Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Who Gets Away with Rudeness?

Another rant cut from the Link Log due to length...

For certain local lurkers: There are some people, whose minds evidently got stuck in grade five or six or thereabouts, who just can't give up the idea of "teasing" others. This is one of the things that make me wonder whether my home town is really ready to deal with tourists' business.

For instance, in Washington, there's a very simple rule: if you feel a need to "call" people while you are talking to them, which will probably always remind me of the day I saw a geriatric patient snap into full-blown dementia...anyway, if you can't just look at the person to add a bit of emotional emphasis to what you're saying, you "call" the person whatever s/he has told you to call him or her. For a sizable number of people, this will be a "street name" chosen partly because it's different from the real name of the person, or from any screen name the person may use online if the person uses the Internet. If his real given name is John, that's why he tells people who have that stupid "calling" habit to call him Joe. Because it's sooo gauche to blurt out anybody's real name on the street or in a public place. The word people I knew used for that kind of vulgarity was "Mayberry," but that doesn't seem nearly harsh enough among people who enjoyed watching the "Mayberry RFD" show.

I, personally, have never had a problem with this. I had a kitten, born and brought up as a pet, that I named "Princess Anne." When the kitten was old enough to be far enough away to answer to her name, she didn't answer to "Princess Anne"; she answered to "Annie." So Annie was her name. Why would anybody want to complicate communication, even with an animal that does need to be called? What kind of status points could anyone possibly score by haggling about how to "call" a human...when you actually lose points by "calling" a human in any case?

"Mayberry" types cavil when reminded that nice people do not blurt out names, and that I personally feel mortified if I've inadvertently waved at someone across the street, thereby showing that I even thought I might know the person, and then that person brays "Hi, Priscilla!" Eww, ick...nice people might shout "Help" or "Fire" or "Over here" across the street, but they never, never, never call out names, or shout out whole conversations, or laugh or joke or exchange greetings, on a pitch that can be heard across the street. That's the way the old drugged-out prostitutes who are too "broke," tired, and sick to strut around in high-heeled shoes advertise themselves on 14th and T Streets. It's beyond tacky. It's trashy.

I realize that some of us are too "Mayberry" to know how bad they look, doing this kind of thing, but...intelligent people don't quibble about what they thought they meant when they did something unbearably tacky. You don't score any status points that way. Intelligent people, having absorbed the general rule that what the other person understands is what we have communicated, and what we "meant" is what we've failed to communicate, simply accept any information they're given about how to communicate more smoothly with anyone with whom they're trying to communicate.

There are things that seem quaint and folksy and friendly to visitors, and there are things that are just beyond the pale and will attract the wrong kind of attention, from the wrong kind of visitors, for the wrong reason. Stop babbling about what you thought you meant, and learn. You can wave at someone across the street; you can smile; you can shout "Over here" if the person is looking for your car, or if there's some obvious reason why you wouldn't just cross the street if you wanted to talk with the person. But you do not screech across the street. If you want to impress me, show me how fast you can absorb this information.

Then there are the idiots who seem obsessed with using the word "honey." Outside of my home town, this type of people are obsessed with the N-word, the B-word, and the S-word; in my home town those words get people arrested for Public Drunkenness & Disorderly Conduct. So far, "honey" hasn't earned anyone a free trip to the part of Duffield we least like to visit. I'm lobbying to add it to the list, since it has in fact been a documented synonym for the S-word for at least 75 years...and that's why the local idiots want to say it in front of me.

What they want to know seems to be: who, exactly, gets to say this kind of thing without being reminded that it is verbal abuse? Who can get away with it? They vap their nearest and dearest with this or that obnoxious word, at home, so why can't they call other people by it? (If it still existed in cyberspace, I'd link to a post by somebody who claimed to be a young Black American man who wanted to date a White American woman, and he wanted her to call him "my" N-word, in public. Eww.) Because these people are just dying to start a little verbal abuse game; because they never learned to make conversation like real grown-up human beings.

The simple answer is: anyone who is so "old," so demented, so pitiful, that I wouldn't say anything if they were walking around with "honey" oozing out below their clothing. Anyone whom I don't really expect to know what they're saying. Anyone whom I expect, if I get into a conversation with them at all, that I might have to take by the elbow and lead to a bench or a bathroom while calling their next of kin. People like that are free to spew out ugly words, and they're free to walk up to me and call me by whatever given name comes to their mind whether I have any idea whose name it is or not, and they're free to do a lot of other things that nobody who is still in his or her right mind would ever want to do. With people like that, you play nurse for as long as may be necessary, hand them over to their rightful caretakers as fast as possible, and walk away...

For local lurkers who want me (or the tourists) to believe that you're rational, competent adults, you need to understand that, in parts of the world where the majority population are not geriatric cases, we leave the verbal abuse games for the children. The default assumption, even if someone is younger or poorer or a different gender or color than you, is that people are about as intelligent and well-meaning as we are and should be treated with equal respect. It lasts until people convince us that they are either very stupid, or very hostile (and too trashy to be employable in any viable business), or both. Your having to be reminded that you've done something obnoxious, if you're someone to whom I get close enough to say it at all, does not convince me of that. Your arguing about it, or having to be reminded twice, does.

There are two distinct types of people who feel that urge to defend their bad manners. One is the person who genuinely is "Mayberry" enough, or otherwise different enough from me, to have learned a different set of rules than the ones I learned. In real life I'm not rude enough to chastise that type of person in public or in a way that I can imagine would offend the person--in a way that would offend me, if I'd inadvertently done something that mortified them. I've quietly, patiently learned a few rules that make no sense to me, like the one about sitting in a position that allows the soles of the feet/shoes to be visible being a close equivalent, in some cultures, to sitting with the fingers outspread and the thumbs propped against the nose in most of North America--rude enough that seeing it among the audience would distract a visiting speaker or singer.

So I can tell whether it's sincere, or just a little defensive game, when someone huffs, "Well, when you do this, that bothers me just as much..." I can tell whether it bothers you just as much or not. Almost always, if I did anything that bothered you just as much, I would have noticed already that you seemed to dislike me; I might not have known why, and if I had any reason to want to communicate with you, I'd be much obliged (and relieved) if you were able to tell me why. If you're playing a game I will inevitably revise my impression of you, and of whether you're making a valid statement about the rules you learned or not, accordingly. But you can say it if you really feel a need to say it, privately, and I will add it to my mental list of rules for communicating with you...along with "Remember that Tracy is particularly insecure." If you're very young I think insecurity is normal. If you were my mental equal, however, you wouldn't feel threatened by the idea of learning how to communicate smoothly with me and other people like me.

People like a couple of local lurkers whose real-world identities I know may genuinely not Washington's diplomatic circles, people absorb new rules for communicating as smoothly and courteously as possible, different rules with different people, all the time. The way we learn new languages, or enough of them for survival purposes. The way we use different rules for communicating online, or even on different web sites, than we use for communicating in real life, or even in different places in the real world.

The other kind is the Real, Certifiable Idiot. Currently infesting the porch of a local retirement project is a certified, diagnosed, medicated mental case, about seventy years old, but still able-bodied. Bodied is the keyword; he's known to have drunk away whatever he used to have in the way of brain. So he has this need to shout out, "I just talked to a beekeeper! He said he was about ready to harvest the honey! Well, I never read that that was a bad word..." No, and he also tells anybody who talks to him that he never really learned to read. And then he wonders why he's never going to sweet-talk me into renting him a room so he can move out of the dreary old retirement project. Hah.

I know God didn't make these people trash, and I couldn't possibly have made them trash. They made themselves trash. Their trashiness, their ugliness, and their stupidity, are their own choices. All I can do is acknowledge what they're advertising.