Many years ago, Albert Einstein was attempting to explain the concept of the impenetrability of solid objects in the physical world. He very eloquently, and in simple terms which anyone should be able to understand, stated it this way:
“No two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.“
One would think that this reality would be intuitively obvious to just about everyone, but I have learned without question that there are those who believe that the laws of theoretical physics simply do not apply in the grocery store checkout line. I know this through direct observation having had the misfortune of engaging two such skeptics within the past few weeks.
Let me set the scene for you. One afternoon a few weeks ago, I had completed cruising the aisles at my local Publix, picking out everything that I needed. The heavy work done, I proceeded with my full cart toward the front of the store. Arriving there, I scoped out the nearest open checkout line which didn’t already have someone queued up waiting for their turn to stimulate our nation’s economy.
Once in the line, I started unloading the items from my cart and placing them on the checkout line conveyor starting at the end nearest the clerk and working my way backward, filling up the empty conveyor as I went.
And it’s at this point that this otherwise simple and efficient process ground inexorably to a halt.
I reached into my cart, extracted a couple of cans of something, turned to place them on the conveyor belt only to find one of those bars used to separate purchases, behind which was stacked the next customer’s groceries. The only problem was that I still had half a cart of groceries that I needed to place on to the conveyor.
The first time that I found myself at this impasse, I turned to the somewhat vacant looking woman standing at her cart in line behind me and politely suggested, “Pardon me, but I’m going to need some space to put the rest of my groceries.”
She momentarily registered a confused expression, then paused for a moment before huffing, “Well, I’ve got to put my stuff somewhere! ”
Quickly I deduced that she had probably cut class on the day that Einstein’s principle of the impenetrability of solid objects had been reviewed in Physics 101. The realization that her stuff had been quite content waiting in her cart for its turn to be placed on an empty conveyor had obviously never crossed her otherwise self-consumed and vacuous mind.
Forrest Gump was never more insightful than when he stated, “Stupid is as stupid does.” And in this particular case I’m quite confident that Einstein would have been in lockstep with Forrest’s assessment.
At this point the conveyor moved forward about a foot leaving an open space directly behind her groceries. In a somewhat theatrical fashion I looked from the empty space behind her groceries to the total absence of space where I need to place my purchases and then back again.
Immediately, it was obvious that my antagonist just wasn’t following the complexities of this situation, so I took my arm and swept her groceries back up the conveyor to make room for mine. It only took two repetitions of this maneuver in order for me to finish unloading my groceries.
Sadly, I must report that this exact scenario repeated itself this afternoon; right down to the customer behind me being totally oblivious to the fact that she had shown no consideration for the person in line ahead of her, much less even a rudimentary understanding of the principle of impenetrability.
My response this afternoon was quick and effective. I simply leaned over and swept her groceries back up the conveyor making all of the room that I needed. I knew better than to waste words in a futile and frustrating attempt to illustrate the problem.
For you see, I am well aware of another of Einstein’s principles: Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over again in an attempt to obtain a different result. And I’m not insane.