The First Scratch

It was a warm, sunny beautiful day at Casa de SJ, so the time was right to do the ceremonial spring washing, cleaning and SU dash pot polishing on the Healey. As I worked my way through the car, my daughter came out to say that she wanted to wash her new Mini Cooper. It was bought just before the winter and this would be its first wash.

“Let’s do it,” I proudly exclaimed, and upon completion of the Healey, she pulled the Mini into the place of honor. But then, as she began to assess the winter’s ravages, she saw something else. There, on the hood, were the unmistakable marks of someone putting a package down and pulling it off, leaving a scrape in its wake.

It was easy enough to fix with a bit of compound, but she was astounded and outraged. “What sort of animal would do such a thing,” she cried in anguish. I felt her pain. It had to be some woman at the supermarket. They don’t care about anything but themselves.

Coincidentally, Chris Seaton raised a similar travesty.

To be fair, it’s just not as bad as driving the speed limit in the left lane or the person who, done with the shopping cart, gives it a blind push in a direction away from them, but to each his own.

But these all raised the issue presented by the Shopping Cart Theory.

Okay, I admit that this takeoff of the Trolley Problem is pretty funny, but here’s the full blown idea.

Some years ago, I argued that charity is about giving without receiving anything in return. It’s done anonymously, not for appreciation, recognition or self-aggrandizement. This doesn’t make you a bad person if you want your name on the library, but it does make you less than selfless.

Some years ago, I argued that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. If you could commit a crime and be guaranteed to get away with it, would you? Or would you not steal something for no better reason than it’s wrong?

The phrase “virtue-signalling” has been derided as an attack on the virtuous. After all, the expression of virtue is believed to spread it to others, or more realistically, shame others into sharing the virtuous belief. But signalling gets reactions, whether merely to “like” you or recognize you as one of the tribe of “good” people. Does anyone give you the feedback and validation of a “like” for returning your shopping cart? Without it, is the effort worthwhile?

After I finished compounding my daughter’s mini, washed it up and repolished the spot, we talked about why other people would be so thoughtless with other people’s things. After all, it was just a car and the person who put their shopping bag on her hood likely needed some place to put it so that she could open her own car. Maybe she wouldn’t care if someone did the same to her; she would understand. Maybe she would be outraged because it damaged her car and she was just another narcissist who cared only about herself. Who knew?

She was philosophical about the damage, realizing that she could only control her behavior and choices, and that life would be filled with selfish assholes who would mindlessly damage other people’s hoods because it was good for them at the moment. There was never a time when some people weren’t like this. There will always be people who care less for others than themselves. There will always be people who think only of what’s good for them, even if it means that others will be harmed in the process.

But has there ever been a time when so many people expend so much effort making excuses for their actions while hiding behind the faux virtue of saying the right words to get their tribe’s approval, while simultaneously being so lazy and narcissistic that they can’t manage to walk the 50 feet to return their shopping cart, or to put groceries in their car without putting them down on someone else’s hood, when they can get away with it? The virtue signalers will insist that they are not the douches who would do such a thing, and that it’s no different today than it ever was. And if you disagree, they will call you bad names for being so utterly lacking in empathy.

16 thoughts on “The First Scratch

  1. F. Lee Billy

    So many shopping carts, so little time. That’s what you get when you shop in the hood. Somebody should sue the thoughtless baaastards, without prejudice.

    It’s just another slow day on Wall St., and the beginning of Ramadan. As good a time as any to wash and wax empathetic.

  2. CLS

    Jeez. I crack one joke and you manage to turn it into a life lesson.

    It’s really troubling how so many have turned from realizing the only actions we can control are our own to insufferable scolds demanding we follow arbitrary rules. Worse yet is the scold’s tendency to judge our morality based on compliance.

    The virtuous among us wear properly fitted N95 masks in and out of the house, remain inside as much as possible, keep our children locked away with minimal peer contact through Zoom, and greet our extended families from at least six feet away. Stray from these mandates and you’re a selfish, entitled asshole who wants to kill everyone for a haircut.

    And being judgmental for the sake of tribal “likes” is so goddamn easy thanks to social media, where surprising amounts of virtue-signaling involves mashing the “share” or “retweet” button when one stumbles on memes equating mask wearing with public urination or exposed genitalia.

    It would be nice to think these same folks will remember their behavior when they resume their “peace, love, and understanding” social media branding. I just don’t think it’ll happen.

    1. SHG Post author

      For a while I needed a haircut. Now, I’m going with the old hippy concept to signal my old hippy virtue.

  3. JP

    Car parks are public spaces and returning your trolley is an act of public virtue signalling. People will stare and shame you with their eyes if you don’t. If you want to see how people behave in a totally anonymous space, so you can judge people’s virtues, and sample the state of human decency, well you already have an open comments section.

    1. SHG Post author

      There may be time when people are watching, and then “stare and shame you,” but there are times when they’re not. As for my comments section, it’s less a matter of virtue and more a matter of sentience. Many fail, JP.

  4. Casual Lurker

    “The virtue signalers will insist that they are not the douches who would do such a thing…”

    —Sylvester Stewart – If you want me to stay:

    When you know that you’re never number two
    Number one gonna be number one

    I’ll be good
    I wish I could
    Get this message over to you now

    If I may be allowed a video…

  5. Rendall

    The twit that introduced the concept to the Twitters has over 650K likes and 175K retweets. Way more people than I would expect actually took the time to reply with angry rationalizations on why they should still get to think of themselves as civilized, wholesome people but not have to return the cart.

  6. Dan

    Returning your shopping cart to the corral deprives a teenager of a job collecting them with that cool electric cart pusher, and of roaming to the far reaches of the parking lot to sneak a smoke.

  7. B. McLeod

    The virtue-signallers of today would explain that you are at fault if you have a shiny new car, and any relatively marginalized person is entitled to set a package on it should they so choose.

    1. SHG Post author

      That hadn’t occurred to me, but you’re got a point. Privilege is blinding me from my privilege.

    2. F. Lee Billy

      McCloud, you are an ace. So glad we met ya. We like Dan’s comment better, for real. His makes sense. Yours,… not so much. You can do better, and you know it.

  8. losingtrader

    How utterly fucking arrogant to want me to shop at your store, then expect me to perform uncompensated work for your business. I expect my usual billing rate of $5,000 per hour plus benefits, and if I’m injured putting the cart away I expect to receive worker’s comp.

    The kid whose job it is to collect and return the carts has [previously instructed me to return my cart . You can imagine my response. It’s somewhere between insults 27 and 154 on the list of SHGisms.

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