a glimpse

March 21, 2010

Hey, a comic. Walls of text, apologies for lack of humor, etc.

ALSO

Here’s something tres awesomme, as the french say: a drawing of shirley estar by one of the heroes out there (the artists’s deviantart page is located here, so take a look). I wish the art in the actual comic was that good, i’ll say that. Awesome, awesome drawing, really love it, so Huge Thanks again to Amber for sending it to me!

FINALLY

That’s it for me for a little while as i’m off to Sweden for some stuff and things, but i’ll be back in a couple weeks so watch this space for the return of Walls of Text in april. Until then, my friends, until then……

Take it easy,

WR

172 Responses to “a glimpse”

  1. hank Says:

    ha det sa bra i Sverige, o sköt om dig :)

  2. Lew Basnight Says:

    Well enjoy Sweden! And thanks for the comic; even though it’s not ‘comic’ comedic, per say. I like checking in here once a week, because it’s like a brief chat with someone who is funny and perceptive and makes good observations.

  3. NoVan Says:

    Huh. Damn. I’m impressed. I think the comic should have more of you in it, Rowntree, because this hit home. In relation to my complaints about the last one, I think this one was far less of a rant and far more human – I can really see this self-doubt.

    It puts me in mind of the times when I’ve seen people begging in the parking lots of suburban grocery stores, and I can’t help but feel like an ass for keeping away from them, and it seems like the grocery store is a place for rich people to avoid such problems. “Taking the first step toward repeating all the dirtiest mistakes” – damn straight. Good ONYA mate.

  4. scruss Says:

    If that’s your local metro, a few blocks west (okay, quite a few blocks west) is Darband, a heroically awesome Iranian restaurant that is open 24 hours.

  5. evolver Says:

    Love the comic. Probably the best on the interwebs.

  6. Petra Says:

    …And that is why I don’t go to Metro any longer.

  7. Buldwren Says:

    I NEEDED that hilarious mouse-over text to lighten the mood. :(

    Great comic, though. I’ve been in that uncomfortable situation quite a few times.

  8. Buldwren Says:

    I wanted to add: great picture of captain Estar by ippylovesyou. I’m a longtime fan of her Left 4 Dead and World of Warcraft artwork.

    It’d be great to see a captain Estar cameo in a Subnormality strip someday. Captain Estar goes to Heaven is stil one of my favorites on Virus Comix, aside from Jumbo Ranger.

  9. Benedikt Says:

    You really touched me with this one. Thanks so much for articulating what at some point were my exact feelings, too.

  10. Jamie Says:

    Dude, you just hit the good stuff. It’s not the art that matters, and you prove that.

    It REALLY FUCKING HELPS THOUGH, and you prove that too. Keep up the good work and the awesome illustrations, love from Dublin.

    Also, that cap. Esthar drawing is pretty damn sweet, thought i’d say that here sure.

    Have a good one in Sweden dude.

  11. Sirrus Says:

    Individualism is a skill. For me, it starts with singing in public, wearing stupid clothes. Or littler things, like taking dance classes which are too hard for me. I mess up all the time, I look stupid while everyone is watching.

    I do these things because I want to believe in myself. When this time comes, I want to do the right thing.

  12. Michael Says:

    Sirrus, or you could just stop caring about other people’s opinions. But don’t worry, you will–when you get a little older.

  13. Wellwellwell Says:

    Wow!

    Again, I am baffled. This is good, an deep, and really, really insightful in some lines of Text an five pictures.
    Althogh you depress me regularly, for work like this I hold your comic in awe.
    Thanks!

  14. tulio Says:

    The same thing happened to me last friday.

  15. vole Says:

    Damn. It’s bad enough when I can’t interact meaningfully with other humans, but when they can’t either? What can I do but wring my hands?

  16. Fred Says:

    Ouch – that’s a bull’s eye on human drama & emotion here; I always find it difficult to relate and just feel where others might be at & it requires a real effort, sometimes painful effort, for me to do that.

    In a few strokes and phrases, you depicted what is so hard for me to see, described the sequence of events, the thoughts attached, the emotional build up and the multi-faceted lessons contained within… and was able to communicate it.

    I so admire your skill.

    Thank you.

  17. No Hablo Ingles Says:

    lol, is she begging for a refund for bologna? Did she realize that she is so deeply morally opposed to buying vaguely edible lunch meats that she absolutely had to return it?

  18. Fellow Says:

    I like the subtle Mass Effect 2 reference.

  19. Devora Says:

    I have no idea what to say in this comment box but I feel like I need to say at least something – your comics make my heart hurt in an amazing way. They are very truthful. Please keep making them.

  20. rorschachhamster Says:

    Great comic. I’ve been in situations like this.

  21. Nachum Says:

    No way. That happened to me last Friday too.

  22. Nachum Says:

    Oh, but I have to add a line from Basil Fawlty:

    “THIS IS EXACTLY HOW NAZI GERMANY GOT STARTED!”

  23. Levi Says:

    I’d have to agree, I’ve been in these before and you feel morally obligated to help, but socially obligated not to interfere.

  24. HeySeuss Says:

    Hey Winston, long time reader, first time commenter.

    I just want to say thanks for making such consistently excellent comics. It is more than worth waiting an extra week sometimes when you absolutely hit it out of the park like this.

  25. GerryB Says:

    How many of us (assume we) would say “I think this lady was before me”?

    Few things are more hideous than watching yourself do nothing when you’re being screamed at by your own voice to be noble. The path of least resistance sure has some ugly signs along the way, and they’re mostly mirrors. Another fine piece Mr Rowntree.

  26. Blee Says:

    This reminds me of that “the line” comic you did some time ago. http://www.viruscomix.com/page474.html

    I loved that comic. It made me think, “Am I doing the right thing by doing the easy/popular thing?” And I felt better knowing that your message kept me, in some cases at least, from becoming the woman on the left side of the line, or the narrator in today’s comic.

    I can relate even better to the new comic, since I’ll likely have to go through that same situation sooner or later.
    Paradigm-crushing-ly awesome job, WR.

  27. Fopenplop Says:

    This comic really brought to attention the fact that you hand letter. I’m not saying you’re bad at it, but I can’t imagine how long it took to painstakingly write all that text legibly.

    Nice comic though. Was the balogn[y] infested with worms or something?

  28. Crotalus Says:

    Sounds pretty much like our legal system.

  29. simon Says:

    Hi Winston, don’t forget to take a tour of the IKEA factory while you’re there, maybe check out some Billy bookcases.

    Is that what you look like IRL? Don’t worry, difficult to stalk a Canadian from Western Australia but still. Even if it’s a projection of your id, the (possibly military surplus) garb and pro-social (trying to avoid using ‘socialist’, which is politically loaded) opinions might seem cliché, but your erudition . . oh bugger, it’s the cops. BRB.

  30. nrst Says:

    Now THIS is the type of comic I keep coming back here for (among others, but in these, you do shine especially).
    You show a situation I am painfully familiar with; the type of situation that really does raise questions on how to act in day-to-day life considering the tragedies of the past.
    And, of course, character being drawn into existential crisis from nothing more than a glimpse are incredibly easy for me to identify with as well.
    This one’s a lot better than the time-travelling neo-nazi series; it started out funny enough (I loved the original punchline about the mercedes-time machine speeding up Back to the future style) but the last one puts neo-nazis, a real threat, too much on the ridiculous side.

  31. Ibian Says:

    So… what was the lady’s issue anyway? There exists the possibility that she was just some idiot who wanted something she was not entitled to.

  32. Ceno Says:

    Damn. Quite the vision. You’re an honest intellectual and an artist, you’ve articulated a vague sentiment most would feel into a proper text and draw terrifying conclusions. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

  33. Trenino Says:

    Great art, particularly with the tense facial expressions. I also love the stylish way you broke down the comic panels along with the text: gives it a movie story-board feel, very dynamic. I also love the thought behind it all, as it’s the same kind of worry that I have trouble with a lot of the time.
    Well done, and have fun in Sweden!

  34. Moaem Says:

    I think it would be a good idea if you recompress Estar’s comic all over. I’d love to see the reds in place. And by the way, you’re very, very, very smart.

  35. scott Says:

    Thank you, Mr Rowntree. Most excellent…

  36. quag's mom Says:

    Thank you for this one.

  37. bookfisher Says:

    Tragicomic in nutshell, enjoy Sweden. I suggest you observe the people and surroundings in and around Systembollaget

  38. Ogre Says:

    Brilliant.

  39. NoVan Says:

    Y’know, I’ve thought about this some more, and I realized (for all you care about my opinions) that this comic IS political. It’s like a better version of “The Line” – both of them openly present a question, but this one calls you out even more, because unlike Nazism, this issue is something we have experienced firsthand. I couldn’t pretend, and neither could many other readers, I think. And, importantly, there are no straw-men or villains. Dang. I think you hit a homerun there, WR.

    But the point is moot for now. Have fun in Sweden.

  40. Amber Says:

    Love the new comic, like many people have already said. It embodies many of the reasons Subnormality is great along with your other works.

    As for Captain Estar; I don’t think the comic would have had quite the punch or the grace it does if it was drawn by anyone but you – the way you draw expressions/emotions and depict the character is part of what makes the comic so powerful (to me at least). Everyone feels incredibly human and genuine in it, even the more flamboyant characters and if the art was dressed up too much, moodier or darker I don’t think the story would have worked quite as well.

    TL;DR – Don’t sell yourself short, your art is amazing and has a quality you don’t often see in comics which makes it super awesome and wonderful.

    A lot of people can draw really pretty and shiny things but it means nothing if there is no soul behind it.

    end cheesy gushing rant.


  41. This might just be the best political comic you’ve done. It’s subtle and draws you in with your guard down at first, and then it smacks you right in the face with your own self serving behavior.

    And besides, who HASN’T been in a situation like this?

  42. DoubleW Says:

    Is there a term, in any language, for what you describe in the last paragraph? Or do we not discuss it enough as a society for one to come up? It really feels like there should be.

  43. Ian Adam Says:

    I enjoy your art. I enjoy the way you write.

  44. Gaber the Guba Says:

    Damn excellent! And damn sad, by the way, because it’s true.

  45. Tigre Says:

    I’ve always loved sweden.

  46. Tigre Says:

    Sweden.

  47. Jack Says:

    My interpretation was that this was a metaphor for the health care debate in America.

    This lady’s in trouble and no one cares (poor person without insurance) because other people who are able to buy what they need (those with insurance, e.g. Mr. Rowntree) think “well, I got what *I* need”.

  48. NoMalk Says:

    I went to Metro to buy chocolate milk. All the had was chocolate dairy beverage, so I left.

  49. Dirty Carrie Says:

    @Ibian

    The validity of the woman’s issue is a non-issue in the argument the comic is presenting. The cashier refuses to even listen to the woman, to tell her “no returns” or “sure, I can help, just a moment.” The cashier refuses to consider the problems of the already-paid customer until everyone else in the soon-to-be-paid line is separated from their cash. It’s the fact that she is being ignored that sets up the moral quandary. Questioning the validity of the woman’s complaint is a bit like blaming the victim; after all, the cashier never knew the validity of her complaint, either. She was content to ignore her all the same.

  50. Dirty Carrie Says:

    Is it strange to say that I haven’t been in that exact situation?

    Similar ones, yes, but I’ve never seen it go on for more than one or two people before someone in the line says something- usually “Excuse me, but I think this lady was here first.”

    I don’t claim any moral superiority in the fact, though- I live in the American Midwest, where we like to identify as polite in the way New Yorkers like to identify as smart. The social pressure to “just ignore it” in this case would be relatively small, and strongly counter-balanced by the social pressure to “be a hero, stand up for the little guy, etc.”

    As long as you can’t put a dollar amount on it, my neighbors can be very generous.

  51. Dusty668 Says:

    I’ve been everyone in that comic, the couponeer, the cashier, the unsatisfied guy, one of the line crowd oblivious with my weird tropical fruits at 3am. I hated being the cashier the most.
    Anyhoo, Thanks for the art and the thoughtful spot, have a nice trip, and see ya soon!

  52. simon Says:

    The reason people don’t pipe up and say “excuse me, this person was here before me, please deal with her first” isn’t because they are selfish or impatient, it is because they are afraid of the people behind them in the line.

  53. Phil Says:

    Hold on, why didn’t the refund lady just get in the queue? Or why didn’t the checkout lady just call the manager?

  54. nrst Says:

    Double W:

    Maybe “guilt by association” would do?

  55. phyl Says:

    They are called CRUMPETS!
    But other than that it is a very clever example of bystander apathy

  56. GerryB Says:

    Phyl, muffins and crumpets are different breads:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muffin_%28English%29

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crumpet

    But apart from that, a very clever example of jingoistic blather.

  57. David Says:

    Pardon me while I play devil’s advocate here, but I don’t think the woman here is entirely innocent. She chose to jump the queue, presumably because she believed her needs were more important than anyone else’s, but of course she can’t know that. The cashier told her she needed to deal with people in the line, and instead of joining the line, she continued to try and circumvent it, to the point where her problem would have long been addressed if she had just taken the advice given to her.
    Society is based on rules, and I have a little difficulty sympathizing with people who don’t follow these basic rules. In terms of the grocery story, the rule is simple: “get in line, and wait your turn”. If the situation were the exact same, except instead of the woman being polite she was raging and shouting, would anyone still feel sorry for her, would you still say “I think she was here before me”? I wouldn’t. In fact I (and I suspect many others) would feel that it was an injustice if she WAS served before me. In both cases, they’re circumventing the rules, believing themselves too important or busy to wait, why should I feel upset when one is seen and when the other is not?
    Now, if she had followed the rules, if she had waited her turn and was then stonewalled, then I would feel a great sense of injustice.
    To link it back to health care, as others before me have, if your insurance tells you you need to fill out some form to explain the situation and you refuse (for whatever reason you might have), it’s not their fault you don’t get coverage; you were told exactly what you needed to do to get what you need and you chose to follow a different path. But if you follow their rules, you fill out the form, and then you are denied coverage anyway, THEN you are in the realm of injustice, then have you followed the path laid out only to find it doesn’t lead where you were told it would.

    Caveat: sometimes the path laid out for you does end in disappoint for legitimate reasons. If refund woman wanted to return something well outside its expiry date, or something that the store doesn’t even sell, I would suspect she would not be getting her refund, but at least she would know why she would have been looked after and the reason she wasn’t getting it explained. Instead she wastes her time trying to circumvent the path that was given to her, wasting more time than if she had just followed it in the first place.

  58. GerryB Says:

    David,

    you assume she hadn’t just paid and left the queue before realising something was wrong with the product she’s looking to return. Sure if she’d stormed in and queuejumped looking for attention out of the blue your point would be about right, but my reading of the situation is that she spotted something wrong with her meat-thing and came back to have it rectified.

    If that were the case would you still have her re-join the queue?

  59. David Says:

    Yes, I would. She’s finished her transaction, any changes would need to be addressed would be a new transaction. Cashiers have rules to follow just the same as everyone else, and if she says she has to take people as they come through the queue, then she has to take people as they come through the queue. If it were me in line, I would have politely pointed out to the refund lady that if she had just rejoined the line when she was told to, she’d have been taken care of by now.
    Just because you disagree with a rule doesn’t give you the right to violate it. If you don’t like it, you need to talk to someone about changing it, but until the rule is changed, you are still bound by it.

  60. GerryB Says:

    “If you don’t like the rule you need to talk to someone about changing it”. Wow. Kafka’s Castle comes to mind like a juggernaut.

    I’d have to say I’m glad I don’t live in your world. “If she’d rejoined the line when she was *told* to….”

    Gotta love authority.

  61. GerryB Says:

    David, I understand the need for rules, but surely everything is designed with a little wiggle-room. Please have a look at this story about a woman missing her father’s death because of the rules saying the ticket clerk had to go on her break. http://tinyurl.com/yaoqjsp

    Sorry for hijacking the thread away, but rules should guide, not govern as far as I’m concerned, would be pleased to hear your opinion.

  62. Facepalm Says:

    David = The ranting republican kid in your political science class that thinks he knows what hes talking about.

    FYI. Sometimes authority is wrong and people are right to stand their ground. There’s this thing called “History” you might want to look into.

  63. David Says:

    Dude, we’re not talking about authority dictating every action you make. It’s a line, it serves a well known purpose, a purpose that return lady was aware of and made doubly aware of when she tried to make her return. With your “Kafka’s castle” statement, you make it seem like that’s a slippery slope into a totalitarian regime. It isn’t, it’s just a line, and I’d appreciate keeping context with what I’m saying and not jumping to extremes. As we’ve seen this past weekend, when the rules are failing, when enough people voice their concern, those rules will be addressed, and changed. Whether it’s a good change or bad, it’s still a change, one that will undoubtedly lead to more change and hopefully, eventually, rules that work for everyone.

    I’ll grant you, there are times when the rules seem broken, in the sense that they don’t always work, and need a bit of wiggle room. I have no doubt that the United Airlines is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of examples where the letter of the law failed someone. But that rule was put in place for a reason: to ensure that employees get regular, fair breaks. It had helped many people before this one woman came along, and I will not blame an employee for it. Is there a penalty for not following the rule? Perhaps nothing, she simply takes her break late. Perhaps she loses her break and ends up standing for 6 solid hours. Perhaps the lady was not looking to buy a ticket, but was really a plant to ensure that the airline is following the employment rules and will fine the airline if the agent doesn’t leave the counter for her break at the designated time. Perhaps the agent sees this woman, but refuses the next, who then lodges a formal complaint against her. The wiggle room in this case isn’t violating the rule, there are too many variables, too many scenarios for me to pass judgment there. The wiggle room that should have been used would have been to call for a manager, let them deal with it, something outside the letter of the law. Or in the perfect world, a second employee takes over, like in every other industry I’ve every encountered. The airline failed, not the rule. I firmly believe that rule has helped more people than it has hurt, and allowing “wiggle room” within the law itself can be as detrimental to the people it is intended to protect as not allowing it is to those it does not.

    Back to our hapless return lady, the cashier’s rule was simple: see to people as they come through the queue. The return lady’s rule was also simple: join the queue and wait her turn again. Perhaps she prods at the rule a bit first, to see if there is a way around it (call a manager?, another employee able to help?) but getting nowhere, just rejoin the line. If she had, everyone would have left happy, and then the next day, come in and speak to a manager about getting the rules changed somehow. Look at it from the cashiers perspective. Perhaps she is feeling guilty that she has this rule that she’s to follow, but if she deviates from it, how does she know one of the customers in line won’t return the next day to complain? Perhaps she’s even starting to feel anger at this woman for forcing her into a situation, in the same way that Winston and many others are expressing. This woman, by not accepting that she has to rejoin the line, has now wasted her time making her upset, made people in line upset over a situation they can’t control, and made the cashier upset over a risky situation she could control.
    I won’t blame the cashier for following the rule intended to maintain order. I will blame the person who intentionally tried to disrupt that order repeatedly, and I will blame the manager for not showing up to restore order once it had been disrupted, as is their job.
    Keeping in mind, again, that we’re talking about the order of a grocery store line based on rules that have been basic tenets of society for centuries, not some extreme vision of a distopian future that someone from our time would deem revolution worthy.
    I’ve been there. I’ve waited in line with a bag of expired cat food and a receipt to prove that I had bought it earlier that day. I didn’t make a fuss, I just waited it out, presented my case, was given a fresh bag, and was on my way. I don’t understand why others don’t do the same.

  64. simon Says:

    Sigh. Threadjacked again, both by those who think this strip is a documentary and by those who think it’s an attack on their values. Sometimes I fear for the future of our race. Actually, make that very often. People, if you perceive allegory where it isn’t explicitly stated then you’re making a paranoid assumption. That’s the be-all and end-all of it, you see what your prejudices make you see. Winston makes political statements from his cartoon, he also offers sociological insights, the two can be intertwined but aren’t mutually exclusive. I gotta say though, reading David’s first post, it seems like he didn’t get it, he says “She chose to jump the queue” yet the strip clearly states in nicely hand lettered text (hi Winston!) that she had been there long before many of those in the queue who were being attended before her. Sounds like someone using misdirection to further their own agenda?

  65. Freeflowfox Says:

    Amazing, indeed, inspirational comic as always. I don’t understand one thing though, if it really hurt you that much to stand there, how hard is it to just say “I think she was before me.” Out of sheer politeness that cashier was obliged to at least acknowledge her complaint and do something about it. Maybe it’s just me, but if I felt so bad, I would not have hesitated to say something. That’s how you stop the institution of apathy, you act. By writing this comic, you’re only exposing some problem, as what? A catharsis?

    I would risk my life any day for the truly persecuted, and I say that with conviction. If we can all simply take that step, and take that stand, the guilt won’t exist, and the massacres won’t happen. If you are not even willing to do anything about a cashier’s lack of respect for human dignity, how can you do something when they come for your neighbor, for your friends?

    Fight it where-ever you see it, and until your last breath, that’s how you deal with inhuman institutions.

  66. simon Says:

    freeflowfox, the reason most people don’t speak up in situations like this is due to peer pressure, or more directly acute self-consciousness of the people around them, most significantly by the people in the queue behind them. You can kick yourself afterwards for not letting someone else in front of you when at the time you feel you ought to, but often it’s easier just to gaze at your shoes or the content of your basket to avoid any eye contact, mumble something and get through the queue as quick as you can, and ten minutes later on your way to the car park (and for all of the rest of the night) you will mentally beat yourself up over everything you should have done but didn’t.

  67. David Says:

    Simon, I did read that she had been there longer than most others in the line. That doesn’t mean she had waited in the line. I read it that she had arrived and gone straight to the counter, which is the whole basis of my objection that she’s the one being persecuted here. Hence why I said that if she had simply joined the line, she’d have been seen. Instead she continued to wait at the counter, trying in vain to engage the interest of the cashier, to the detriment of actually being there longer than if she had simply joined the line from the beginning.
    If your interpretation is correct, if she had waited in line, got to the front, and the cashier said “can’t help you. NEXT!” then yes, I am in full agreement. This is the stonewalling I mentioned in my first post, where someone has followed the path laid out for them, and arrived at a destination completely different from the one they were expecting. In that case, yes, by all means, become indignant, the woman was there, followed the rules, and deserves to be seen.
    The text of the cashier telling the lady that she needs to see people as they come through the queue seems to indicate (to me) that my interpretation is correct, however, that she has gone straight to the counter, jumping the queue.

  68. Facepalm Says:

    David – The comic is a metaphor. It doesn’t have anything to do with lines at supermarkets.

  69. Facepalm Says:

    Also – F*&%! David – chill the hell out man! You sound like Hitler at 17.

  70. maybe this will work Says:

    I’m going to try this – I think the point of the comic is to be a metaphor, or microcosmic example of how modern culture has become in many ways cold and inhuman.

    The comic states that the woman was being polite and reasonable but was being ignored as if she didn’t exist.

    Compare this to a simpler, pre-industrial humanity – where the mere presence of an individual dictated you show respect and acknowledge that person – especially if they are being reasonable and polite.

  71. Nalano Says:

    This comic works on the assumption that

    (a) The woman is the victim,
    (b) The cashier has power.

    For the purposes of the narrative, I can understand (a). It’s (b) that changes the message for me.

    The cashier has no power. The cashier is in a closely-supervised position where she must negotiate the realities of the consumer (a long line) with the arbitrariness of a policy (no refunds, no exceptions) set in place by the manager(s) who care more about profits than support.

    The store puts the cashier in an untenable position, and the woman is beating her frustration at the store policy on said cashier, who is powerless to change it. If the cashier did change it, she would be fired – there goes her livelihood – so she tunes it out.

    Who here hasn’t figured out how to survive a shit job by externalizing almost all input?

    Arguably, you could make the point that it’s the cashier’s duty to question bullshit provisions handed down the line to her (the “just following orders” excuse during the Nuremberg Trials, if we’re still writing this situation large) but a balance must be made between (1) doing what’s right, and (2) surviving.

    And anybody who lived through the Cultural Revolution can tell you how important (2) can be.

    Of course, anybody who just watched the latest Health Care “Debate” for the past year can argue strongly for (1), but congressmen have power (and won’t starve if they do indeed get voted out), and cashiers don’t (and conversely, probably will starve).

    Nevertheless, in this comic I don’t see the parable placed before me. I see a dead-eyed cashier pitted between a woman she cannot help and a line vaguely hostile or aggressively indifferent to both the woman and the cashier herself.

    Just another day in the office.


  72. Thank you for being sincere rather than preachy about this experience. It’s a hard line to recognize, but another example of how comics are the best autobiographical medium.

    It doesn’t matter whether the cashier or customer were in the right, and it doesn’t matter because now you’ll never know. What matters is that ignoring an injustice made you feel terrible.

  73. Phil Says:

    Obviously this is metaphorical, but in reality it would’ve been sorted even if she did refuse to join the queue by the cashier calling her manager.

  74. AlanSmithee Says:

    Good comic, but I don’t understand the problem. I mean, if you care about the situation, then do something about it. If you don’t, then don’t. Act or don’t act. What’s the point of doing nothing and then going home and feeling all conflicted about it?

  75. Its simple Says:

    Guys, the cashier was in the wrong because of the complete and continued lack of acknowledgment of someone politely making a legitimate request.

  76. Ibian Says:

    There is too much info missing to make any kind of moral judgment here.

    Maybe the lady was the victim of an injustice. Maybe she was a selfish ass who tried to score some easy money on a scam. Maybe the checkout lady didn’t care and wouldn’t help if she could. Maybe she risks being fired of she stops following procedure.

    We don’t know. And we won’t, not until the author gives us the missing info.

  77. Phoenix Says:

    Wow. This is obviously a true story, and written with such grit and feeling that I can’t help but feel like I’ve been there, too. Not a happy story, but the ones that hit home rarely are; how sad that such a thing should be true.

  78. Phoenix Says:

    Oh, and also, I don’t think the story is about who’s right or who’s wrong, or whether the injustice was real or not, or even if any of it actually mattered. To me, it was the story of a man who is overcome by cynicism for the world that he observes, and angry that he can’t find the will to do anything about it.

  79. Ibian Says:

    In which case it still matters who was right or wrong and the details of what was wrong with the bacon. Maybe the man in the story is just fucked up. Again, we don’t know.

  80. No Logo Says:

    Okay, people, this is presented as a story recounted by the narrator because it’s not *about* the objective events. It’s about the subjective experience and how it made the narrator feel. Certain patterns of interaction can make you feel deeply uncomfortable for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious, and if this happens, maybe it’s not because you’re neurotic or sensitive or whatever, maybe it’s because this pattern of interaction should not occur in daily life.

    Big-box stores have come to have this huge role in our lives but the very formula that make them so profitable and prolific can make them hell to deal with, because they take the horrors of bureaucratic inflexibility and dead-eyed apathy and insert them into the innocuous context of the neighborhood grocery store. We’re not always aware of it but it can hit pretty close to home at times.

    I interpret this as saying there’s a difference between the rules for a profitable business and the rules for a community of compassionate and properly socialized human beings, and if the former are being given priority over the latter, then maybe it’s time to rethink what these businesses are actually contributing to our society.

    I liked the comic a lot, it’s this level of insight that makes Subnormality such a rare breed among comics and I don’t mind these serious installments once in a while if it’ll make me think.

  81. Phoenicia Says:

    If this was a serious commentary about how big-box stores are essentially heartless and inhuman, it may have made for an intriguing comic.

    It isn’t.

    Instead, it places the entirety of that inhumanity on the cashier, when the cashier cannot help but reflect the policy of the store. She can’t make false promises to the customer; that would be cruel. She can’t go through with what the customer wants; for one, bucking policy earns the cashier nothing but misery, and two, the policy is, well, policy. It’s the EULA of the real-world; you agreed to it when you bought the product. Whether it’s fair or not isn’t up for debate at the register; both the cashier and you are expected to be bound to that policy.

    To expect the cashier to do something that puts their job at risk for your petty few dollars — that, I think, is inhuman. The cashier isn’t a robot; they, too, are a human being. Just because they have to mask their true feelings at their job (who doesn’t?) doesn’t mean they’re not feeling.

    The cashier has no power, but as they’re always the last (and often the first) employee the customer has to deal with, the entirety of the customer’s problems end up descending upon them. Often times, the customer could’ve resolved their issues by simply speaking to the right person elsewhere, but no, they insist on holding up the lines in some way, shape, or form instead, under the presumption that this airs their grievances in the most constructive fashion, when that’s as far from the truth as you can get. If they summon a manager, you’ll get no sympathy (though they’ll try their hardest to give the impression of it) and you’ll end up just as unhappy as before.

    Except now you’ve made two other people miserable as well.

    At least the cashier in the comic had the option of ignoring the customer. In most places, that’s not even an option, and instead of the other customers taking pity on that insistent customer, they’d be held up in line for fifteen minutes of their precious time. They’d be irate, too.

  82. GerryB Says:

    On our journey to Meta, has anyone else noticed how well-behaved the queue for Winston’s Checkout Answers has been?

  83. brashieel Says:

    Wow… this one is still bugging me a day later. For all the obvious reasons. We’ve all done this. Declined to get involved in a problem, even when the investment of time and effort would probably be trivial.

    To me this comic isn’t about the right and wrong of the situation. The narrator doesn’t know who is or isn’t right. He only knows that an inflexible set of rules either caused (or were the excuse) for a problem being ignored, and that when he had the chance to try to remedy this, he chose not to.

  84. Joe Says:

    great comic, I don’t know why everybody else needs to write a paragraph about it

  85. simon Says:

    Hi Joe, me neither, since I wrote the definitive one and everyone else is just plain wrong :)

  86. Phoenix Says:

    You know, I still say that it doesn’t matter. Someone mentioned that the objective details are irrelevant, and I kind of have to agree, since the focal point of the story is not what happened but how the narrator feels about it. You can argue whether or not it was policy, or whether or not the customer was in the wrong, or whether or not the cashier should have told everyone else to hold on. You can’t argue how the main character feels about it, and that’s the crux of the narrative. He thinks that it is tragic that such a dilemma should even occur, regardless of the empirical ethics. What should be done? Who is at fault? How do you handle the complaint? What is fair to all the other customers? All these questions are dependent on the context of the system that has been created in the store; if the store didn’t function like it does, then these problems wouldn’t occur. The main character knows this, and feels despair that such a system has been created, and that we LET it happen, knowing deep in our minds the injustice of it all.

    Also, any comic that can provoke this much discussion is a work of art. Supreme kudos to the writer / artist :)

  87. David S. Says:

    (Damn, there are too much comments above to make this one be noticed. I shouldn’t have been too lazy to post when there were only 6 comments.)

    Yeah, it’s pretty hard when you find out that you were just pointing your finger at those “sheeps” in the Nazi-government.

  88. Illuminatus Says:

    Point: injustice prevails when good men don’t act.

    I’ve always known there is a reason why I got hooked on this comic.

  89. Ibian Says:

    Keep in mind the narrator has his grocery list dictated to him by a twelve year old version of himself who speaks in an Austin Powers villainesque way and who only exists inside his head. Not the most reliable narrator around, folks.

  90. Sam Says:

    I take this too seriously…I hate weak willed people too afraid to voice their opinion when they feel injustice occuring.

    But I guess I could say “Hehe, it’s funny cause he’s a puss”….right…?

    [pff, guy should feel bad about himself....(grumble grumble angst angst)]

  91. William Says:

    hey WR,
    I just spent the past two weeks casually going through the entire archives and I just want to say thank you for creating so many great pieces of art and social commentary. My heart sank more than just a little when I realized I could no longer just hit next and have instant enjoyment.

  92. akap Says:

    Nice comic dude the realization of moral cowardice, deadlier than the 7 sins.

  93. Meghana K Says:

    amazing. ‘Wall of text’ does justice to this one.

  94. John A. Stovall Says:

    Perhaps, you greatest work to date, Bravo.

  95. simon Says:

    Winston, are you sure you read ALL of the comments? I pity you dude, and now understand why you respond so infrequently.

    I have an email from Mr Rowntree to me and me only, in response to a comment in an earlier strip

  96. simon Says:

    Damn, Win, your comments system stripped the humorous faux html tags from my previous comment, making me look like a twat. Oh well, I guess it’s true anyway.

  97. David Says:

    I honestly didn’t mean to cause so much controversy with my response. Seriously, I get the message, I understood what he was getting at, I was just trying to say the vehicle for the message was flawed, and people jumping to sympathize with the woman in question might want to step back and consider the situation for what it really is.
    To demonstrate another way, imagine some woman standing at a cross walk, waiting patiently and politely, but getting more and more flustered because cars aren’t stopping to let her cross. Would you feel upset at the injustice that no one seems to want to stop for this woman, or would you just say “hey lady, push the button and wait 30 seconds for the light to change”? Or would you say that I was being fascist for daring to suggest that she follow the rules?
    Line of cars or line of people, traffic light or cashier, I see both situations similarly.

  98. b. patrick Says:

    You have outdone yourself with this one: amazing! As someone who worked in the hell of a grocery store for eleven years I can attest to the reliability of the setting for universal human dramas to be illustrated in small and mundane ways everyday (which I’m sure is true of all jobs everywhere – anywhere you find people, really). The events themselves may seem trivial but the truths revealed are no less true. Human nature is human nature. People will always act like people. The banality of evil. Very well done.

  99. Christian Says:

    Well, I am pretty well left in awe after this one. That is a system all beyond flawed. It is what we live in. Support the Venus Project.

  100. benS. Says:

    This is so fantastic good ! All panels. I really hope you won’t get cartoonist’s block after this masterpiece.

    The four last panels, though, leaves me in a slightly depressed mode. My damned mirror neurons? Strange, because the supposed victim (wrinkled lady) doesn’t affect me that way*.

    * Oh noo ! Just noticed : I’ve got that same wrinkle now !

    AND NOW over to my latest find :
    Two-Shower NAGW ComiCz**

    **You’ll probably not find it !

  101. Chicago Sometimes Says:

    Seriously. I don’t write here too often but maybe I should.

    Mr. Rowntree. You are AWESOME to write something like this.

    I am privileged to read every week and proud to call myself a fan. Thank you sir.

  102. Noel Pruden Says:

    Where’s a damn price checker when you need one?

  103. EthZee Says:

    @Akap:

    “Nice comic dude the realization of moral cowardice, deadlier than the 7 sins.”

    Er. Surely there’s a couple of sins that are higher up on the chart than moral cowardice – like murder? I’ll give you “coveting thy neighbour’s ox”, that’s not quite as relevant in today’s fast-paced world, moral cowardice is a bit more serious(and more prevalent – speaking as one such coward).

    But, I don’t know; I think I’d prefer to see someone being a moral coward than to witness someone gleefully hacking into a person’s chest with a Bowie knife whilst singing Good Morning Mister Sun.

    (Well, at least they’re standing up for what they believe in; you couldn’t fault them for that-)

    Good comic, Winston.

  104. TentacledBeast Says:

    Some of the above commenters seem to have misunderstood the situation. It’s not that the store has a no-refunds policy; if that was the case, then the cashier would simply tell the lady. It’s not that the lady didn’t want to wait in line; she was there before the others, there was no line when she came. It’s that the cashier is ignoring this lady in favor of those people who came after her because they are there to give money, not take. The cashier isn’t refusing to give a refund, she is making the complaining lady wait. Making someone wait for so long is disrespectful.

    @EthZee: The seven deadly sins are lust, gluttony, pride, wrath, envy, sloth and greed. You must have been thinking about the ten commandments.

  105. Richter Comics Says:

    Great comic, as usual. Loved the mini-panels under the big ones. Black and white was a nice touch too.

  106. wow Says:

    great comic

  107. EthZee Says:

    @TentacledBeast:

    “The seven deadly sins are lust, gluttony, pride, wrath, envy, sloth and greed. You must have been thinking about the ten commandments.”

    Oh yeah, that’s the turkey.

    …Well, frankly, some of those are over-rated, so I could almost see how cowardice could rank highly. But I am a coward, so it feels hypocritical of me to complain about it.

  108. MRC Says:

    What you dont know is how often this woman shops at this store and tries to get refunds, or why she was asking for them.

    When I worked as a cashier; One customer would regularly buy their shopping, consisting of a lot of “buy one get one free offers” then try to return the free one to get a refund and therefore free goods.
    We could not bar the customer from the store and management were aware of the situation and eventually store policy became “ignore this person when they ask for a refund”

  109. Dan Plaat Says:

    This comic will remind me to speak up at such times. A thought:I shop at a place aside housing projects, the cashiers are very thoughtful, letting people run to grab something they missed or what they need for the best deal. there’s also the assorted welfare cards. Sorting this out leads to long wait times for me, someone one buys a little at a time, and pays with debit from a bank account. But this wait is out of their necessity of means, I have resources others don’t, so the wait, truly can’t bother me. o, and they always have more than one line open.

  110. EthZee Says:

    Of course, Pictures For Sad Children brings up the risks of helping:

    http://picturesforsadchildren.com/oldethymes/givemeahand.gif

  111. RydWolf Says:

    Re: MRC’s comment regarding the person who tries to return one half of a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer.

    That does sound like the sort of thing some people do.

    It’s a good point and a viable, alternate interpretation.

    If only we could know the background beyond every situation. We would always be able to make an informed decision.

  112. benS. Says:

    Again, this is really* good.

    Ever considered illustrating books ?
    I’d surely buy one. Were it even a love novel, written in Hangul…

    *An adverb, hopefully.

  113. Jack Says:

    Ugh. So much pretentious bullshit.

    I actually find it ironic that this is almost right after the, “It’s perfectly moral to hold up traffic for an entire city and then murder and devour a police officer doing his job because haha you’re an outsider who plays by your own rules and hates cars and is sassy” Sphinx comic.

    A corporation is not responsible for the behavior of cashiers.

    A cashier that treats a customer like shit has only themselves to blame. Their job may suck, which may be a mitigating factor, but Wal-Mart or whoever didn’t make them treat that customer like shit. Most people in most big name chains I’ve been in don’t act like that if there’s a problem.

    David is wrong to appeal to a slavish devotion to the rules– we have a moral duty to disobey unjust laws, let alone company policy– but the actual problem here was the individuals. Turning it into some waxy, fruity rant about the big evil corporations misses the point. You’re like Howard Zinn over here, convinced that the poor white people would’ve all sung Kumbaya with the native Americans if it wasn’t for those greedy fat cats in Washington. The sad truth is that the oppressed, impoverished, disenfranchised and downtrodden are just as likely to be assholes as anyone else, if not more so due to the quashing of any sense of empathy.

  114. Joe Says:

    “The sad truth is that the oppressed, impoverished, disenfranchised and downtrodden are just as likely to be assholes as anyone else”

    Yea, but now that shit is institutionalized. It isn’t the same as the few assholes in regular, naturally occurring society. They wouldn’t be “singing kumbaya” you republican, but they would at least act more like human beings, if it weren’t for the corporatization/commercialization of humanity.

    To put it simply – We live in a sterilized, business first world. Employees are expendable, People are “consumers”. Groups of people are “markets” or “audiences”. Time is money. Its all run by a heartless maniacal golden robot that eats wallets.

    You know what that atmosphere does to people? It causes their basic humanity to slip away. They stop giving a fuck. (example in comic).

    Corporations have taken our way of life. They own and regulate almost everything and set it up so that society is just a giant money-funnel. That’s what matters now. We can’t own our own businesses anymore, we can’t compete. We don’t have our own natural, “organic” cultures because we no longer need town squares with our own shops owned by people you can know and trust (for the most part) Communities are dispersed. Its all stripmalls, mega-stores, and fast food. Even art is commercialized. Everything is. You drive to your suburban home after coming home from your corporate job, sit on your couch and watch TV. That is society now.

    There are a few towns and small cities dispersed throughout the US that aren’t centralized, corporate run profit-factories, but they’re the last strongholds of natural human culture.

  115. Ibian Says:

    All that stuff you just complained about? That, too, is “natural human culture”. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

  116. Ben Says:

    Sometimes your walls-of-text are hard to get through, and even though I don’t agree with all of what you’ve said, I’m glad I’ve read them. Keep on keepin’ on.

  117. Kathryn Says:

    God I love this comic.

  118. The Sore Head!! Says:

    Big fan, long time reader, first time poster.

    I was going to post a wall-of-text, but it’s pretty much all been said already. I’ve really liked the comic for some time now, but TBH this was one of the weaker strips in a while.

  119. Hexadecima Says:

    I ran into this kind of a situation on the bus the other day.

    I paid the guy’s fare for him.

    It worked out pretty well.

  120. David Says:

    Why the heck am I still defending my view?
    Jack, did you even read everything I said? I at no point suggested a “slavish devotion to the rules” and, in fact, stated several times that I was not talking about unjust rules. I included examples and everything!
    I’m talking about basic rules that everyone should know that are easy to follow and do not actually interfere with your lives, rules that generally make things easier for everyone. Rules like standing in a line and waiting patiently for your turn. Rules like waiting for the cross walk sign before stepping into traffic.
    Here’s some more examples! If you go along speeding, or sneak a candy bar into the movie theatre, that’s against the rules but I’m not going to say anything (within reason). BUT, if you then get in an accident because you were going too fast, or you get caught and kicked out of the movie theatre, I’m not going to side with you if you act like the victim. You knew the rule, you knew the risks, you took them anyway and lost. These are not crazy rules that are meant to oppress you, they are generally based on logic and meant to serve, not hinder.
    If you consider cutting to the front of the line instead of waiting patiently in it some act of rebellion against an unjust law, I would suggest you re-evaluate your priorities.

  121. GerryB Says:

    “If you consider cutting to the front of the line instead of waiting patiently in it some act of rebellion against an unjust law, I would suggest you re-evaluate your priorities.”

    There’s something called being *too* obedient, soldier.

  122. David Says:

    Ok, you win, I quit. Interpret what I say however you want. If I’m a terrible human being for thinking that a queue is the best way for people to be seen in an orderly way and given their fair chance than so be it.

  123. Ibian Says:

    Once again, we are still missing info. We don’t know if anyone skipped any lines.

  124. GerryB Says:

    To be fair, this is all Winston’s fault.

  125. brashieel Says:

    You know your comic has something going for it when it can kick this long of an argument off.

  126. EthZee Says:

    Ahem.

    I would just like to remind everyone that as a British citizen I find queuing to be the most basic of human skills, second only to walking, or possibly breathing; and that under common law any children born or raised in Britain who are unable to either form or behave appropriately in a queue by the age of ten are to have their citizenship immediately revoked, and be deported to France (where, apparently, queuing is an unheard-of dark art).
    This is a necessary burden we must shoulder if we are to maintain our reputation as being number 1 at queuing (and numbers 2,3, and 4; other countries not being as willing to queue as we are).

    [Warning: this comment contains satire]

  127. Ibian Says:

    Actually, that seems like a really good idea. Immigration is a big problem, possibly the biggest on a european level at the moment, especially in england.

  128. MRC Says:

    there is one place we dont queue though and I wish we did.
    Bars and pubs

  129. GerryB Says:

    Kablarkin.

    Know commissionable artists much?

    Moving on…

  130. Randy Lee Says:

    I don’t get it. What was the problem. When it’s your turn, just as the cashier is about to grab your first item to scan, you just put your hand out over said item, look the cashier in the eye, and say, “Take care of her first.” Not too loud. Not too quiet. Real flat and unemotional, but just a little tiny bit of “command” in there so she understands that whatever she says, if it’s anything but “OK”, then, again, she is going to get told what to do by a complete stranger, and, on top of that, since she wants to ask stupid questions, you’re going to point something out about the situation that is going to make her look a tiny bit foolish or assholish. Really, it’s a no-brainer – you just do it. The key? The key is that in the second that you lock eyes with the cashier, you and she are the only two people in the store. The other people in line behind you DO NOT EXIST. That has to be assumed. You are at the head of the line, so right then and there, you ARE the customer, and, the Customer Is Always Right. Practice this a few times standing next to a mirror looking at it at an angle so that your reflection is like the people in line behind you. Look at something on the wall like it’s the cashier’s eyes. Put your and out and say it, “Take care of her first”. Feel how the world contracts, like a one on one game of basketball with Nice Pete. Got it? Good, class dismissed.

  131. Randy Lee Says:

    hand

  132. Joe Says:

    To Ibian,

    You get my point. Local community-based culture vs. centralized, anonymous, individualistic corporate culture. Or you can pick on my choice of words..

  133. pG Says:

    Ok Winston. Two weeks without a new fix from you. I’m sorry that it had to come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. On my desk is a petri dish with a culture of Kikwit Ebola, a souvenir from my last trip to the Congo. Next to it is a pipette filed with hydrochloric acid. If you do not post a new 2000 word comic by the end of the week I will take matters into my own hands. So. Post a witty comment on modern civilization or the viral hemorrhagic fever get it!

  134. Randy Lee Says:

    If someone tries to return one item from a buy one get one free offer, you simply smile, and give her back half her money. “Ignore this person when they ask for a refund” What fricken idiots!

  135. t-bon3 Says:

    What can I say? Today was my first visit to Subnormality, always happy to find out that other people have also noticed that we live in a messed up world.

    Extreme individualism, the capitalist “it’s all about me” philosophy causes so much angst with the human animal who is still a social creature. We need more of these ‘real’ human-human interactions to sharpen our wits and thicken our skins.

    Drafted comments, like this one, benefit from the miracle of hingsight. I can say something, read it back, ponder it and make changes before hitting the ‘submit’ button. Try doing that in a busy grocery store queue.

    On an unrelated note why are the pictures in this comic saved as jpg files rather than the more appropriate png’s?

  136. Qusar Says:

    Woah man. I know that feeling…

  137. Ellemar Says:

    As a cashier, I deal with people like this all the time. Normally, if there is no one else, I’ll just help the person who shows up. But if there were other people before her in line, I’m going to serve them first, and she should get in line rather than continuing to waste her time.

    Ugh, I just got off work, so I’m a little bitter still.

  138. Isolda Says:

    This is great.
    Reminds me a little of what happens in London every time people on the tube are told there is someone under the train and there’s gonna be a delay: most people sigh and moan because it’s a bother and they’re gonna be late for work! (work they probably hate.)

    Keep the good work.

  139. Ed Says:

    Stop being so scared all the time and live.

    Nice comic, keep it up, but for fucks sake…

  140. EthZee Says:

    @Isolda:

    I can vouch for that. A fatality on the line is annoying as heck, especially when you’re waiting to get home and the train gets delayed by as much as half an hour because of it.

    @Ed:

    What do you mean by ‘live’, exactly? I’d like to know. Something’s got you riled up and no mistake.


  141. OK, so this line: “…and it was only the right line because there were more people in it”.

    For me, this comic isn’t about the hypothetical ethical standing of refund-woman; I thought this was going towards a narrative of guilt over social compliance, but then the “I’ll deal with me later” line knocked that out of the water – which, by the way, is in my opinion an admiral moral stance in and of itself, and certainly one that would society as a whole could be benefitted by, so kudos – but it feels like the “right line” idea underpins this comic.

    I don’t even know what to call this, but then labelling things sometimes obscures their message. It’s just, like, the idea that the right place to stand at the bus-stop is where everyone else is standing, or like this idea we have in britain (hello americans, bear with me) that the only two political parties worth voting for are labour or conservative (similar to democratic&republican respectively) because they are the ones that dominate the post system, and voting for anything else is a ‘wasted vote’, when actually it’s that mentality that caused them to be so dominant in the first place, and yeah, ok, voting for anything else is kind of a wasted vote, just
    like that the idea that for change to happen there needs to be one person to inspire that change, which, yes, true, but it isn’t realistically going to happen this election, or the one after, or even the one after until a big enough diffraction movement has begun, but by then we might have been living with a destructive, morally bankrupt government for twelve years because people had the werewithal to vote for a party with a 1% majority rating, and wow, message potentially lost here in the sheer pile-up of subordinate clauses.

    Sometimes I think the most encouraging things about society are the arbitrary bits, like how ‘jedi’ is an offically viable religion on the consensus form.

    Wrapping up now, truly apologise for the potential incomprehensibility of this comment, and author, I’m ashamed to say I had a kind of derogatory stance against comics before I stumbled across subnormality, so keep it up, because you have these occasional amazing flashes of sheer insight, and more, a gift for relating them in a non-pompous, non-cliched way, so thank you. :)

  142. Razzamattazza Says:

    Incredible… Absolutely amazing…

  143. Tomé Says:

    dude, im going into withdrawal!

  144. Duane Says:

    That was an amazing comic. As always, I love your work!

  145. Heide Says:

    Wow! Been in that situation, never able to put it so eloquently.

  146. punk floyd Says:

    It happened to me once, but i ended up like unable to solve anything anyways and ashamed for being such uncapable for a while.

    At least i helped the person in trouble to feel a little less like shit.

  147. punk floyd Says:

    oh yeh i tried to help the person inquestion by the way…

  148. simon Says:

    Dude, it’s been like nearly a month now. Do you need any help with anything?

  149. COVIZAPIBETEFOKY Says:

    oh noes, withdrawal, etc.

  150. GerryB Says:

    Is still April, the man might be having some pyroclastic flow issues. Or ‘tall tales’ from Sweden, or… come back Winston with teh funni!

  151. mike Says:

    Volcanos, airplanes and stuff. That´s a lot of inspiration i guess…

  152. Edix Says:

    Hi.
    Thank you I wasted half a day reading your comics.
    I would do it again if there was a way to forget things on a whim.

    /E.
    xxx

  153. Nataly Says:

    What does it mean to belong to a group?

    When do we stop looking at the ant farm and start focusing on that one particular labor ant slaving away mindlessly for the Queen?

    I agree with him that a company becomes truly rotten when it doesn’t expect a second visit from a customer. :)

  154. Inkblot Says:

    Um…hate to say it but why didn’t she go to the service/customer service desk? One jerk/un-educated cashier isn’t a representation of the whole system. I work very hard at being a cashier/customer service worker and the idea that we are all like this is just as damaging as the reverse.

    You had nothing to do with a situation that wasn’t that dire, you shouldn’t feel guilty. However it makes me sad that it made you feel guilty. I’m going to continue to make sure I never have a customer put in that situation. At least until I find a less stressful job that is.

  155. M. Says:

    She should have gone to the customer service desk, that’s what it’s there for. I’ve been in the situation where I was billed incorrectly by the cashier at the grocery store; I went to customer service, got it sorted out by the people WHO ARE EXPLICITLY THERE FOR THAT PURPOSE, and quickly got on with my life without inconveniencing everyone else in the store with some histrionic display. Frankly, if I saw a situation like this (where the customer refused to go to customer service) I’d suspect mental illness.

    If for some reason, also likely mental illness, you think going to the customer service desk is horrible, Nazi-style oppression that signifies the cruelty and heartlessness of our capitalist society… well, there’s no Gestapo man with a gun forcing you to shop there. Go somewhere else.


  156. M: Just to clarify, in the situation that inspired the comic, it was rather late at night and the customer service desk, such as it is, was closed and being used by the maintenance guys as a hangout. What’s more interesting is why instead of suspecting something like that you would instead suspect “mental illness.”

  157. M. Says:

    Ok, I was perhaps too quick to judge then. I’ll agree that’s a poorly run store, if the customer service desk is closed and there was genuinely nobody there who had the authority or ability to deal with the problem. (No manager on duty? Can’t ask those maintenance guys?)

    I can’t bring myself to draw any kind of grand metaphor about the horror of our capitalist society from it, though. Some places just suck, that’s all. Stop giving them your money. (And please note that in a non-capitalist society you wouldn’t have the ability to go shop at a less sucky place next time. That’s why I’m very dubious about the sort of people who draw those grand metaphors; at best they really have no idea what they’re asking for.)

  158. M. Says:

    Oh, and to answer your “more interesting” question: I read carelessly and didn’t realize that the customer service desk was closed (assuming that you said that in the comic; did you?) If I happened to be in line at the supermarket, and I saw somebody hovering endlessly behind the cashier trying to get something from them, being told they couldn’t, yet staying there and continuing to try to get the cashier’s attention, all the while there was an open customer service desk right nearby — then yes, I would start to suspect mental illness.

  159. Rick Says:

    This is a wonderful comic. Mainly because so many of us have seen very similar situations occur in our own lives. But how many think of talking about it?

    Some posters above me suggested that it’s the cashier and not the company/institution that’s wrong. Yes that may be true at times, but consider she might be having a bad day because that’s what the company engineered for her. I remember reading a study that showed that unhappy people do more work than happy ones…there’s a sickness there.

  160. Mr Gask Says:

    You could have forgone this whole comic by giving the lady the refund yourself. Just an FYI.

  161. Goose Says:

    There’s a thousand solutions to the problem, but it’s not about that.
    It’s about how things can get to that level.
    It’s more about how unfair and unlucky some situations might be.

    Or, at least, that’s how i see it, because I’m living in a situation exactly like that.

  162. Gergana Says:

    It’s about how any of us can change things. We all can if we have an opinion, if we take a side, if we act as a group.

    Your comics are ingenious!

  163. Nathan Wink Says:

    That was fucking beautiful.

  164. Paul Says:

    Hmm, odd, philosophical implications aside, I used to work for about three years in retail and whenever a person came up with a complaint of any kind, no matter how nasty or nice they were, I would at the very least call for a superior to come out and help them even if what they were asking was against company policy. Course, I’d also listen to them too to get an idea of what’s going on and explain our policies, sometimes I even let them get what they wanted if it was simple enough. So I guess i find it kinda odd that this comic cashier doesn’t do the simplest thing and call the manager.

  165. SotiCoto Says:

    Life is game.
    You don’t get to pick whether you play or not, though some people can quit early. Good for them.
    You do get to choose whether you play by the rules or not though. And when you don’t play by the rules, there is a possibility you might win big, and there is a possibility you might get fucked.

    So when you don’t play by the rules, and you end up fucked because of it, crying about it won’t do a damned thing. And there certainly isn’t any need for anyone else to feel guilt, disgust, nor anything else about it.

    That lady could have tried joining the queue at any time, but she didn’t. She tried going against the order-keeping rules, and in this case it didn’t work out for her.

    Ok.

  166. SotiCoto Says:

    ^ A game. The game. Whatever. A word was missing and I can’t edit. Shit happens.

  167. Zyber Com Says:

    We seem to have devolved to a point to which accountability is rarely glimpsed, and often not even expected in our “bottom-line” society. Common sense has become a vestige of the high ideal it used to be. Many use the cover of “rules”, when it’s convenient, to allow them to ignore an opportunity, or make an effort, to do the right thing, without guilt.

    Money is all that matters now. Most media outlets contribute to that mindset when they never miss a chance to put a price tag on every event or consideration, be it a building fire, improvements to education, environmental protection, the existence of illness, policy change, climate change, industrial regulation, everything. Free markets are said to be the holy panacea to all problems. Even though free markets, out of control, have been proved time after time to cause societal damage, and it just keeps happening. Building and loan debacle, real estate market crash, destruction and poisonings caused by “fracking”, Bophal’s Union Carbide mass killings, the list goes on. Who’s held responsible?

    If rules or regulations get in the way of corporations making more money, lawyers, lobbyists, and politicians get the rules bent in their favor and keep going. Some regulations are put in place to protect people from harm, be it physical, monetary, or quality of life. They don’t emanate from some evil conspiracy to prevent companies from making a fair profit. Beyond that, with corporations now allowed to buy any election, our country will decline faster and faster into third-world-like status and brutish chaos. The billionaires who created the situation will just move on to some swankier locale. Most of us, and our grandchildren, will have to try to live with the aftermath, in a third-world-like scenario. Vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan know what that looks like.

    It seems a stretch to extrapolate this tirade from the poignant story, but the truth is, the formula is evident in microcosm, as the author mentioned.


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