I’ve noticed something over the years: Despite all of this “good will towards men” stuff, people tend to be even more obnoxious, rude, and combative, than usual during the Christmas season.
Why is that? This observation – which I made several years ago, in fact – resurfaced yesterday. I just thought it strange. Anyway, I happened to stop at Hobby Lobby after work. I’d wanted to buy some paint for a model that I’m hoping to complete, but I was also there because during a prior visit, I’d seen something of interest in their clearance section. I was hoping that it might still be available, although I knew going in that the chances were slim.
If you’ve never been to a Hobby Lobby, let me lay it out for you. It’s a general purpose hobby center that does everything it can to not let you forget that it is a Christian store. From the various displays in the center entry aisle, to the overhead music, customers are bombarded with Christianity. If they played sermons over the public address system, it would qualify as a church. Every visit is a unique experience, in my book, because for every instance where I’ve been able to check out within a reasonable time, I can relate at least three other visits that were sheer terror. For a while, it seemed as if all I did was go to their store to bring stuff up front; I’d be in line for so long that I’d just abandon my basket and leave. One cashier to handle eight customers may not sound bad in some stores, but when you’ve got some grandmother who’s buying tons-o-craft materials for the grandkids and 90% of that stuff has no SKU or barcode, it can be a living nightmare.
I know this sounds like I’m bashing the place, but I’m honestly not – I’m Christian, and in theory, what the good folks at Hobby Lobby are doing doesn’t necessarily offend me. But it does bother me in the sense that if I’m there to buy a can of model spray paint, I want to be alone with my own thoughts, not have the scene serenaded with a pop-synth version of “Blessed Assurance” overhead.
But I digress.
I quickly found the paint that I wanted, but the price was horrifying (as in ‘Oh, crap – this tiny can of paint costs how much??). I decided that I would ‘think about it’ – my way of trying to talk myself into something from which I’d otherwise walk away. As I walked around with this can of paint in my hands, I decided to walk over to the model aisle itself, to see if there were any items I might want on sale.
When I was a kid, I’d take my paper route money and race to a drugstore five blocks away to buy models. Ships, planes, and tanks – it really didn’t matter; I loved assembling models. To me, they were three-dimensional puzzles that needed to be solved. I didn’t have much patience back then, so I didn’t apply glue or decals carefully, nor did I have the skillset to paint the model so that it resembled the image on the box. More often than not, I didn’t paint them at all.
At some point in my early 20s, however, I turned my back on models. I know that I was assembling them (a bit more carefully, this time) until I was about 25. I had a shelf of US and Soviet submarines (I’ve always loved subs), all to scale. All had the basic decals, but I’d only attempted to paint a couple of them. I don’t know what happened to make me walk away from that hobby, but I did. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I returned to modeling, and even then, with a different attitude. The model ship that once cost three dollars is now nearly twelve times that price, and that’s if you can catch it on sale. Stores don’t carry models much anymore; I guess folks just don’t like them much.
But again, I digress.
This Hobby Lobby aisle was somewhat restrictive, as there were carts filled with various products along one side. The store’s shipment had arrived, and employees had taken filled several carts with various items and parked them in the aisle, to be shelved later. I used to work retail; I know the scoop. The problem is that an aisle that normally allowed two people to walk side-by-side could now only allow for people to travel single-file.
As I’m walking up this aisle, an older gent and (presumably) his wife were coming from the opposite direction. This was no frail elderly man. At best, this guy was between eight and twelve years older than me; if he was older, then I need to know his secret, because he certainly didn’t look it. I moved off to the side to let them pass – no reason, really; just me trying to be friendly. The older gent didn’t look at me; in fact, I don’t think he acknowledge me at all. Instead, he stops and begins sorting through one of the carts. Because he’s doing this, I can’t move forward; I have to wait until he passes me.
Except he doesn’t. He just stands there, rummaging through this cart. Meanwhile, I’m developing a slow burn inside because I can’t get to the part of the aisle I want to see. The female companion shot me an “I’m so sorry” look, but made no attempt to hurry him along. After what seemed to be an eternity (or about three minutes, whichever comes first), I sighed and turned around, heading back the way I came. My intent was to simply walk down another aisle and come back to the end I was trying to reach in the models aisle.
Apparently, my sigh was louder than I thought. I won’t lie – I was pissed at what I perceived as the older gent’s deliberate rudeness. But I wasn’t trying to make a point by releasing a heavy, manly breath; I was just frustrated. I heard the two of them say something, but couldn’t quite make it out – it’s not as if I cared at this point. But as I walked up a neighboring aisle, the woman suddenly appeared, having walked around to the aisle that I’m now in (we’re approaching each other). She gave me a half-smile and walked on by; either she was upset that she couldn’t move, too, or she was trying to intercept me. Either way, when I got to where I’d been trying to get to, the older gent and the woman were both gone without a trace.
The funny part was that I was sad to see them go. I really wanted to know what he muttered to her when I left the aisle, and I half wanted him to confront me when I emerged on the other end. I’m not a confrontational person, but I wanted one, and I still don’t exactly know why I felt that way. I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t the rude one, but maybe I was. I know that I had things on my mind and even more things to do, but waiting while some guy blocked traffic wasn’t on that list.
I put the paint back on the shelf. It was just too rich for my wallet.
Oh, well. I’m sure that there’s still enough time for Christmas to do some of that “good will” before it’s too late, but I don’t know that Hobby Lobby’s the place to do it.