A Cashier and The Case

Santafe.com - July 10, 2011

"For every one Casey Anthony-ish case, there are probably a hundred (or a thousand?) similar crimes that few people, outside of the principals, ever hear about."

A couple of days ago I had to go through the “express lane” (right) of an unnamed local supermarket whose self-service checkout stations were (no surprise) not working.

The middle-aged woman working the register was carrying on one continuing conversation with the stream of customers ahead of me. She was talking about the Casey Anthony verdict. She was not pleased. And she attempted to illicit similar outrage from her customers, who were the only obstacles between me and getting my Blue Bell ice cream home and into a bowl.

I’m not one for small talk anyway, even when the topic is something I’m familiar with. But I knew nothing about Casey Anthony, other than recognizing her name from online headlines. I had to feign preoccupation with the magazines, the candy display, the bag I brought, anything to avoid getting sucked into her diatribe.

Fortunately for me, she scanned my ice cream, gave me my change, and turned her attention to the next woman in line, “seamlessly” (as everything seems to be promoted these days). I made it through unscathed.

But I’ll admit that when I got home, I made it a point to find out what it was about Casey Anthony and her not-guilty verdict in Florida that would so infuriate a cashier in Santa Fe.

So now I know something about the case. And the verdict. And I have to ask, since this is my general discerning orientation, “is this a difference that makes a difference?”

Some commentators are quick to draw large (grandiose?) conclusions about what such a verdict means, or reflects, about our legal system, pop culture, tabloid journalism, Nancy Grace (really a whole category by herself).

At the other end of the spectrum, where I’m more comfortable, it’s just another tragic death/murder that, for who knows what reasons, “captures” something in the zeitgeist that gains national attention. And virtually none of them has real consequential impact beyond the immediate families affected and the legal/political careers of the attorneys, and sometimes judges, involved. They come and go, almost like an endless slideshow, quickly to become a referenced footnote to the next.

For every one Casey Anthony-ish case, there are probably a hundred (or a thousand?) similar crimes that few people, outside of the principals, ever hear about. There’s a perverse editorial value system here that determines what makes one murder a story, and others just statistics.  

But for that one cashier, the Casey Anthony verdict sure made a difference in how she spent her afternoon. And ultimately, it made a difference in how I spent mine.