You may not be familiar with this term. I’ll explain what it means to me. Using ordinary grocery shopping a few days before Christmas as an example, social anxiety can express itself in many forms. I feel compelled to address that many people experience different types of anxiety in public. Again, this is what happens to me.
WHY IS IT SO LOUD IN HEEEERRRE? I’m gonna freak out if I can’t get out of here soon. Music playing from the ceiling, children screaming, children crying, so many people talking on their cell phones.. WOULD YOU KINDLY GET OUT OF MY WAY PLEASE? There’s the “boop” noise from at least 15 registers, people taking up space in the aisle talking, making more noise because they haven’t seen each other since last Tuesday.
MOVE! YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY PEOPLE IN THE WORLD! There’s the couple that walks side by side and one refuses to give way so I literally have to stop and park my cart while the couple walks past me. Again, PLEASE WALK BEHIND YOUR TRAVEL COMPANION. YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES HERE! There’s the one woman who, somehow, manages to take up the entire width of the aisle using her body and cart and refuses to budge because she has no manners and is currently staring at something unimportant in the baking aisle.
OTHERS NEED TO GET THROUGH TOO! BUT YOU DON’T CARE, DO YOU? I gotta hurry, man. I’m gonna lose my shit on one of these people. And that person probably won’t deserve it. It will be the merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. Whatever that means. Who came up with that saying anyway? We can’t come up with a more pleasant way to say, “Hey, you put too much on me. I’m gonna snap any second”?
I can’t breathe. IT’S SO CROWDED IN HERE! THERE’S NO AIR LEFT!! I feel hot so I try to speed things up a little. OH NO! I’ve been spotted by someone who knows me. OK, deep breath. It’s cool. This aisle isn’t too bad and it’s cold. Be polite, don’t show any signs of freaking out. He might not understand and think you’re angry with him. I’m not angry with him. I just have to get out of this store before I start jabbing people in the face with sharp objects.
OK, you’re ok. That went well. You were awkward though. Maybe he didn’t notice. I never know what to say to people I don’t know very well. I just try to push the panic down and hope no one sees the crazy bubbling on the surface.
Crap. Produce is over run with people that seem to be lost or out for a Sunday Stroll. Is that scratching himself? IN THE PANTS?! Omigosh, I gotta get out of here. I’m tempted to say something but that will take longer and may cause a fight, costing me more time. Tick tock. Crazy’s coming.
Made it to the registers! Hooray! It’s almost over. EXCUSE ME! DO YOU REALLY NEED TO PUT YOUR CART A QUARTER INCH FROM MY BODY? The belt isn’t moving and yet you people feel the need to cram all your stuff onto it, while knocking me over with your Mary Poppins Purse and breathing on me.
YOU ARE INVADING MY PERSONAL SPACE! THE ITEMS ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE ANYWAY! YOU DON’T NEED TO STAND THIS CLOSE TO A STRANGER, EVER! Again, I’m tempted to say something, but it’s almost over. The finish line is in sight!
Alright, maintain. Deep breath. Oh good lord! What the @#$% is going on at the register? Her debit card won’t work. Crap. After fourteen hours, I sweep all my items back into my basket. It’s not that much, but too much to hit the express lane. I’m not a Nazi, you know.
I choose another line. The lady with the big purse who was behind me is now in front of me. Think she’d offer to let me go ahead of her? I mean, I only have 20 little items and she has 4,728 items. I catch her eye. Nope. YOU WERE BEHIND ME FOURTEEN HOURS AGO YOU CHEATER!
OK, now what essentially happens is a TV version of a very long bleep to intensify the joke and laughter. Except I’m not laughing. Failed Debit Car Girl has moved on and now the woman who was behind me AND Big Purse Lady is checking out.
I’m OK. It’s alright. I’m learning patience! I’d really rather get the crap out of here and be done with this all but I’m OK! Really, OK, deep breath. It was then that I snapped and stabbed the cashier in the eye with a pen.
I made up that last part. The cashier was actually quite pleasant, and the dude that bagged my groceries, he was cool. I see him all the time. This store has a policy of hiring baggers that might not be able to jobs elsewhere. The guy has the best smile and says very little. I thanked him and felt better. It was over.
Once I had everything in the car, it was time to start home.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHERE DID ALL THIS TRAFFIC COME FROM? OH NICE USE OF A NON BLINKER YOU FILTHY TURD! YOU KNOW THEY WERE STANDARD THAT YEAR, RIGHT?
I need to get home before I die out here. These people are nuts.