Sometimes things we have been taught since childhood are so ingrained in our minds that they are difficult to notice unless you have unlearned them and are capable of recognizing them when they occur.
Such an incident took place this weekend as I was at the local grocery store. There, a woman was at the self-checkout aisle and was having trouble with the machine scanning her groceries. After a minute or so, she started complaining loudly to the remaining employees there, as it was late at night. She then proceeded to hound the helper clerk, obviously a high schooler, who had come over to help but didn’t have the necessary keys to fix the problem. She vented at him as if the whole thing were his fault.
I found myself watching this entire scene finding the situation ironic. Would this same woman complain if the security line at the airport was slow and she was forced to remove her shoes and throw all of her stuff into a plastic container and have it scanned and then possibly submit to an intrusive pat down? Would this same woman berate the TSA agents when they take away trivial items from her because they “might” pose a threat?
Of course not.
Why? Because she’s been trained well.
I’ve worked a lot of jobs in my life, one of which was in retail, another in a grocery store. At both jobs I was spoken to in a way that you would never see them address a TSA agent, police officer, or anyone else in government. That would be considered “disrespectful.”
Growing up we are taught to regard certain offices and those who hold them in a special revere, while haranguing the lowly retail and restaurant worker who is little more than the bearer of bad news, such as when people tried to use coupons for things but they clearly hadn’t read the fine print or when someone’s favorite meal isn’t offered at that place.
Has anyone else noticed this? You’re free to complain when the meal isn’t delicious at a restaurant or remark how the waitress didn’t warm up your coffee every five minutes. You are free to nitpick when there is a small imperfection in a product or the slightest error in your order off the dollar menu at a fast food restaurant.
But government can waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars, spy of us, violate our rights, fund programs we don’t consent to, and when we complain we’re told we’re not grateful for what they’ve given us.
One of the reasons is because in the private sector we aren’t forced to use their services. We have the luxury of getting our way. If we don’t like one grocery store, there are plenty others to choose. The phrase “the customer is always right” means that businesses go out of their way to make their customer happy, because if they don’t that customer goes to their rivals.
But when was the last time you ever heard a government employee say “the citizen is always right,” or a politician say “the voter is always right”?
It’s more than mere social engineering. It’s academic. They don’t have to make a citizen or voter happy. They pay taxes either way. Citizens have to go to the DMV no matter how much they despise it or the person sitting behind the window.
But it’s also intended to infer that those who work in the private sector are not entitled to respect. Those in government apparently are. We’re supposed to strain the private sector’s gnat, but swallow the government’s camel.