I’ve Become My Grandmother
Whatever happened to common courtesy?
Most of the time, I’m pretty good about letting things go and not dwelling on rudeness, inadvertent or deliberate. But every now and then, the spirit of my paternal grandmother rises up inside me, making my eyes squint and twisting my mouth into a pursed pucker of pissedness. Actually that expression is more often seen on the face of my friend Kris when she is pissed off about something or is in complete disagreement with my decision about something because she continually forgets that I’m me and not her. An example of this latter would be the time I winced in dismay because she’d kindly prepared for me a cup of coffee when we were on vacation together but placed a sopping amount of sugar in it because that’s how she likes her coffee.
“Oh, I forgot you’re not me,” she said. That’s a direct quote. I have an excellent memory. She does not.
Although she wasn’t above swearing every now and then, but only when the situation warranted a good ” god damn,” and wasn’t above donning a pair of barn boots to go with her sarong as she helped to muck out the barn or feed chickens, my grandmother was above all else, a lady. A grand dame if you will. I’ve never met anyone who had more fine silver and actually used it on a regular basis. A meal at my grandmother’s, even if it was Italian sandwiches from DiPietro’s on Cumberland Avenue, warranted fine china and a centerpiece. As I’m sure you can imagine, I definitely know how to use my small fork.
That knowledge came in handy for the first time when I attended a ball at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy while in college. While my friend was freaking out about which fork to use, how to approach her salad course and numerous other things, I knew exactly what to do about the dinner portion of the evening, but not so much as to what to do about my dunce of a blind date and how to make it abundantly clear that just because I was his blind date and we were staying in a hotel room, I wasn’t having sex with him. Turned out the very direct approach and me putting on my Lanz flannel nightgown got the message across perfectly fine.
See, honest and direct works every time. Now, If only I had figured out how to shag that tall, dark-haired cadet with the strikingly sarcastic sense of humour.
Thanks to my grandmother and her lessons in etiquette, I’ve been well prepared for any number of events. A lunch with the boss? No big deal. A dinner at the boss’s house? Piece of cake. A work trip to New York City and staying at The Pierre, the iconic five-star U.S. hotel? Been there, done that. Partying in Miami with venture capitalists? Super fun because it turns out that pretty much everyone is the same kind of classy when they’re drunk off their asses.
Common courtesy and politeness have been on my mind a lot of late. The recent Fourth of July holiday is filled with rudeness and angst. While it confounds me how one can think it’s perfectly okay to not only break the law and shoot off cannon-sized fireworks all in the name of celebrating personal rights to freedom, but to also endanger the lives of neighbors because it’s incredibly dry and who cares about a random spark, that same person is probably going to take offense to my first amendment right to call him/her a mindless and inconsiderate asswipe.
A friend recently posted on her Facebook page about how a very rude person honked at her from his car and then barreled around her at speed when she was headed to her own car with her grocery cart. The cause of this display of rudeness? She wasn’t moving fast enough to please him BECAUSE HER FOOT IS IN A HEAVY BOOT DUE TO A RECENT INJURY! Unless you’ve just eaten a fiery habanero salsa taco with extra chorizo and cheese and your ass is on fire, there is simply no excuse for that kind of rudeness. And even then, you better have eaten 10 of those babies. And if you were stupid enough to do that, then you deserve to die a slow, fiery and stench-filled death.
Another area were common courtesy is often lacking are hiking trails.
Although I’m not at all an early morning person, that is truly the best time to hike. For one, the trails are not nearly as crowded. Years ago I discovered that many of the slackers that define themselves as hikers prefer to sip their French press coffees or lattes then start off about mid-morning or so. Noon is preferable. I know this because I dated one. I also know this because I’ve become one as of this summer.
Early mornings are also the best time to hike because that’s when the old guys are out there and they know their trail etiquette. I know this because I dated one.
Simple rule people; hikers going uphill have the right of way. I could go on about trail etiquette and being polite, but instead will throw in this convenient and handy link: http://blog.rei.com/hike/trail-etiquette-who-has-the-right-of-way/. Read it. Don’t be these people.
More recently, I’ve been dating a guy, on and off, more off than on, too weird and complex to explain, who is a born and bred Texan. Let me just say that those mommas and papas in the South know how to raise their boys. They may be assholes in many other respects, but they know how to open doors for ladies. Being a suspicious and somewhat rude native Yankee, I at first mistook this for a show. It’s not. On a recent night out, I inquired as to whether Tex’s shoulder was bothering him again as he’d suffered a shoulder dislocation a few months ago. The reason behind the query is that as we were walking around downtown Seattle, crossing the streets and searching for adult beverages and small plates, he kept switching sides and taking me by the arm. I’m not helpless and I long ago realized I can’t walk in high heels anymore and therefore do not, so that wasn’t the explanation. So when I asked about it, he explained that he’d been taught to walk with a woman on his arm with the woman on the inside and himself positioned on the outside and facing the street. He also does things like help me put my coat on, walk me to my car and open my car door for me.
Apparently chivalry isn’t dead. Only in Seattle and Boston.
When I was younger and far more foolish, I admit I’d have been slightly offended by all of that. I am after all, and have always been, very independent, very stubborn and very full of myself. Now I just realize it’s called being polite.
What prompted all of this rumination was an incident that occurred this evening. Naturally it involved my dogs. You really didn’t think I’d go an entire post without at least some mention of JaYoBaCa did you?
I opted to again take the dogs swimming at Lake Sammamish after a lovely session of ball play and a long walk at another location. My faulty thinking was along the lines of – “It’s almost 9 pm, the park will be practically deserted on a Monday night!” Insert sparkles, rainbows and innocent babies riding unicorns after this sentence.
Except it was still pretty busy, just not as busy as over the weekend.
The dogs were a lot more pooped out though and I could see that the people gathered at the beach itself were dwindling in numbers. So off we went, down the narrow sandy little trail to a deserted area with water access. I knew I’d made the right decision when I saw a couple of people coming up the trail and heading back to the parking area. Since I strive to be polite, I gathered my dogs to the side to let the people pass, kept them on leashes and said a friendly hello to each person that passed by us. Saying hello serves the dual purpose of making me not look quite so like the crazy dog lady and lets my dogs know that I’m calm and relaxed and they should be too.
We got to the water, took off leashes and proceeded to have a grand time playing and splashing about. It was a beautiful evening, complete with a gorgeous sunset setting just off the water. The water was just warm enough to be comfortable to wade in and not fear getting soaking wet as the dogs rallied for balls. Alas, all good times must come to an end. I called the dogs to me and leashed them up for the walk down the path to the parking lot.
Just in the nick of time too. We’d only gone a little way down the path when I saw a large black lab mix in the middle of the path. The dog was off leash. Not necessarily a big deal, but I admit I’m a little shaken up still from the dog attack we experienced in April.
I called my dogs to come closer around me and stopped. An older man and a younger man came up behind the dog and to my dismay, continued to walk right into me and my dogs. I held up one of my hands, still entangled in a leash, and politely asked them to step to the side so that I could pass with my dogs.
At issue here is that this path is very, very narrow. Just to their side was a spot of trampled grass, whereas I was surrounded by brush and greenery on both sides and couldn’t step to the side. I thought my request was reasonable and simple.
To my dismay, the men kept on coming.
Ordinarily in situations such as these, I’m cool and keep my calm. However, that dog attack had an impact and I quickly decided I wasn’t going to pussyfoot around with these two idiots who seemed to lack any common courtesy or sense.
“I NEED YOU TO STEP TO THE SIDE OVER THERE NOW AND LET ME PASS WITH MY DOGS!” I shouted.
I repeated the instructions, at a shout, and also demanded, “AND TAKE THE DOG WITH YOU!” when they stepped to the side, but left Blackie in the middle of the trail staring at my dogs.
“THANK YOU!” I said.
Although I broke my cool, and ordinarily I’d expect my dogs to react accordingly, they seemed a little dumbfounded that their human seemed so exceedingly pissed off. Brady of course barked at the lab mix, but it was fairly subdued. Maybe he is still a bit traumatized from being bitten. Youke and Camm just wanted to get the hell out of there. I suspect Jasmine might have liked to have flirted with the dog – he was just her type, big, muscular and slightly ugly – but I was in mean mommy mode and she knew it. She kept her head down, but not like I missed that sideways lingering glance girlfriend.
Among the many things I’m grateful to have learned from the strong, independent-minded and dominant women in my life, including my grandmothers and mother, is that being courteous, kind and nice works most of the time, but sometimes you’ve gotta be a BITCH.