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the lights are on, and getting very dim…

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Last night I went to a grocery store for cream for my coffee. I also picked up some butter, and then cruised by the ice cream aisle. That’s my thing now, I eat ice cream and watch netflix until late late at night. Then i get up early and go to the yoga class at my gym. Underslept, over-sugared. but what the hell.

Anyway, on my way in to the store, I kind of vaguely noticed that the car next to me had its lights on, but the car was empty. I thought it was just one of those cars that stays lit up for a bit after you stop and get out, but then the lights go off on their own. When I left the store, the car was still lit up. Though dimmer now. uh-oh. So I made a note of the license plate and went in and told the two stock boys who were standing by the door.

“There’s a car in the lot with its lights on. I have the license plate number, can you make an announcement?”

Both young men looked at me.

“Can you interrupt the music and make an announcement? Should I speak to someone else?”

“That car?” one of them asked, pointing toward the dark parking lot.

“No,” I said, “you can’t really see it from here. I have the license plate number, do you want me to write it down?”

They both blinked and wandered over to the window to look out to see if they could see the car.

I went to the customer service desk. I said to the woman there, “there’s a car in the lot with the lights on, can you make an announcement?”

“No, I need the license plate number” She was only marginally more interested than the boys were. It was late, I’m sure their work is drudgery and underpaid, by that time of night, I bet they’re all kind of dissociating. But honesttogod, those boys were, I don’t know how they managed to stay upright –

Anyway, I told her the license plate number, and she wrote it down, so I thanked her and headed out. Just as one of the stock boys picked up the mic for the PA system and said, “There’s a car with the lights on in the parking lot”.

That’s it. Not the license plate number, not the colour or make of the car, nothing. I said, “I have the license plate number, you should announce that”

“uh, I already made an announcement” said the boy. He looked uncertain.

His colleague said, “I don’t think the owner would feel comfortable…”

“Look,” I said, “If you say ‘there’s a car with the lights on’ everybody will go, ‘oh too bad for that guy’. But if you say, ‘there’s a car with license plate xxx-xxx’ the proper person will say, ‘oh fuck, my lights are on!’ You’re not announcing their address, fer cryin’ out loud!”

“You want me to announce it again?” said the first kid.

“Yes, in fact, I think that will be a good idea.” And I gave him the license plate number for the sixth time. They wrote it down. Finally.

I would like to report that this whole time I was patient and kind. But I don’t think I was. Especially at the end, when I finally walked away saying “holy smoke, you guys” in a most condescending tone of voice.

Why was it such a production to make an announcement that the lights on a car were on? Why was EVERYONE so reluctant to take such a small action?
This is the tip of an iceberg of disconnection.

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About easilyriled

My mom was Edith, my dad was John. I have a brother, who is Shawn. I have many friends and allies and mentors in my life. I'm white, over-educated, under-employed, messy, funny, smart, lesbian, feminist "Not the fun kind", as Andrea Dworkin said. But I, like the feminists I hang with, ARE fun. I play accordion better than I did, and i'm learning the concertina. Slowly.

11 responses »

  1. Black Metal Valkyrie

    Did you think the person who owns the car could have been kidnapped or something?

    Reply
    • Oh, I don’t think so. That action would take a certain amount of initiative, which I did not detect in anyone I met. Mind you, they may have been acting — they convinced me.

      Reply
      • Black Metal Valkyrie

        So you were just frustrated at their lack of vigor?

      • not just that. It’s not that they moved slowly, or they were considering things at a different pace than mine, it was that they were unwilling or unable to act at all. I said “the lights are on…” and repeated the license plate number two or three times before either of them uttered a syllable. I don’t know. I said, too, “should I tell someone else?” and they just looked at me. It was weird, really. Plus my ice cream was melting.

  2. Terry Middleton

    Hey Erin, What would be so funny is if the car with the lights on belonged to someone who worked in that store, it would serve them right!

    Terry

    >

    Reply
  3. Black Metal Valkyrie

    I read this with the context thinking the car owner was kidnapped and it changes your post radically, lol.

    Reply
  4. I love this blog post, easilyriled! It’s evocative, and (I think) I really GET it.

    Whatever this thing is that you have observed and described here — this social disconnection or dissociation, or almost complete disinclination from others, in the most banal public circumstances — I have seen it and I have felt it. It’s everywhere nowadays, particularly amongst the young and very young. It’s as if they want to press a button and delete you or minimize you just for asking a question or making an ordinary, everyday request.

    And I know what you mean by being left with a residual “bleak” feeling. For me, when something like this happens — which, as I said, is rather often — I think that the bleakness is made up of equal parts of me feeling stunned, confused, ruffled, frustrated and alienated.

    If I wasn’t so tired right now, I’d try a little harder and provide some examples of my own. All I can say is: this strange encounter you had in the supermarket? it’s a THING, for sure. Not individual and not isolated, but some kind of a new feature of the world that just creeped up on us. I have a friend who tells me a story like yours at least once per week. He even says what you said here: ” … and they just LOOKED at me … ” Ha.

    Reply
    • We talked about this incident in my class this afternoon. I am teaching in the teacher education program–this kinda thing is classed, too–those boys were raised to follow orders and not think for themselves. My students talked about the difference between what they wanted to do as teachers and what they were required by the Institution to do–and that also varied according to the social-economic class demographic of their schools. Anyway–good discussion. But now what?

      Reply
    • Ah and thanks, Morag.

      Reply

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