Cider House Rules

McDonalds (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I’m not that big into rules.  Can’t we just all get along?  Doesn’t common sense prevail?  What about plain old common courtesy?  I guess not.

Here are some rules I saw posted above serve-yourself soda fountain at McDonald’s regarding refills:

  • Refills allowed during one visit;
  • No soda refills into specialty coffee cup;
  • No refills into cups other than McDonald’s cups;
  • No cold beverage refills into hot beverage cups;
  • No hot beverage refills into cold beverage cups;
  • No refills without purchase.

“Cider House Rules,” I say to Loved-One.

“What?” his brow furrows, but underneath his blue eyes dance.

“You know, like in movie Cider House Rules based on John Irving’s bookRules nobody reads or understands or obeys. Rules that seem silly in the grand scheme of things.”

There’s nothing wrong with these rules. Big block letters posted under the light-switch of the temporary Pickers’ home spell out: CIDER HOUSE RULES, and underneath, sensible rules like: No drinking on the roof; No smoking in bed.  Too bad, none of the Pickers could read.

It sure seems like people are abusing the bottomless cup offered at McDonald’s.  Still, how many of the abusers are reading these rules?  Common sense or common courtesy cause most of us to obey these kind of  rules without being told.  Don’t you think?

Menards Tool Demos
Menards Tool Demos (Photo credit: herzogbr)

Maybe not.  Yesterday we headed to Menard’s with our brown paper grocery bag for some post holiday sales.  You probably get these bags in the mail, too.  Printed in bold, red letters: 20% OFF,  and below that ANYTHING YOU CAN FIT INSIDE THIS BAG INCLUDING SALE PRICED ITEMS!*

I notice the asterisk explaining the Cider House Rules printed on the bottom, in smaller print:

All merchandise must fit inside the bag, all at one  time; No modifying of the bag is allowed; all merchandise must remain in its original packaging; merchandise cannot be disassembled to fit in bag; offer not valid on Gift Cards, special orders, picking lists/invoices, rental agreements or self-service tickets…

Loved-one and I laugh at our collective vision of do-it-yourselfers loading up the bag with enough lumber pick-lists to build a garage;  or the savvy gifter standing in the check-out line with a grocery bag chocked full of Gift Cards.  We wonder how an innovative shopper might modify this simple brown paper bag.  Who tries these sort of stunts?  Enough people who someone, somewhere feels the need to post the rules.

Are there  that many people who  think like the Pickers, “We’ve got our own rules.”

Cover of "The Cider House Rules"
Cover of The Cider House Rules

In CIDER HOUSE RULES, the Pickers have bigger things to worry about than drinking on the roof of the cider house: murder, rape, and racism, not to mention just eking out a living.  The posted rules are a metaphor for rule-makers being out of touch with the real pain in people’s lives.  The underlying message is that slavish adherence to rules is dangerous.  I can get on board with that.

Are my real-life examples of Cider House Rules a symptom of some deeper pain in people’s lives?  Is it a sign of disenfranchisement?  Or a symptom greed and selfishness?

Anyways, who has the desire to carry around a McDonald’s cup for a week, popping in and getting refills when the desire strikes him?  (Yes, my daughter knows someone who actually does this.)  And who has the nerve to disassemble a swing-set and try to cram in into a brown grocery bag?

Do you have examples of Cider House Rules?  What do you think?  Is courtesy now uncommon, anymore?  Or is there a deeper pain that causes some to say, “We’ve got our own rules”?  I can hardly wait to hear what you think.




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