Many of us have grown up with classic, poetic descriptions of the “end times”. Everything from the Bible to John MIlton–the apocalypse, hell, the end of days–and all seem to include the horrors of the time. Brimstone, disease, famine, eternal flames, war…yeah, the Horsemen are coming, and they’re coming for us.
Many people believe that the end times are upon us, though I haven’t seen anyone walking around the city streets wearing a sandwich board saying “the End is NEAR!” lately. There’s plenty of evidence that the “horsemen” are alive and well–our world is rife with famine, war, pestilence, and death–but I’m actually thinking that they have hired a “support staff” of lesser horsemen. I see the signs in less obvious places.
On Valentine’s Day, my devoted husband (who is one of the gentlest, most loving souls I have ever had the underserved good fortune to meet), went to a local (name of grocery store) store to purchase, among other things, a dozen roses for me. (Name of grocery store) has gorgeous roses at relatively reasonable prices, and, although I always tell him I don’t need flowers, he can’t resist.
So far, the story is not remarkable–a man goes to buy flowers for his wife on Valentine’s Day. It’s what happened in the checkout lane that amazes me. As the clerk is scanning the purchase, he raises an eyebrow at the roses, then he looks my husband in the eye and proceeds to make the following contemptuous comments:
“You know that these flowers are already DYING, don’t you?”
“That certainly is a lot of money to spend on dying flowers, isn’t it?”
“(Name of grocery store) sure makes a lot of money on these flowers.”
“Must be nice to have the cash to blow on dying flowers.”
Now, while he’s doing this, the unfortunates who are sacking groceries are getting a little red in the face, flashing uncomfortable looks at one another. Little did they know that they would be sacking groceries for the Fifth Horseman–you know, “Rudeness”, or, as he is known in the ancient Babylonian tongue, “Absurdity”.
I can just imagine what he would have done with my grocery cart.
“You do know that those vegetables are not organic, don’t you?”
“You DO realize that migrant workers might have been used to pick those vegetables, right?”
“You know that meat is DEAD, right?”
“Must be nice to be able to afford all that hormone-injected meat from abused cattle. (Name of grocery store) sure makes a lot of money on that meat.”
Never mind that we are checking out expecting a courteous “Thank you for shopping here”. Never mind that we are NOT expecting a berating from an employee who casts aspersions on our choice of Valentine’s gifts. Never mind that we are not expecting that employee to cast aspersions on the employer who pays his salary. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
Had it been me, and not my gentle husband, there would have been consequences. I tend not to let such things pass, probably because I am responsible for educating people. Trust me–this fellow needed a little schooling. But as I think about it, the Horseman of Rude probably wouldn’t have learned much. After all, he was only doing his job–not having gained the maturity to realize that the world would be much better off without the benefit of his opinion. I (mostly) knew better by the time I was ten (well, at least I knew better than to say this sort of thing to a teacher, a supervisor, or a customer!).
Maybe that misplaced righteous indignation and smug disapproval can be harnessed for the greater good; we can hope it evolves into something more useful. But when discourtesy and unwarranted self-importance rise to this level, we can only surmise that the End is Near. It seems that the barriers of inhibition and restraint that keep us “civilized” are disappearing at an alarming rate.The Aztecs might have gotten the date wrong, but don’t be surprised if we wake up some morning in the not-too-distant future to find the shadowy specters galloping toward us–followed closely by the ancillary support staff. Among them we will see “Absurdity”, galloping on his argyle steed the color of green neon, raising high his cell phone, his orange Bozo-the-Clown wig rippling menacingly in the avenging wind.