Rudeness in Aisle 3…is there an APP for that?

Have you noticed that our high tech lives either make us incredibly happy or incredibly testy? It’s like we’ve either had too much caffeine or not enough – in any given moment!

We live a life of paradoxes. One of the most major ones concerns technology. On the one hand, we want a bit less of it at times. On the other, we want it to make our lives a bit easier. Striking the balance isn’t always easy or streaight forward.

Take cell phones, for example.

On the one hand, we are tethered to our cell phones, especially as teens and adults. It is not at all unusual to see someone on their phone in public yabbering away while dining with friends and family, ordering coffee, driving in the car, or shopping. At the same time, we often feel we need a break from the constant buzz of texts, emails, posts, news feeds, and unique pings from the many apps we load up to personalize our phone experience.

It’s a vicious cycle with only one solution: break the cycle. I did that recently and it was beyond freeing.

I was shopping at our local Stop & Shop with their new iPhone App.  They’d been promoting it for a while so I thought I’d give it a try, having been a fan for a long while of their self-check out technology.

That weekend, they had huge promotional signs and help desks scattered throughout the store as well as FAQ signs at the Self-Check stations. It was the first weekend in a long while that the hand-held kiosk station was full because everyone was trying out this new APP. It was actually a surreal sight – seas of people pushing their shopping carts holding up cell phones to grocery items. I found it really cool and a bit quicker than the hand held devices and judging by the respones of people in the ailes with me, the feeling seemed to be similar.

The only glitch was at check out. This new system was so popular that just about everyone was self-checking out that day creating long lines for those registers and creating a bit of a traffic jam in the aisle leading to just about every register.

Most people just took it in stride but one shopper seemed really out of sorts as he maneuvered his cart past the sea of carts and people gazing at cell phones. I was attempting to figure out how to do the self-check out from my phone when he ran into my cart. “Sorry”, I said to him as he glared and pushed his cart past mine a bit. “Really busy today.” He just stared a few minutes then snapped: “Right – perhaps pay less attention to your cell phone next time!”

The people around me and I were a bit taken aback by his response. Didn’t he see the signs and seas of people holding phones waiting to check out?

I pointed to one of the signs. “As you can see, I wasn’t on my phone as you are implying. We’re all using the new shopping App and are just a bit more distracted as we’re figuring it out. That’s why the lines are so long today.”

He just glared again. “Right. Good story though.”

The man next to me just muttered under his breathe: “Wow – the nerve of some folks. Talk about rude.”

It occurred to me that despite the signs, while this man was being rude, typically it is the cell phone users who are creating the chaos. Perhaps he’s just fed up with seas of cell phones. Perhaps coming to the grocery store is one of his cell phone free places and we’re the one rocking his boat.

I decided to try one more time to set the record straight. In a world where digital technology is entrenching all our lives in new and interesting ways, we all need to try to give each other a break – and think the best, when we can.

“Excuse me”, I said as I walked next to me. He tried to keep walking but I just paced him and held up my phone.

“Look – the Stop&Shop App. Like everyone else in this store, I was doing what you are here to do – shop. And, you happened to bump into me while I was waiting to check out. I wasn’t texting or posting…just trying to use the new APP.”

I got where he was coming from in a way. We are a cell phone obscessed culture and it’s so easy to get frustrated when you see someone in your way “on the cell phone”. So, so easy to jump to conclusions as he did that day.

And, I’d like to think that I’d do the same when I next chance someone utilzing their cell phone down the line.

The bystander effect is not something that produces any reasonable outcome for any situation. For us to stop being bystanders with technology use and inappropriate social interactions, it’s time we find ways to educate and take a stand. If we all do this, small steps will produce big results over time.

The problem is there is really no difference between a person pushing a shopping cart texting or Instagraming from a person pushing a shopping cart using the new App – they all look like this:

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