“Life’s greatest comfort is being to able to look over your shoulder and see people worse off, waiting in line behind you.”– Chuck Palahniuk
It’s Friday and we certainly deserve a little brevity on a Friday. That’s especially true after a week of hard hitting stories and flags flying a half staff. This Saturday my family and I will get to spend time with friends from college. One of our favorite pastimes was brainstorming new products we could share with the world.
The first and most talked about invention was one called Bag-O. Essentially, it would be a bag tethered to your stomach with Velcro that could be safely hidden under your shirt. From that point, the owner could place any liquid they wanted in the bag and sneak it into sporting events, movies, and other situations where drinks are normally not allowed. As you might imagine, this idea never got beyond the idea stage.
Today’s idea is more or less half idea and half social commentary. My daughter and I went to a youth group event where one of the youth painfully described a customer he had to deal with. Seems she wanted to get cash back at the store and was repeatedly unsuccessful at the extra maneuver. She was belligerent to the teen and holding up the line behind her. What she needed was a “difficult flag.”
Think in your lifetime. How many times have you been in the store and tried to find the shortest line only to find yourself behind the person with 47 coupons (29 of which have expired) and trying to pay with a check from the bank of communicable diseases? Maybe it is the person buying 13 scratch off cards that also wants a certain pack of cigarettes behind the counter. Perhaps it’s the old person loudly complaining to the manager because the last time they went shopping they remembered T-Bone steaks selling for 69 cents and they can’t believe prices have gone up that much.
Yet, the difficult flag could also go to the cashier that never took typing in school and so they peck away at the register one key at a time. Maybe that same cashier has mastered the intricacies of calculus in school, but is somehow incapable of counting up correct change without the help of the machine. More often than not, they are just new to the job and are doing the best they can.
In either case, we need the difficult flag. The difficult flag serves two distinct purposes. First, it warns everyone about to enter a line that they definitely want to avoid THAT line. Secondly, it alerts managers that they need to hover by that line because they definitely will be needed.
Take the situation with the kid from church. He was just trying to do his job and he got an earful of verbal abuse because the woman could not get her cash back. The manager eventually came to the rescue, but how much better could it have been if the manager had seen a difficult flag and come over immediately? It certainly would have turned out better for the woman, the cashier, and the customers behind her.
Obviously, the way this works is that everyone would be installed with a difficult flag. For most of us, this flag rarely flies. Most of us were born with self-awareness and know to get in and out as quickly as humanly possible. However, occasionally we need more service. Maybe we have to deal with a return or an exchange and that has created a protracted discussion with management. Maybe we just need someone to answer questions or give us a hand.
Naturally, the flag would need to operate independently of us. It would need to sense when a situation was going to become difficult. After all, difficult people rarely know they are being difficult. It’s just a natural state. Perhaps stores could organize one of their stations to be the difficult station. So, if you see your flag flying you can make your way to that station and leave the rest of us to shop and pay in peace.
It should be noted that difficult flags would not be necessary if more people had an ounce of self-awareness. It wouldn’t be necessary if people took a quick inventory of their surroundings and noted the people waiting on them in line. Maybe when people are waiting we shouldn’t buy our lottery tickets or challenge the cost of the grapples. Maybe we can have our coupons organized in advance as to make the whole process a little more efficient. Maybe it’s just a sign that more and more people are selfish these days and our entire society is breaking down. Maybe we just all need difficult flags.