Years ago, one colleague said about another: Unfortunately, she mines every comment for a criticism. And usually finds it.
I was reminded of that colleague as I stood behind a woman in a drug store on Saturday. She had bought a couple of cards and refused a plastic bag to put them in.
“I’ll do my bit for the environment,” she said. (She was British, and her accent was what caught my attention in the first place.)
“Well, the trees have already died for these. You might as well take one,” answered the clerk, helpfully, if not factually.
The woman cheerfully declined. “We can at least protect a few dolphins. You know, in the UK, you have to pay if you want a store bag.” Then she cheerfully said goodbye and went on her way.
The clerk looked at me. “Well, I don’t live in the UK; I live in the USA. And I’ll give away my bags.” She wasn’t too happy with me when I too refused a bag and put the candy and lotion in my giant purse.
I have become accustomed to the overreactions on social media, where people, spoiling for a fight, can find fault in almost any statement. But I have to admit I was surprised about our different reactions to the British woman’s comments. I took her statement as an interesting factoid about a difference between our two countries. The sales clerk seemed to feel that some sort of insult had been hurled at our nation’s love of trees. Or dolphins. Or just the USA in general.
Of course, it could have been a bad day at the Walgreens, and, after hours of complaining customers, the poor woman was expecting everything else to be a complaint. Who knows?
But I do know that there are enough real fights out in the world on any given day without our taking on nonexistent ones.