Identify, yes. Idolize, no.

I can’t call Stephen Slater a Hero. Just can’t. I admit I feel for him. I admit to a sympathetic vicarious thrill at his flambouyant outburst. And I give him serious points for style, grabbing a beer and sliding away and all.

But, even by his own previous statements on an attendant forum a few years before, his behavior was childish and unprofessional. I’m sure he knows it and I hope for his sake he doesn’t let the hype convice him that his behavior was justified.

I do think his story points out a great lesson for us. That how we as customers treat service people is an important base measure of how civilized our society is. I hear my daughter complain regularly about customers’ behavior when they come through her checkout line. The most bitter complaints come from customers who abuse her when she has to enforce policies she did not set and has no power to change. She just checks groceries, folks. She does not set prices, coupon policy, or the number of items allowed in the express line. Give her a break, okay?

Service people do more than serve us what we want and need. They help ensure that public resources are most available and accessible for all. When we are all in a public place, Superrationality dictates that we need to be aware that everyone else there is there for some need and we all need to share this space, time, resource in a way that works best for everybody, not just me. Often I find myself in line somewhere actually being grateful for the whole phenomenon of it. That people actually acquiesce to standing in line as a default. To me it’s a sign of cooperation, civility, and justice. When I have the presence of mind to see it, I can actually enjoy the quotidian social wonder of taking my place in a queue.

For me, it’s a good barometer of my prayer life. When I am in my mindless ego-drone state, I am Mr. Exceptionalism. Yeah the rules are good, yadda yadda, but my situation is different. When my praver hygeine is caught up, I can be aware of my behavior and the needs of others. Especially service people and my fellow customers.

Oh, and for the love of Pete, I hope that the identity of the woman whose behavior was the cause of all this is not discovered. She owes an apology, but she does not deserve the crapstorm that will hit her if her name hits the media.

Plus, if we think about it, we have all been this woman at some point. We can all think of moments where we’ve rationalized exceptionalism, where we are convinced that the rules can be bent in this case, just this once, for me.

I do it while driving several times a week. I sheepishly hung up my cell phone in the car the other day, recalling how I often huff at other drivers to “get off the damn phone and drive!” Pot, Kettle, black, way too often.

So I find two great measures of my own Christian maturity; how thoughtful I am in public service situations, especially to those who serve, and how gentle I am with those (including myself) who fail to overcome their own exceptionalism.

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