Criminal minds

On Thursday I was caught in gridlock for nearly an hour and had moved only an angstrom when out of nowhere came a Porsche barreling down the shoulder lane. I was livid, as I can be with anyone who tries to get one over on the rest of us.

Years ago, I saw a Jane Goodall film in which one of her famous chimpanzees stole bananas from a fruit bin meant for all of the chimps. He had snuck ahead of the group so he could get more than his fair share, and he had so overfilled his arms with fruit that, as he ran away, he had to keep stopping to pick up the ones that dropped. The audience laughed a knowing laugh.

I have never been able to tolerate extreme displays of piggishness, not even, or least of all, my own. You’ve seen it: the person who is last of four at a four-way stop sign and who is the first to drive on through, the person at the back of a crowded elevator who pushes her way to the front so she can be first one off, the person in the cafe you frequent who grabs a Sunday New York Times off the stand and sits down with it just after you’ve paid five bucks for yours, the person who takes plate after plate of food from the all-you-can-eat salad bar, the person at the market who sees you are headed for the checkout and who races ahead so she can get there first, the person who lets you hold a store door open for him without so much as a thank you, the person who talks all the way through a movie and then tells you to go f*** yourself when finally you say shush.

There are unspeakable crimes like murder, torture, and rape, and then there are the very smallest of crimes against the souls of others, which don’t seem like crimes at all. The ones where we tailgate a car because the driver is going the speed limit, yell at a waiter who mixes up our order, walk past a homeless man and feel contempt because we think he has brought on his own troubles, shun the person who’s packing too many pounds for our taste, honk (or want to honk) at an old woman in a crosswalk because she is not going fast enough for us.

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