there you could get, maybe.."
-"Nah, I looked. This was the best game back there."
"Damn.. There's gotta be something, though.."
-"You know what, it's easy. That's how people screw up- when there's nothing good, you don't have to get anything. Just walk on out."
"But your coupon!" I repeated, as though it made perfect sense to me.
-"...Do you want it?"
"No, no, that's okay- are you sure?" I am such a goddamn asshole sometimes. Jesus Christ.
-"Sure! Here, it's 30% off! Have a good one!"
We thanked him, and then he left.
Roger saved us 30% off a pair of pants that were already on sale. Roger seemed like an awesome guy.
I did not feel like an awesome guy.
I tried to convince Grandma of how much I was in the wrong during the drive home.
"I shouldn't have said a goddamn word."
-"Yes," she said. "But it was Rapala Tournament Fishing."