Lately I feel like a stranger in an even stranger land. I’m not talking about politics; I’m talking about something much more basic.
Manners: I thought finally here’s something I excel at. Not so sure anymore.
If you’re a very large American male (say at least 250 pounds) would you put your coat down on a Long Island Railroad train, before the train leaves the station, go to the bathroom, and expect the seat to be waiting for you five minutes later?
It was a very cold day, the train was packed, and the seats were made to fit Japanese people. I’m an American woman, not huge but not small and I was wearing a down coat that I wasn’t going to take off because I’m always cold. I asked the people around if anybody knew who owned the coat. They tittered. I didn’t know how to take that but thought the open six packs of Bud Light might have had something to do with the titters.
When the man came back I knew that we both couldn’t sit there as he took up a seat and a half. I thought that it was rude and told him so. I had to stand until the train came to Jamaica twenty minutes later. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but the people around stopped tittering and went into full blown laughter. I felt totally humiliated.
If I had to go to the bathroom, I would have gone to one in the station, risked missing the train, and would have accepted not having a seat. I thought that was common courtesy, but I seem to be wrong about this as I am about so many things.
A year ago last Thanksgiving I was on the railroad. I sat in a handicapped seat because I was severely anemic, and fainted fairly often. It was the only available seat. People were saving seats, another thing that drives me crazy and I won’t do for friends in the final five minutes before the train leaves.
I was holding a fragile gift. A blind woman and her friend came. They wanted the seat. I tried explaining. I will never forget the look on the friends face as she cursed me. She told me, in no uncertain terms that if you didn’t see the disability it didn’t count, and how could I be cruel to the blind? As my mom was blind in her last decade and a half, that was especially cruel and hurt me much. But I wasn’t about to explain.
I began getting up. Because I was anemic, I could easily pass out so I got up slowly (and I do everything too fast–this would have been hard for me any other time.) And why do people think that cursing is proper? I’m not anti-cursing. I just think it sounds better when it’s done to tease. As in “you bitch.” Forget it, that’s nowhere near a curse anymore. Okay, fuckin’ a–now that’s a curse I like.
I didn’t get up fast enough. Both women were now yelling at me. The whole car stopped talking as I was obviously getting up but wanted to make sure that I held the gift properly. And damn it I was dizzy.
I know; I know, I had no right being on a crowded train. But how else was I supposed to get there? This was a temporary problem, but I began noticing the problems of the hidden disabled. What are people who have physical problems that don’t show supposed to do?
Today, I was in a supermarket. The person before me had left her cart, to get “a few things.” She came back with a full cart and began yelling because I (who was just behind her) put my stuff on the conveyor belt near the register. The cashier agreed that I was right but….
Often, lately, I see couples–one will stand on line with a full cart; the other will come back, with a full cart, just as the first person gets to the head of the line. I don’t get it. Am I out of touch with modern society?
Then there’s my big issue: bike riders who insist on riding on spaces clearly marked for walking. And why do bike riders get preference everywhere over walkers?
I have a horrible habit of saying “I’m sorry,” even if a person bumps into me. My friends constantly point out that I wasn’t the one to do the bumping, but still it comes out. This gives the person who bumped into me license to yell at me.
I used to think that these were New York problems. But they’re not; they’re everywhere.
I believe that manners are important; I believe in many ways they are the bedrock of a society. But the manners that I have practiced all my life aren’t the norm anymore. I become angry and it takes every bit of self control for me not to yell.
People seem to think that it’s fine to be late for dinner appointments and other things. Everybody has a cell. Do they use it if they’re going to keep you waiting for an hour? Yes they use it to take pictures of everything that they pass. I’ve dropped those people from my life and I’m a happier calmer person.
I don’t yell. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. These are the things people seem to be killed over lately.
I think that my lifespan is going to be shorter than it should be. I try not personalizing; I try ignoring people. I wear a fake smile for so long that my mouth hurts.
Maybe if we spent a little less time focusing on moral values and a little more time focusing on human decency, we’d live in a country where people could see past politics and religion.
I don’t know maybe it is me. Maybe I’m supposed to always be the last in line. Maybe trying to be considerate is so yesterday