Why? It’s The Sabbath!

Normally, I do my shopping on a Thursday, at Wal-Mart. While I consider Wal-Mart the epitome of capitalist monopolies, it really is the only place in our town available to purchase all one’s weekly needs under one roof, which rather proves my point.

This week was an exception to the norm. Rather than shop Thursday, I decided to go early Sunday morning, while it was quiet. The Wal-Mart experience is horrifying enough without the addition of milling hordes, screaming kids, and constant trolley collisions.

Consequently, 9.00am this Sunday morning saw me trolling around Wal-Mart, filling my trolley with all possible speed and ready to make a hasty dash for the exit.

Now, I’m not a great consumer of alcohol. As a part-time school bus driver, abstinence through the week is essential, so it’s usually only Friday and Saturday evenings that a small tipple becomes the order of the day. But this week saw the last of school for the summer, and my long stored bottle of Scotch whiskey had landed in the trash can only the previous night, and needed replacing without delay.

Consequently, by the time I arrived at the Wal-Mart check-out, at precisely 9.10am this Sunday morning, sitting atop the food and other items in my trolley was one bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label and two bottles of white table wine.

I had already loaded the conveyor, the part-time Sunday check-out girl busy filling bags on the carousel, when I heard a loud cry behind me:

“You can’t purchase those before 10 o’clock!”

Bewildered, I turned about to see a rather fat, middle-aged, woman in pince-nez spectacles standing behind me, the word “Supervisor” emblazoned across the plastic badge pinned malevolently to her bosom.

“Alcohol!” She barked.

From her lips the word flashed like some medieval witch’s curse, as with a decisive sweep of her arm she reached over the belt and rapped long, plastic, fingernails cursorily across the bottles.

Aware now that she must be invoking some ancient, religious, Illinois taboo, I determined not to give an inch until having to.

I smiled sweetly, “Is there a problem?”

For a moment she appeared perplexed, assuming perhaps I had not understood the first time.

She repeated herself, “Not before 10 o’clock! You may not purchase alcohol before 10 o’clock.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

It seemed an innocuous question to me, but Ms Supervisor was obviously not used to being interrogated by the irreligious on the Sabbath.

She drew herself up to full height, “It’s the LAW!”

Unlike those obnoxious individuals who take delight in berating innocent shop staff for rules over which they have no control, I am always careful never to utilize them as a focus for my frustrations in such circumstances, but my present adversary’s attitude was irksome in the extreme.

I returned to my sweet smile. “Why?” I repeated.

Momentarily, I observed a tinge of pink on the face, a brief uncertainty in the eyes, before the only answer she had available popped into her brain.

“It’s the Sabbath!” she exclaimed with a trace of triumphalism, as though this were a totally plausible explanation.

I glanced at my watch. “But, according to you, only for another fifty minutes?”

The trace of triumphalism vanished, to be again replaced by pink face and bewilderment. Reaching out, she vigorously swept the three bottles from the conveyor, and snapped……

“We don’t make the law. We just have to enforce it!”

……..before rushing away in the vague direction of the Wines and Spirits rack.

I caught the eye of the check-out girl, brows quickly raised, then lowered as though afraid someone in authority might see, and reprimand. I grinned at her. She grinned back, briefly, before lowering her eyes and returning to her check-out duties. I got the picture. She didn’t much like the overzealous supervisor, either.

Driving back home, car trunk loaded down with the week’s groceries – less three bottles of booze – I got to pondering on the strange illogicality of this law that set its Sabbath time limits. In my own native Wales, for many years the cold and religious held sway over the laws of the land, banning alcohol on the Sabbath in large areas of that country. Then, slowly the Welsh began to realize most of their income came from English tourists, flocking to the picturesque hills and mountains and seashores on their leisure weekends, and demanding alcohol to enhance their recreation. Gradually commerce overcame piety, until now the whole of Wales is open for alcoholic business on the Sabbath, just as any other day.

Probably, such is the case with Illinois. I’m sure there was a time when the sale of alcohol, along with plenty of other commodities, was totally banned on a Sunday. Wal-Mart lost sales as a result, and eventually the pious found their influence dwindling before the pressure of capitalist commerce. As a sop to the churches, it was no doubt agreed to keep the hours from midnight Saturday till 10.00am Sunday as sacrosanct to God, given that it didn’t really interfere with alcohol sales as the only mugs daft enough to be up and about at that time, and not in church, were irreligious wretches like RJ Adams.

To my mind, it’s a great presumption to limit one’s Almighty to a couple of hours on a Sunday morning, though it’s certainly in line with the way most Christians seem to treat their “God”.

It’s all highly illogical, but then, for many of us so is religion.

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13 Replies to “Why? It’s The Sabbath!”

  1. The reasoning, as it was explained to me, was that if alcohol were sold during “church hours” people wouldn’t go to church. Guess their little plan didn’t work for most of us. There was a time that no place of business could be open on a Sunday. It was just unheard of – day of rest and all that. I think that law is certainly outdated and useless. You always see the churchy folks stocking up on booze on Saturday. Salute!

  2. In NM when I was a kid you couldn’t buy alcohol for “takeout” on Sundays but you could drink as much as you liked inside a bar. I guess they wanted to up the number of drunk drivers????

    Nevada is nothing if not mercenary, you can buy alcohol 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. In fact the boxed wine display on a Sunday morning is usually packed with seniors jostling each other with their canes and walkers. Must have the boxed wine for those candlelit dinners in the RV y’know ;).

  3. Oh my goodness – this reminded me of being in the States. Once I was driving with a friend from Key West to Miami – it was just after midnight and we were about to stop for the night. What I really wanted was a beer, one beer. So we stopped at one of those 7-11 type places, before heading to the hotel, and I took a beer out of the chiller case and walked up to the till to pay for it. The woman behind the till took one look at me and the beer and screamed loudly, very loudly. She grabbed the beer and ran with it back to the chiller case – still screaming. I left the shop both perplexed and amused – I don’t speak Spanish but her message was clearly understood… a heathen had entered her shop to buy alcohol one minute past midnight on the Lord’s Day.

    Now, I’m very happy to live in the land of a Guinness on a sunday. 🙂

  4. Unless one lives in Scandinavia, mainly in Norway and Sweden, one knows nothing about the regulated idiocy in the every aspect of trying to purchase, transport or consume alcohol. Stores are government run monopolies and usually situated well hidden in strangest places to cause maximum discomfort to those foolish enough to desire demon liquor. Their business hours are the same than yours which means they are never open when you have the time. They close them always early and stay closed during the numerous religious holidays and Sundays. And the prices? Well, the sticker shock alone might make one pass out.

  5. Sister Ana, the trick is to have enough of Welshmen around. They are dangerous alone but a few of them, they form a choir. 😉

  6. Aren’t those part of the “blue laws”? I think we still have a similar law here. I know for sure that we used to because we would stop by the market for supplies on our way to the boat and have to time it so that we could buy wine. They would have big signs on the alcohol counters saying it was against the law to purchase it until a certain time.

  7. PM – yes, that was the explanation I had heard, too. Utterly ludicrous, of course, but on par with the mentality of the pious. Hope your trip is progressing well.

    NYM – I might have guessed you’d live in a state with free-flowing booze 😉

    Susanne – Spend too long in America and the urge to go dashing back to Sanityland becomes overwhelming.

    Pekka – I had heard certain areas of Scandinavia were very anti-alcohol. I must confess to know little of the area and its culture, having promised myself a visit many times, but never quite making it. Is this based on religious grounds, or just that they hold an attitude to alcohol similar to that of other western governments to cannabis and other soft drugs?

    Anan – sadly, I’m not a true native of Wales, having been born elsewhere of English parents. I have lived in that country much of my life, though, and it is certainly my spiritual home. Perhaps I’ve picked up a few of the gestures, such as that “sweet little Welsh smile”? Unlike most Welshmen, however, I have definitely not acquired the singing voice!

    PoP – Yes, you are right about the “blue laws”. I’ve been reading up on them. Puritans intent on preventing the sinful from enjoying themselves. Nothing much changes, does it?

  8. RJ, thanks for asking! The Scandinavians hardly deny of themselves anything based on their religious beliefs. As the matter of fact, there hardly is less religious people anywhere. Alchol and Scandinavian don’t mix too well and I haven’t got the slightes idea why that is the case. A genetic mutation perhaps? I take the liberty pasting something that you might or might not find interesting in this subject matter.

    Religion in Scandinavia

    The standard nordic religious structure combines a secular (non-religious) society with an anachronistic state-backed established church, for example the Lutheran church of Finland. Most people sign up for this church in order to obtain clergy for weddings and funerals. So, although 85% of Finns sign up, it “need not imply a deep belief in the tenets of Martin Luther”10. The local sociologist Kimmo Ketola says that “Finns are neither very attached to religion, nor very opposed to it”10.
    AtheismSecularisation Theory: Modern society will continue to reject religion

    With distinct pagan roots in Nordic warrior religions they were never subjugated by Christian armies and the Inquisition never had a hold in Scandinavia11, and they are now thoroughly secular societies. The sociologist of religion, Steve Bruce, says that Scandinavia became secular largely because the established churches represented the élite, “the masses found themselves little served by a state church which drew its professionals from the upper classes and advanced the ideological perspectives of the socially dominant”12. I have chartered the massive decline in religiosity in the UK, but Norway has much lower Church attendance13.

    On top of that, Scandinavia, in particular Norway, has cultivated and spawned some powerful anti-religious movements. The Black Metal movement that grew to infamy in the 1990s hit the national newspapers with almost one-hundred church burnings, and espoused a venomously anti-Christian doctrine. Its adherents worshipped Odin, the Norse gods, and Satan. They wanted not only the continued decline of Christianity, but a revival of Nordic paganism. In addition, Scandinavia has a healthy population of LaVeyan Satanists.[Moynihan & Soderlind, 1998]

    In Norway a government-appointed commission in 2006 proposed that the Lutheran Church be disestablished, similar “to changes made by the neighbouring (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, in 2000”, the UK’s National Secular Society reported: Religion in Scandinavia

    The standard nordic religious structure combines a secular (non-religious) society with an anachronistic state-backed established church, for example the Lutheran church of Finland. Most people sign up for this church in order to obtain clergy for weddings and funerals. So, although 85% of Finns sign up, it “need not imply a deep belief in the tenets of Martin Luther”10. The local sociologist Kimmo Ketola says that “Finns are neither very attached to religion, nor very opposed to it”10.
    AtheismSecularisation Theory: Modern society will continue to reject religion

    With distinct pagan roots in Nordic warrior religions they were never subjugated by Christian armies and the Inquisition never had a hold in Scandinavia11, and they are now thoroughly secular societies. The sociologist of religion, Steve Bruce, says that Scandinavia became secular largely because the established churches represented the élite, “the masses found themselves little served by a state church which drew its professionals from the upper classes and advanced the ideological perspectives of the socially dominant”12. I have chartered the massive decline in religiosity in the UK, but Norway has much lower Church attendance13.

    On top of that, Scandinavia, in particular Norway, has cultivated and spawned some powerful anti-religious movements. The Black Metal movement that grew to infamy in the 1990s hit the national newspapers with almost one-hundred church burnings, and espoused a venomously anti-Christian doctrine. Its adherents worshipped Odin, the Norse gods, and Satan. They wanted not only the continued decline of Christianity, but a revival of Nordic paganism. In addition, Scandinavia has a healthy population of LaVeyan Satanists.[Moynihan & Soderlind, 1998]

    In Norway a government-appointed commission in 2006 proposed that the Lutheran Church be disestablished, similar “to changes made by the neighbouring (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, in 2000”, the UK’s National Secular Society reported.

  9. Pekka – that’s interesting. I was fairly sure Scandinavians were not strongly tied to Christianity, though that does make the official hard-line attitude to alcohol more difficult to comprehend. Perhaps, their lifestyle is sufficiently good they simply never need to “drown their sorrows”! Thanks for the information. It’s much appreciated.

  10. I can’t leave you with the obvious misconception. This one time more and I promise to shut my big yap!

    The Scandinavians, and especially working class, have been fighting against negative impacts of pinch drinking. During the earlier and poorer times it was very common that after husbands got their pay they went straight to drinking and their starving wives and kids were left without. For some reason, when stereotypical Scandinavian starts drinking, it can only end two ways. One, you run out of booze and there is absolutely no way in the world to get more. Two, you pass out or die. Go any Scandinavian city at Friday night and all you see is hordes of heavily intoxicated youths roaming around in the loud packs like some deranged wolfs.

    There really is a big problem with the Scandinavian drinking culture, or perhaps because there really is no such thing. Not a pretty sight.

  11. Pekka – no need to shut your “big yap”, your knowledge is well appreciated here. Aha, so I was wrong. The truth is they can’t hold their liquor and don’t know when to stop. Could this, perhaps, have anything to do with those eternal winter nights that last many months? I go crazy if I don’t see the sun for just a few days – well, I did till I came to live in Illinois – I couldn’t take months of twilight, as I believe is the case in at least certain areas of Scandinavia? I, too, would probably end up drinking myself into a stupor fairly regularly.

  12. OK, so, I lied and I am not going to shut my big yap yet!

    The climate might have something to do with drinking the Scandinavian way but not that much. Drinking actually goes sky high during the short Summers when the Sun hardly ever goes down. Naturally, passing out on a green lawn is much, much preferable to the natives than that of in a snowbank.

    I have never read any credible studies about this phenomenon but my guess is that drinking the way Scandinavians do is mainly based on their otherwise reserved and, most of the time, self controlled mindset. They are not skilled small talkers and to brake the ice they need some fortification. Alcohol consumption in the Nordic countries is very low in comparison to any other countries in Europe. It is not daily and many times not even weekly consumed at homes and thus it comes as a “surprise” when one finds himself on his knees hugging the old porcelain. I am quite sure that the Nordics have some sort of a common genetic disposition to not knowing when they’ve got enough.

    Please, don’t waste your time anymore by commenting! I just wanted to steer you away from the wrong direction that you might have taken otherwise.

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