Norm Violation Experiment

Steven - Rexburg, Idaho
Entered on April 3, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in acting normal.

Feeling anxious, I cast furtive looks toward the checkout stands. Seeing a group of people, I start towards the checkouts. I’ve been waiting for people to come so that I can test out my psychology experiment in front of a crowd. I want to see how they react when I start jumping up and down for no apparent reason. As I’m walking I realize I know one of the people, so I take a conspicuous veer to the left looping back around the way I came. I begin to blush, hoping no one saw me. Why do I feel so anxious? I don’t know these people, I’m not hurting anyone or breaking any laws. I hang around a few more minutes, all the lines stay small with maybe one person in each, I’ll act stupid in front of a group, but not in front of just one or two people. I would feel stupid if they ignore me, or if they look at me with disgust, perhaps pity? No, I decide, I won’t do it in front of a few people, somehow more personal, in front of a group would be better. It seems like no more groups are coming. One of the cashiers that isn’t helping anyone calls, “Hey, I can help you over here.” “Thanks” I call back, deciding that I will have to go somewhere else for my random psychology “norm-violation” experiment. Feeling on edge I tap my wallet indecisively while standing at the checking counter. Transaction completed, I walk out through the automatic sliding doors, a bit faster than usual. As I’m coming out a Young Girl Scout excitedly exclaims, “Do you want to buy some cookies?” as she points to a table with a crown surrounding it. “Yeah sure” I say with an unnatural amount of enthusiasm and a goofy smile. I look up at the Scout leader who is smiling at me, with a smile which says, “thanks for being so nice to these sweet young girls.” I smile back not out of kindness, but because I’ve found the victims for my experiment. I begin to jump up and down moving towards the small table, around which about ten people stand. I start feeling awkward as my joy of finding this opportunity fades, quickly. I glance back towards the leader her eyes dart away from mine, as her perplexed look slides from “what are you doing” to an attempt at politeness which says “I’m glad your excited about the cookies”. Another fellow is looking at me from the corner of his eye. I try to smile and he half smiles as his eyebrows go up. Feeling awkwardly I quickly look away. A young girl behind the table is looking at me then bends to her right whispering to her friend. Feeling stupid, I decide to walk away. I think to myself Bro. Whoolery probably does this assignment just so that he can laugh at the stupid stories of students.