Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Welcome To The Real World

It is a psychological axiom that "Change is Difficult", and that people by their very natures will resist alteration of any kind. This is so axiomatic, in fact, that most of the time the horrible rightness of the saying is forgotten in the humdrum of our unwilling but necessary accommodations to everyday life.

I have always prided myself on being a person willing and even eager to embrace change. Take a new job? GREAT! Move to a new state? HOW EXCITING!

Recently, however, I have come to appreciate that I am not as flexible as I imagined. Nor, as it turns out, am I as even-tempered as I liked to be thought because as I scrambled to deal with one small change in my life--even though it was a relatively minor one-- I became absolutely enraged beyond all reason.

Without notice, and quite abruptly (it seemed to me) my supermarket (we have a large Kroger's here in Ann Arbor) completely changed the layout and design of its store! I was used to regularly popping in to pick up some juice; or vegetables; or just something I needed for a recipe for dinner that night. Then one day--OUT OF THE COMPLETE BLUE--I showed up and NOTHING was in the place it had been in for the last 5 years. I was in a foul mood anyway since something at work had annoyed me, so my temper flared into full-blown violent wrath simply because my usual 5 minute detour to the supermarket was taking 25 or 30 minutes.

And the thing was, I didn't hesitate to let everyone who worked there know about my anger and frustration. "How could you do this without any notice!" I moaned. "This is a nightmare!" I yelled at some hapless store worker who was trying to direct me to the soup section.
"What kind of morons decided to move everything to the opposite side of the store! " I stormed.

I was relentless in my pursuit of justice for my cause. In the car going home I fumed, thinking that I would take my business elsewhere from now on. Then I realized that if I went to a new store, I would have to learn where everything was anyway. But, I argued with myself, it would serve Kroger right if I took my business elsewhere? Hadn't they abandoned me? Weren't they making my life harder, and doing it deliberately so they could showcase all this stuff I didn't go to the grocery store for? (they had put up new sections with furniture--furniture!-- and expanded the book and magazine section, along with other non-grocery items).

It has been several weeks now. My anger is calmed somewhat, but all it takes to arouse it again is for some condiment whose proper location I used to readily know, to be found in what seems to me to be a location that only a lunatic would choose. The anger remains raw and unquenchable--right near the surface. After all, I have been betrayed.

It has taken me this long to begin to think about why such an insignificant change--and it really is insignificant--upsets me so much. I was used to things the way they were. It was convenient for me. It made my life easier for things to stay the way they were--for the canned corn to be dependably in Aisle 3. Kroger used to be so dependable....why, why would they betray me??

I stop for a moment lost in a blaze of insight. THIS, I think is what all those people are experiencing! If I could feel it about groceries, for God's sake, what must some people be feeling about the America since 9/11? George Bush has rearranged all those nice comfortable aisles. Diplomacy, which used to be on Aisle 1 is now in the back of Aisle 8. Things you never imagined would be in the store at all are upfront and right in your face. And it happened so suddenly! George Bush betrayed us! Here we were all complacent thinking we were so safe. Cozy and comfortable and predictable under the Clinton Administration.


Oh, shit. Welcome to the real world....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This struck me as being so true....

I don't think there's a woman in America 30 or older who hasn't experienced this sort of reaction in the supermarket. I know I have. I think you're right about people's emotional reactions to Bush, too.

The split is so deep because the population is split into those who have considered 9/11 and tried to come to terms with the reality behind them, and those who refuse to do it. For those who refuse it is by far the safer choice to demonize Bush and his administration, to make the current situation his fault, and turn it into a problem that can be solved by removing him.

In the last few months I've seen an odd aspect to the writings and postings of this group, who I'll call the Dem insiders. Their descriptions of the convention show the deep uneasiness and even fear they are feeling. What they say objectively doesn't make sense, and I have the feeling at times that I am reading something written by a member of a cult.

But if you take into account their psychological position, their fear makes sense. The Republican party, and those supporting Bush for reelection, are in the position of forcing acrophobics to walk to the edge of a roof and look down. No wonder these people feel attacked.

Kerry's convention was very much designed to appeal to this mindset. The idea, not expressed explicitly, was that 9/11 would "go away" if Kerry were elected. The vision of that sanctuary is now receding.

I'm a programmer who writes programs to deal with banking regulations, not a psychologist. However I'm a successful programmer, and to be one I have to recognize that the technical qualities of your program are always trumped by how the users experience my program. So I think a lot about emotional issues, and what you write here rings true.