The Ecphorizer

Bill Harvey

Issue #56 (April 1986)

The other day, Ann and I were doing some much-needed shopping. It occurred to me that I'm sort of a walking enigma. On the one hand, I love to watch people. There's nothing that I like better than to sit and watch the ebb and flow of humanity that occurs at nearly any shopping mall. On the other hand, I heartily dislike crowds.

Probably one of the reasons that I heartily dislike crowds is because of the sub-species of humanity who apparently feel that it's their job to clog up the works. You know the ones I mean. The ones who pick the middle of the aisle to start a conversation about their Aunt Tillie, and whether she'd like a new corset or a new muffkin for her birthday. If there are only two of them, and it requires three people to do a proper job of clogging, they'll not hesitate to stop a stranger or two and ask him or her what they think Aunt Tillie would like.

There can be twenty people waiting to get through, and they're apparently so wrapped up in the tremendous importance of what they're saying that they're totally oblivious to the mass of humanity waiting to get through.

What do you do?

Most people are polite, and consider it rude to interrupt the obviously earth-shaking conversation, so they stand there, hoping that the doggers will finally notice. The cloggers, having no conception of politeness (or they wouldn't be in the middle of the aisle in the first place) continue to clog.

I mostly say "Excuse me" several times to doggers, but I usually end up placing a hand in the small of the back of the nearest clogger, and shoving. I'm usually rewarded with a glare that could peel wallpaper. How dare I interrupt them?

You know what I'd like in a situation like that?

A horn!

Not just a horn, but a HORN! Maybe one from a diesel truck.

Lacking that, I've discovered something that works nearly as well! With the proliferation of running, jogging, basketball, tennis, squash and racquetball shoes currently available, I've noted that every once in a while you hear, for lack of a better word, a loud squeak behind you. That's what happens when you slam on your brakes while wearing a pair of these shoes and walking rapidly down an aisle. A squeak.

I'm not exactly sure why this squeak works, but it does. It could be that the high pitch of the squeak has the ability to penetrate even the thickest of conversations, not to mention heads. It may be that the squeak resembles the screeching of tires, just before a collision. That's guaranteed to get your attention. It may be simply that cloggers have managed to tune out the sound of the human voice when it says "Excuse me", but have not managed to tune out the squeak. I don't know.

What I do know is that I wear my athletic shoes nearly all of the time now, and am making a definite effort to protect my squeak. You should do the same.

What the heck, your neighborhood grocery store may end up sounding exactly like a destruction derby, but I'll bet we finally get rid of the cloggers. 

BILL HARVEY, whose humor has lighted up many issues of this magazine, holds forth in Southern California.

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