So, returning to our kitchen from an event with one of my event chefs driving the company van… It has been raining on and off almost all day here. Walking along the sidewalk is a woman in a skirt and blouse, no umbrella, trying to get to the parking garage between showers. My event chef, driving the van, says “Watch this!” Then proceeds to edge over so the tires splash a huge sheet of water from the street right onto the woman on the sidewalk! She stops dead in her tracks, soaked and instantly disheveled. He drives away, laughing his ass off.
I’m stunned. I don’t believe it. I launch into a tirade. “What the hell is wrong with you!” I demand. I rant, I rave, I yell. He looks at me, shocked. Then he begins to laugh – at me. He shakes his head and giggles away, “Whatever, man. No big deal.” I explain to him, in the most profanity laced and belittling manner I can devise, what I think of his behavior, his professionalism, his general worth as a man and a fellow human. Still he shakes his head, annoyed with me. “Man, just get over it, already,” he advises me.
We arrive at the kitchen a few minutes later. I march him into my bosses’ office and slam the door. I order him to recount his hilarious antics to them. Our female chef looks at him with eyes that ought to broil his testicles where he stands. The most charitable description I can give to the head chef’s reaction is… disappointment. “Don’t you understand why you can’t go around in a company van doing stuff like that?”
I want him fired. On the spot. No excuses, no probation, no tears. Pack his shit and get gone. No, no. Can’t do that. But a write-up is appropriate. Excuse me? Just so I understand. A…write…up…? How about a suspension?(He’s already scheduled for certain shifts) How about driving privileges revoked?(We don’t have enough guys who can drive as it is). How about he goes upstairs and explains what he did to the owner of the company, and see if a write up is sufficent? (We don’t drag our dirty linens through the whole company) A write up it must be. Fine. I prepare a very thorough document. I read it back to the event chef. He cannot deny a word of it. But as he signs it he continues to shake his head and mutter “this is bullshit”. Not an ounce of remorse, regret, or shame. He leaves, I finish my “discussion” with the head chef regarding why I believe the event chef should be terminated. Now I’m on the outs with my boss, the event chef, and his other buddies who work there. Good. I dare any of them to make it a point of contention with me. A man is defined by who is enemies are.
I will get him. If I have to stay with the company another year, I won’t leave before he does.
But this incident, and this ranting post, patient 43Thingers, has me thinking: Where have our manners gone? I don’t mean excusing ourselves after burping or covering our mouths as we cough. Where are the social graces that were once demanded of us? I desperately wanted to find this woman and apologize for my brute of an employee. But too much time had passed, there was nothing I could offer that would retract her anger, humiliation and astonishment. Issues of potential litigation crossed my mind. And what would I tell her? “Don’t worry Miss, he received a good writing up?”
A junior congressman yells that at the president, calling him a liar. Kanye West interrupts someone elses’ awards acceptance speech to lob a few of his own uninvited, ungracious remarks. Man splashes innocent woman for fun. Everyday I see more and more of what I consider to be manly behavior (including simple manners) eroded away from current culture. I don’t see men hold doors for women (unless the men are 70+, or the guy wants to ogle the woman’s breasts), I don’t hear “ma’am”, I don’t observe a reserved politeness in the presence of ladies. By and large these guys are the same foul mouthed, crotch-scratching, belching, sexcapade-talking neaderthals they are when women aren’t around. Basically, guys don’t have any class.
Not all guys… I know. Don’t rush to respond with anedotal tales of how great your guy is, and what a gentleman. I know. And it isn’t just limited to men. A lot of women seem to have lost the basic set of manners we use to manuever through the day, or maintain the level of class and self-respect that keeps them from being confused with the hard-working women who hang out under the overpasses around 2am. Wether driving, shopping, going to the movies, or just walking in the park, the absence of common civilities is pronounced. Maybe it is a self-defense mechanism for a much coarser world. Maybe it is the evolution of so many lies, so much violence, such isolation and the retreat of compassion.
Do I sound old? Do I sound out of date? Am I a “fuddy-duddy” because I open doors, pull out chairs, allow the woman to order first (unless I order for us both), don’t say “fuck” with every other word in her presence (I do beg the forgiveness and indulgence of all the ladies in this virtual environment), or presume that “Girl, I like those titties!” will be the most charming compliment she has had all day?
I am concerned that as we lose our manners we increase our insensitivity and compassion to the plight of others. More to the point, we lose our own ability to distinquish acceptable behavior from unacceptable behavior. We get mad at what we are told to get mad about, blow off what we are told is unimportant. I’ve got dozens of people everyday worked up and angry about how their football team did over the weekend, not one word about the federal government’s role in national healthcare. We subscribe to a media that spoon-feeds us our outrages.
I’m not the perfect gentleman. To date no one I know refers to me as having class (maybe they don’t know what it would look like anymore). But I still feel like there are some niceties we should observe. Some basic courtesies such as not laughing when someone falls, excusing yourself to get past someone, saying please and thank you, even to the slow-witted cashier at the grocery store who took 21 scans of a barcode to ring up your grapes because she was too lazy to punch in the PLU code. Letting someone over in traffic as opposed to cutting them off. Basically not acting as if you are the most important person on the whole planet and everyone else is just in your way.
Maybe it never has been that way. Maybe, like God and UFOs and Universal Healthcare, it was always a myth we believed because it shielded us from the truth.
Real or imagined, I still miss it.