Common sense fails to prevail

By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist

Rules. Society needs them to keep itself from descending into chaos. However, even though the rule-makers proceed with the best intentions there are times when unintended consequences are frustrating, to say the least.

Worse, sometimes the rules “enforcers” have been known to sacrifice common sense on the altar of “obey the rules.”

My friend Ron provides a great example. A mountaineer, he is uncomfortable around crowds of people. He prefers to do his shopping when few other shoppers are present to disturb his serenity.

Recently, Ron went to a big-box store about 3 a.m. Sure enough, he pretty much had the store to himself. When he had his purchases in a shopping basket he pushed it to the checkout aisle.

All the checkout stations were unmanned except for the one with the sign reading “Ten items or less.”

So Ron wheeled his cart to the 10-items checkout and began unloading his purchases on the little conveyor belt.

“You have too many items. You can’t check out here,” the snippy young woman said.

“Nobody else is open,” he replied, to which she said, “I can call for someone. It’ll just take a few minutes.”

Ron thought about that as he continued to place items on the conveyor. Soon, he had 10 items on it. “There you go,” he told the checker. “Ten items.”

She looked around for help, and seeing none passed his 10 items by the scanner and read the total.

Ron opened his billfold and counted out the money, then waited politely for his receipt.

Then he placed 10 more items on the conveyor. The checker picked up her little microphone and called for a manager, who materialized (along with a fellow wearing a uniform identifying him as a security guard).

She and the other store employees decided Ron was, actually, not breaking any important rules, so she scanned those 10 items. By then, Ron was having a wonderful time. After he paid for those 10 articles, he turned back to his basket, which held an additional four items.

When he placed those four purchases on the conveyor, the checker, manager and security guard all vociferously agreed: “That’s it! No more!”

As it happened, one item was a box of doughnuts. Ron looked at the doughnuts, at the store employees, all around — still no other customers.

Making his decision he seated himself comfortably on the now-stopped conveyor, opened the box and began eating the doughnuts — slowly, one by one — sharing the fact they were delicious with the store employees as he ate.

He then opened a bottle of water, another of the four remaining items, and proceeded to sip it as he enjoyed the doughnuts.

The checker yelled into her microphone, “We need help here!”

Ron is not a small person. He’s more than 6 feet tall and in great physical condition. Four — four! — security guards escorted him to his vehicle in the parking lot.

He laughingly told me later, “I didn’t have to pay for the doughnuts.”

Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: