Sunday 23 December 2018

The Squeaky Trolley


Yesterday, I was food shopping. It was busy. It was the Saturday before Christmas.

Like most humans, I do my shopping at a supermarket and make use of the supplied Trolleys (a.k.a cart). I like to make sure that when I get my trolley, it is operationally sound. I do not enjoy pushing a trolley that has a stiff wheel or that has a mind of its own. I also like to park in the car park in a place that is easy for my exit. This has a nice side benefit of nearly always having a supply of trolleys available. I always take a trolley that looks mechanically sound and free of defects such as squeaks. As there are normally a few trolleys to choose from, if I take one and discover it is a little janky, I can switch it for another one.

My choice of trolley seemed reasonably sound. It rolled fine, and after a 100 metres on the asphalt, it looked like it was not going to give me any shit. Except as soon as I got inside the store it started emitting a squeak that was so loud, everyone around me looked at me. Interesting. As I moved through the crowds (remember this is Saturday before Christmas, and it is the busiest day of the year) that effect did not diminish. It was like I was shopping with a banshee en-tow. After five minutes I had stuff in the trolley and switching it out would have meant leaving the trolley in the store temporarily while I went to get a new, non-squeaky trolley. It was going to be a right faff-on, but this attention and squeak were starting to push me into “fuck-this” mode.

I was about to execute my switcheroo plan, and then I had an idea. Everyone was looking at me as I moved through the store. The wail of the trolley ensured they did; you would have to be deaf not to hear it and even then, I am sure you’d have felt it on the back of your neck. I thought about why I was allowing this sound to put me into “fuck-this” mode. There were surely other sounds going on in the world that were worse, and they were not bothering me. It played out like this:

calculate_impact(jamie, sound_next_to_jamie)
>>> {:error, :fuck_this}

calculate_impact(jamie, sound_far_away_from_jamie)
>>> {:ok, :whatever}

For whatever reason, my mind had decided this noise was a threat to me. It was causing people to notice me. I could not move without being looked at. It was everywhere. Regarding eyeballs, I was in a many to one situation where I was the one, and the legions of shoppers were the many.

I thought to myself, what if I owned that squeak? What if I decided I wanted to be noticed by everyone. What if I wanted people to turn and look at me or what if I didn’t give zero shits if they did. Interesting. So I adopted a new “test” mentality and walked a few isles at a new, confident slow pace. I stood tall and return zero of the glance aimed at me. I moved as if store place was empty.

It worked. The squeak ceased nuking my patience levels. I was no longer bothered by the squeaky trolley, and I was paying zero attention to all the attention I was getting. Instead of annoying me and causing everyone to look at me, the squeak was now serving only to announce me to my fellow shoppers.

Sidenote: This situation was hardly a challenging life realisation. It was a squeaky trolley, and it registers about 0.00001 on the life threat chart, so I am not attempting to claim any victory from the universe in my lifelong war against it. What I am attempting to communicate is that even something as irritating as a squeak trolley can provide a mildly interesting anecdote for a blog post.