In my town, there isn’t much culture, unless your idea of sophistication is barbecuing in your driveway. So it’s not unusual, on a Sunday, for me to make the ten-mile trip to Barnes & Noble, there to commune with civilization.
When I approached that store today, though, I was greeted by the following sign, which I’ve reproduced verbatim:
DUE TO POWER ISSUES.
SORRY FOR THE
The first sentence seems to imply that the clerks have rebelled against management. “You can’t come in because there’s a mutiny going on.” But, no. It’s 21st-century shrink-speak for: The fucking electricity isn’t working.
Nobody in America today — except maybe for bloggers — wants to make a definite statement, commit himself or herself to a clearly defined position on what’s right and what’s wrong. Instead, parents have issues with their children, and children have issues with their parents. Workers have issues with bosses, and bosses have issues with workers. Teachers have issues with students, students have issues with teachers, and everybody has issues with the principal. Conservatives have issues with liberals, and liberals have issues with conservatives. Christians have issues with Muslims, Muslims have issues with Jews, Jews have issues with Christians, and who doesn’t have issues with atheists?
“Having issues” is a weasel phrase. It’s not the same as “taking issue,” which at least means “disagreeing.” No, “having issues” is about viewpoint, based on the idea that all opinions are equal. It was born on the psychologist’s couch, where having strong ideas is often considered a sign of mental aberration. It was reared in a relativistic society, in which we all must "respect" one another, whether we've earned that respect or not. And it flourishes in media-driven politics where candidates strive to be the most inoffensive product for sale.
"Having issues" leads to rubbish like “Teach the controversy.” That’s why creationists have issues with so-called evolutionists, and why real, but apologetic, scientists have issues with the army of ignorati who are largely responsible for teaching our kids nonsense.
But, often, there are no issues, f’cryinoutloud. There’s a right side and a wrong side; opinions are not necessarily co-equal. I, myself, do not “have issues” with fundamentalist thugs who want to shove religion down the throats of impressionable youngsters. Instead, I argue, vehemently, for what’s objectively right. If you’re an atheist blogger, chances are that you do, too.
OK, returning to the sign, let’s look at the second sentence. You may not have noticed that “inconvenience” is misspelled, so take another look. Now remember: That sign was written by a person surrounded by English dictionaries. There are at least a dozen different editions scattered over the Reference shelves in my local branch. Does an employee have issues with orthography? Or with Noah Webster, maybe? What does it say about the Barnes & Noble staff if the combined skill of all the clerks can’t manage to spell a fairly common word correctly? Do they read anything they sell, or are they too busy slurping caramel macchiatos to look at the store’s main product? Follow-up question: Are books still the main product of Barnes & Noble Booksellers? Or should the company be renamed to “Barnes & Noble Latte Pushers”?
But idiotic behavior was not limited to those powerless few in the store. I sat for about ten minutes watching customers walk up to the doors. Singly or in groups they stood at the entrance and carefully read the posted message. Then ... they pulled on the handles of the doors. Not one person shrugged and turned around to head back to his or her car. Nope, every potential customer decided to try to get in, as if the “We’re Closed” sign were some kind of hoax. Even when one person or group failed to gain entry, the next in line thought that maybe he or she would have the magic touch.
Call me an old curmudgeon, but I have issues with that kind of stupidity.