A Taste for Entitlement

Sometimes a symbol for the age saunters right past your face. I was growing older in one of those maxi-mart gas stations today when I noticed a 20-something teen entering the premises behind me. He had an air of languid insouciance that placed him at one of society’s two leisure poles. Whether his was the pole of indolent wealth or welfare I can only speculate–with reasonable accuracy.

Regardless, he first meandered to the potato chip lane and made his selection after a brief but conscientious review. He then strolled to the refrigerated soft-drinks and just as decisively chose his poison.

What happened next left me chuckling with the warm assurance of a man wearing a well-validated worldview. With chips and drink in hand, and a gait of assured nonchalance, he simply walked right out the front door. I lost sight at that point, but like to imagine he sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

Two things struck me in this: 1) the gratifying precision of his theft. Unlike most Looties he did not emerge with arms groaning under 47 rolls of toilet paper. But instead with a far more compact haul of one drink, one bag: clean and efficient. As a member of the oppressive paying class, I was mildly appreciative of his frugality. 2) the absolute absence of furtiveness. His face was uncovered, his exit unhurried. He would have acted no more apprehensive if he were retrieving snacks from his own pantry.

It reminded me very much of riding the subway in Paris. There I watched countless natives paying to the man, while their own white-teethed teens bounded gaily over turnstiles as if they were merely roots of the baobab tree. These parallel classes of rider seemed to be accepted with remarkable stoicism. There were the French who paid and the economy generators who did not. And I could discern no feelings of impropriety from either side. It just was.

As with my cavalier shoplifting countryman, the Parisian teens appeared imbued with a sense of serene entitlement. In both cases entitlement being a function of what is desired rather than what is earned. If you look closely–or not even close at all–you will see an identical perspective throughout America’s diverse communities. Space itself has no void like the one where immigrant appreciation resides. That is because they don’t see themselves as being given any accommodation from Western natives. It was simply what they were due. And they were due because they desired it. Ask an immigrant how they have expressed gratitude to their hosts and they will look at you with suspicious bewilderment: Gratitude for what? This is where I wanted to be. Who could rightly tell me no?

Trust me when I say vast societal disparities grow from where its members place the roots of entitlement. As the demographic heft of those roots increasingly favor the entitlement by desire perspective of disciplined shoplifters and turnstile hurdlers, society will shift in tangible ways. One of those being potato chips behind plexiglass.

Though in a more narrative sense, the shift will mean a billion small borders where one large one was found tasteless. That suggests quite a bear market for commons areas. For commons do not hold long once enough people see them as opportunities for plunder rather than cultivation. And plunder inevitably leads to walls, withdrawal, distrust, and Amazon drone deliveries. Occasionally it leads to more collectively vigorous responses. Perhaps even so vigorous as to return teen jumpers to the baobab tree.

I suppose we will see. Hopefully they’ll leave a few potato chips for the show.


26 thoughts on “A Taste for Entitlement

  1. I witness similar behavior in our gas station/ quickee marts.
    We also have a plethora of people holding signs in parking lots and on highway on ramps claiming poverty and in need of funds.
    A few have will work for food signs.
    I have offered a whole lot of them a days work at $100.00-$150.00 a day cash plus lunch and beverages for the day. Work is in building trades.
    The amount I offer varies with the effort required.
    So far this year, I’ve had zero takers on the offer. Last year I had 3 for the year.
    Most of these people make more panhandling in a day than if they worked for a hundred and fifty bucks for 8-9 hours.
    I’ve seen a bunch of them walk out of the gas station/ quickee mart with a cup of coffee, then as they park their asses in their spot for the day, they start unloading bags of chips, candy bars, Slim Jims,Hostess pies, ice cream sandwiches, and bottles of soda.
    The ages vary from 18 or so to early 30’s or so.
    Same people at the same places every day.

    • They’re in every city and state across the country. This is nothing more than an organized racket. The give away is that if you take a close look at all of them they do not look like someone who is homeless and living on the street.

  2. As the saying goes, This is why we can’t have nice things.
    My recent, relevant anecdote is this; going to an urban library because I really wanted a book faster than an inter-library loan could provide it ( and I hate Kindle). Beautiful old carved wood detail everywhere. Marble floors. Wrought iron deco vent covers. All of that was provided for by long dead legacy Americans. Did they envision piss stained couches, needle recepticles and armed security guards when they cut the ribbon? All accented by the urban poor getting access to Facebook on my dime because “the poor” shouldn’t be shut out of technology.
    A monkey shitting in an abandoned colonial Burmese rubber baron’s estate is more entitled to its environs than these animals. And yet, to speak of it is currently unsayable, which is why the David Frums of the world hate anonymity of opinion.

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  4. Ere I was a teen, there was a convenience mart on my route to school, at which I would stop to purchase my daily bag of Doritos and bottle of carbonated sugar water, and time permitting, play a video game. One morning, I gathered my snacks and placed them on the floor beside my backpack, whilst I whiled the minutes away on the 8-bit cabinet.
    Too many minutes. I checked my watch and “Oh shit”ted at the time, loaded and zipped my backpack, hustled out the door and pedalled to school. As I unloaded my books, chips, and pineapple soda into my locker, I realized, Damn, I didn’t pay for this stuff. And those chinamen didn’t even notice. I spent the rest of the day, and probably the night, replaying it in my mind – how did it work, and how might it work again? By sleepytime, I was confident I had the scheme ironed out, and resolved to repeat the caper next 7:55am.
    So again I selected my goods, placed them on the floor aside my pre-unzipped backpack, burned a couple quarters’ worth of electron streams, coolly zipped up my haul, and walked out the door. Only, not quite out the door, before Wong grabbed my backpack and yelled something, and something else, and then banished me from ever returning to their corner of the American Dream.
    I knew immediately the flaw in my plan — my defective genes. I was born with a handicap so hopelessly debilitating, that no 501c3 has to this day dared to claim they could even think about curing it: White Guilt. The only reason that theft ever worked that one time, is because I didn’t realize what I was doing. I would never be able to pull off anything like it again, anywhere; so damned and doomed I was to actually paying for my junk foodstuffs. At a different store, half a mile off my route.
    I got a good laugh though, years later, when I heard some younger kids talk about going to “The Nipper Store.” I thought only me and my brother called it that.

    • In my tiny corner of the world, far from the madding crowd, our little grocery store was taken over by Chinese who haven’t yet learned the language (Spanish in this case). It’s within walking distance, so I carry a canvas bag to tote stuff home. I don’t use the little mesh basket and leave the bag at the register as “required”, but my bag is never checked because I’m known to be honest; the former owner must have told the new owner this, given that he has some command of the language and the cashier is his wife. Or perhaps it’s because I’m so obviously a European foreigner and therefore considered trustworthy? I don’t suffer from “White guilt”, but rather have the congenital defect of honorable behavior and they know it.

  5. My wife calls convenient stores “quick rips.” It used to mean that yeah, you get ripped off, but it’s quick. Now, I guess it means something else.

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  8. recently visited southern calexico on business in Long Beach. Homeless people wander and sleep on piers and sidewalks, eating discarded food from garbage cans along the restaurant strip. More Spanish spoken than English by passers-by. But at the Long Beach marina, there are locked iron gates prohibiting entry to the boat slips. The benevolent citizens of LB are fine with invaders and parasites clogging up the common areas, but not so fine when the invasion encroaches on their floating toys. Billion small borders where one was found tasteless. Brilliant Porter.

  9. “A billion small borders where one was found tasteless”
    A brilliant perspective on the immigrant invasion–potato chips important and worth protecting, but America the country is worthless and wide open.

  10. I was rear-ended by a slightly deferential Hispanic man in a very nice German car a few days ago. He was sheepish about his error which led to the collision – the empty bottles rolling in the footwell, I told him, made braking harder than it would normally be – but when I asked to see his license he told me quite matter of factly that he didn’t have one. Not that he didn’t have one with him, but that he didn’t own one.

    Now, I wasn’t the least bit surprised that he lacked one of the many pieces of paperwork the native stock so prizes and cherishes in fireproof lockboxes and Knoxian wallets. These trinkets are fast losing their value, relevant only to the dwindling number of us who care about following the rules. But I was taken aback at how quick his response was. He didn’t even have to think about it. A license? In his wallet? For the car he was driving? What on earth for? I’d have been as well asking if he had a Wodehouse paperback in the glove compartment.

    Well, he may not have a license, but ICE now has his name, car, and telephone number.

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