I have a love/hate relationship with my fellow humans.

I’ve always thought of myself as a people person. I can get along with just about anybody most of the time. At work there are plenty of people whom I probably wouldn’t agree with on issues such as politics or religion, but I get along with them just fine. My neighbors and I manage to live side by side without any conflicts to speak of and most of the people I interact with briefly throughout the day don’t do anything to raise my ire. This is mainly because most of these interaction don’t involve the sharing of personal opinions and beliefs. Whenever I’m exposed to the opinions of the general public at large I find myself starting to seriously dislike people in general.

Take, for instance, my car ride in this morning. Traffic can often get my dander up because it’s an indirect exposure to someone else’s (wrong) opinions on how one should drive their car, but that’s not what got me riled up this morning. Today it was a local commercial radio station’s morning show conversation.

The lead host was talking about how during a recent trip the smell of the complementary shampoos at the hotel he was staying at was so good that he made sure to take the extra bottles they put out during his stay. He was feeling a little guilty about coming home with three extra mini-bottles of this shampoo, but he didn’t think he’d be able to find the brand locally. This started a conversation with the co-hosts about hoarding “complimentary” things such as shampoos, condiments, detergents, et cetera. One of the female hosts is apparently known to take all of any freebies she’s offered on the reasoning that “they expect you to use them.” I was amazed by that attitude, but I wasn’t really annoyed by it. Then they opened up the topic to their listeners.

The first lady who called said she never has to buy condiments (read: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise) because she makes a point of grabbing extra packets at restaurants when she’s eating out. Normally just one or two more than she needs, but occasionally a handful stuffed into her purse when she’s running low on something. She also takes extra creamer cups and sugar packets in gas stations even if she’s not getting coffee at the time.

Now to me, that’s outright theft. Yes, they are complimentary items being offered, but there’s an expectation that you’re purchasing the item it’s intended to be used with and you’re only going to use enough for the item you’re putting it in/on right there. I suppose we could argue over how much is reasonable to use, but I find the attitude that you can take as much as you want because “well, it’s free” to be annoying. It’s not free. Someone is paying for it and probably passing along the cost of the hoarding by increasing the price of other products to compensate for the greedy assholes grabbing fistfuls wherever they can.

But that lady wasn’t the worst of the lot. Another lady caller admitted to pilfering rubber gloves from her doctor’s office. “Because they’re awesome for cleaning the toilet with.” Not just a couple here and there, mind you, she admitted to having stolen 500 at a time. Now I don’t know what doctor office she goes to, but I’ve never been to one where the patients were given complimentary rubber gloves. Those are there for the doctors and nurses to use, not you.

It was at this point that I had to turn off the radio because I was developing a serious hate for people in general. I don’t tend to listen to commercial radio as it is because most of the music these days is shit, but I should know better to listen to Morning Shows that let the general public demonstrate how contemptible it can be. It’s the same reason I never ever listen to Talk Radio. Not even on NPR. I’ve tried to listen to Talk of the Nation on NPR and I’ll be fine right up to the point that they start taking calls and the general public tries to express an opinion without drooling all over themselves and then I have to shut it off. It’s also why I’m very selective about which blogs and websites I read comments on. I rarely read comments on Fark.com or YouTube.com unless I think the topic will provide some humorously stupid comments and I avoid message forums like the plague.

Most of the time this keeps my blood pressure in check, but you can’t live in any society without being exposed to the idiocy of your fellow people from time to time. When it gets really bad I begin to despair for the future of humanity, but just when I think I’ve turned into a cantankerous old coot waggling his cane and screaming at those damned kids to get the fuck off of my lawn, I come across something like this:

This is 19 year old Shep being cradled in his father’s arms last night in Lake Superior. Shep falls asleep every night when he is carried into the lake. The buoyancy of the water soothes his arthritic bones.

The above photo was taken by pro photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson and I found it to be stunningly powerful. Apparently a lot of other people have too as it quickly went viral on Facebook. For reasons I cannot fully articulate, it moved me emotionally and made all the crap that got me riled up earlier this morning just fade away.

I don’t know what political views or religious perspective the man in that picture may hold and I really don’t care. The single moment caught in that image is enough to restore my faith in humanity, at least for a little while. I suppose on the grand scale of things that could make me feel good about my fellow humans this is a pretty small thing, but then most of the things I got all torqued up about this morning were pretty small too.

I don’t know that we do enough good things in this world to outweigh all the bad things we do, but I’d like to think it at least balances out in the end. That there’s enough good done to make the journey worthwhile and, if we’re lucky, improve things as time goes on.

Scientists wonder why can’t we walk straight?

Robert Krulwich over at NPR has a very interesting bit on how, when blindfolded or deprived of external markers, we humans can’t walk in a straight line.

Try this: Put a blindfold on someone, take them to a park or a beach or a meadow and ask them to walk for as long as they can in a straight line. Then watch what happens:

I’m always fascinated with stuff like this and I look forward to someone eventually figuring out the reason why. My guess is we’re just kind of stupid that way, but I’m sure the real answer is much more revealing.