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Monday, December 03, 2007

Human Decency...where did it go?

This has absolutely nothing to do with science fiction or fantasy, but after my recent experience at the gas station I feel it necessary to rant about this particular subject.
    Now, I'm new to the Santa Cruz area, and I'm also new to the concept of directed traffic at gas stations. I'm used to a small town environment where lines at the pump pretty much don't exist, and when they do it's very clear where you can go to get in line and people, generally, don't care about the direction of traffic so long as they end up at the pump at some point in the day.
    Well, this is apparently not the case in Santa Cruz. Now, because I'm so unused to this new concept of directed traffic at the pumps, I pulled up to the Safeway pump, go behind a lady who was pulled in to a spot in the opposite direction of the cars on the other end. I assumed that "hey, I can pull in behind her and be set to go", thinking there weren't really that many cars on the other side since I couldn't see beyond the lights of the station. I didn't see the sign that directed traffic, because I am not inclined to look for a sign since I've never seen one in my life anyway. On a side not, almost every gas station in the entire city of Sacramento that I had the pleasure of going to don't have signs either, and I don't get this sort of treatment there either.     Now, it's clear that I have made a mistake and pulled into the station incorrectly. I can acknowledge this and I am sorry that I cut in line, even though it wasn't intentional.
    Well, when I pulled up to the pump after this lady left, I thought I was okay. I pulled in, started pumping my gas, and all the way until the 12th gallon (since my car takes 13 or some such) the gentleman in front of me decided he had to say something. Prior to this someone had made a comment about making sure idiots don't pull in there, which didn't make sense to me at the time, because I wasn't aware the whole time I was sitting there that I had broken some law and committed treason against the United States of America.
    Anyway, so this gentleman decided to ask me at the end of my pump "do you always cheat people out of their gas?" Firstly, I didn't know that pulling into the pump cheated someone out of gas if they were going to be able to get gas at some point that night anyway (actually, in a matter of minutes really). Then it dawned on me. "I've pulled in the wrong way, oh my gosh..." (I said that within my head in an apologetic manner). The problem here is that this gentleman addressed me with disrespect and indignation, and a slight touch of hatred, something I'm also not used to at a gas pump, and apparently this sort of behavior is rampant in the bay area (which is making me dream of the day I can move the hell out of here).
    So I start to apologize, because I am sorry that I messed up here. His response? "Well, can't you read?" while pointing in an obscure direction as if from my vantage point I'd be able to see some magic sign that isn't facing me in the first place. Again, I tried to apologize, not realizing what is going on, but he continues on with his rude behavior, treating me like I'm some illiterate buffoon who is incapable of any sort of remorse.
    By this point, I almost don't care anymore. In fact, I have an entirely different approach to this situation now. Why hadn't this man, if he cares so much about all these people behind him, politely come up to me while I was sitting and waiting and gently explained to me that I was pulling in wrong? Maybe then he would have known that I'm just a new person to the area, because I would have said so, and I wasn't used to having signs and the like, and that I'm terribly sorry. After that I would have pulled around to the line and waited my turn accordingly. Or, he could have gently explained to me as I pulled up what was up. He had more than enough opportunities to get his point across without having to be rude and indignant, and without proving himself to be a proponent of the increasingly frequent destruction of human decency in this country. But he did none of these things. Neither did any of the people who supposedly were upset at my accidental mistake, or anyone else at the pump. Neither did the lady who was in front of me who I thought was pulled in correctly in the first place.
    In fact, this man did nothing to help correct a mistake. He assumed that I was being a complete jerk without figuring out that "oh hey, he's just a new kid, not used to this sort of thing and maybe I should simply explain to him what is going on". No, no such thing happened. I was labeled and treated like a pile of garbage, as if I weren't even human anymore. I'll be honest in one thing. When someone begins to treat me like crap, I get upset, but I don't show that emotion. My stomach gets tied in knots, sometimes I get a little ill, and immediately any remorse I once had at that particular moment is completely gone. I literally don't care anymore and I actually have a sick moment where I am glad that I've done something wrong as if perhaps I'm going to prove a point. But no such point is ever proven. People can't forgive others in this country any more (that might be too general of a statement).
    To be honest, my mistake was so pathetically minor that it amazes me that people actually treat it as if it were as important as high treason. I didn't really hurt anyone. Certainly I made a mistake and I wish I had known ahead of time so that I didn't screw someone out of their time, but there's no reason why my apology couldn't have been heard in the first place and accepted. I even had the decency, after being treated in such a disrespectful way, to wish this man a good night, ending the conversation as there was no point in arguing with him. I just feel like this is an example of the loss of human decency. Since when has it been customary to simply label people and treat them with crap? When did this move happen? I know it has been this way for a while, but why is it that we (Americans) feel a need to treat everyone else (citizens) in the same manner as foreigners? Being wrong and admitting so is a trait that is hard to come by, but so is finding people who can accept others for their faults.
    Maybe this just proves that some people shouldn't live in larger cities. This is also one of the reasons why I hate being outside. I live in a relatively beautiful area, but I've become so incredibly antisocial because of behavior like the above (although this is the first time I've ever experienced such behavior over something that seems so small).
    Maybe my goal to be a writer for a living is a good one. It will keep me out of the public for great expanses of time and I won't have to deal with this crap...

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  1. Anonymous10:12 AM

    So it'd be ok to yell at an English person who was confused, then? I think you phrased that badly. :p

    Regarding petrol pumps, I'm surprised you can pull in any direction you want, even in a small town. Ours are all laid out so it's pretty much impossible to drive in the wrong entrance, and if it is, they have an enormous 'no access' sign. I can completely understand why the guy was annoyed (though not why he didn't just say 'er, wrong side ...' when he had the chance) but it seems kind of retarded that that sort of mistake is possible. It's not a hard thing to plan out ...

    Cheating out of petrol ... honestly. Some people are so overdramatic. *rolleyes*

  2. As well as sympathizing with you I see this as a pretty good lesson not to judge people without knowing their circumstances. Thanks for the reminder.

    Oh, and I've traveled quite a bit, within California and elsewhere, and I have never seen these signs either, had no idea they existed. I probably would have made the same mistake you did.

  3. I'm glad to know that I'm not completely in left field on this. I really didn't realize I was screwing up and it would have been nice to be politely told that I'd made a mistake. But, nobody took the time to explain it to me, they just judged me straight off as some jerk kid...