The Beautiful Line

Like many Southern Californians find themselves doing on a sunny summer day, this past weekend I headed out to Ikea to purchase a few items. I’ll admit that I try to take a more Zen-like approach than your average bear when spending a Saturday afternoon at one of our nation’s finer big-box stores, so when it comes time to get in line to pay, I just choose one that will hopefully flow like a frat-house keg and space out until my turn.

That’s not to say there isn’t a loose scientific method to my choice. On this particular day, my girlfriend and I chose the line that ended with a college-aged girl who was only purchasing a few hand towels. Maybe it was the aforementioned Zen-like approach that caused us not to notice the unfolding situation, but the girl in front happened to be talking to a girl in the adjacent line. One quick look at their similar Droopy Dog-like faces and it was easily deduced that they were probably sisters.

Shortly after, their mom walked up and – oddly – was physically more attractive than both daughters combined. One might even use the words “Orange County MILF” if describing on looks alone, making me only wonder what the dad’s half of the gene pool was contaminated with because someone was wielding the ugly stick with a heavy hand and it didn’t appear to be mom.

Soon enough, a large transaction ahead was cleared and our line progressed a chunk closer to pay day. Seeing this, other-line sister quickly and aggressively shoved her massively overflowing cart in front of us, causing me to finally realize what was happening: The sloppy sisters were line hedging in order to double their chances of a quicker exit. What was once a simple girl and her towels standing between us and our own exit had now become a colossal purchase of time-consuming proportions.

Because they were young, I could almost understand their crass – yet textbook – display of line-hogging, as self-awareness has been nobody’s strongpoint at that age. Instead, what really bothered me most was the mother’s complacent involvement. One could almost sense her pride as her girls shaved a minute or two off their waiting time, all at the expense of looking like total jackasses in the process to all behind them.

The annoyance I derived from witnessing this ill display of tasteless parenting actually surprised me. I was annoyed to the point of commenting on the situation with my girlfriend in very un-hushed tones. Of course, for the group to realize they were the subject of our discussions would have taken a self-awareness on their parts that they obviously didn’t possess. Their only concern at the moment was most likely a pair of cinnamon buns and a hot dog at the post-checkout cafe.

I can’t speak from experience, but I think we all know that parenting can really kick in the mama-bear tendencies, which creates the need for a delicate dance between scolding your kids’ actions and defending them to others. As a dog owner who has snapped at someone for reprimanding my pets aggressively, I can totally understand the protective nature that arises, be it human, canine or ursine.

Though sometimes I can only wonder if protective parenting unchecked can later lead to situations like the line debacle described above. It’s as if the extension of mama-bear self-righteousness taken too far can create kids with a strictly self-interested view of the world. A view completely devoid of how their actions might affect other people, and equally absent the awareness of the image that their actions project.

I understand this is just one small situation, but I really felt I captured a glimpse into this family’s perspective. It was obvious she was doing her daughters a serious disservice by raising them to act this way and it took some willpower on my part to notbe the asshole who tells her while she’s just trying to gather her purchases and get out of Ikea like the rest of us.

Instead I just kept quite and thought about my earlier unwarranted opinion of the sisters. We all know there are generic standards for physical beauty, but we also can all think of a “beautiful person” who in reality is absolutely revolting and vice-versa, leading me to believe without a doubt that true beauty is not about looks at all. Instead I personally believe what true beauty is, is both an understanding of yourself and an awareness of how this relates to the rest of the world and everyone else in it. To be truly beautiful is to understand that we are all in this together, and it is up to us to at least try to live our lives as such.

It made me realize the ugliness I was so unfairly judgmental about before wasn’t physical. Instead it was the wear and tear of a short selfish life worn like halloween masks on what could have otherwise been two beautiful faces if only a mother had balanced her dance and communicated to her daughters that what is truly beautiful and important about our world has nothing to do with getting your cinnamon roll a few minutes faster on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

“I believe we are each of us connected to every person and everything on this Earth, that we are in fact one divine organism having an infinite spiritual existence. Of course, we may not always comprehend that.” – Jane Catherine Lotter

  • karlito sanders

    very cool read

  • bingo

    I saw this statistics blog entry yesterday:

    Based on the model, the solution is to have one line that breaks off at the registers, where the next person in line goes to the available register.

    Do crappy systems encourage crappy behavior?

    That makes me think back to your gun articles: erode the mental healthcare system, and give everyone access to guns. Surprise, people are getting shot! Who saw that coming.