Monday, May 4, 2009

The Disappearance of Grace

Where she went or exactly how she came to leave us is a mystery. One minute she was there. Kind, friendly and thoughtful...Miss Social Grace. Seemingly in the next minute an obvious and conspicuous void remained where her presence once dwelt.

There are some theories surrounding her disappearance and I must admit, I believe a few of them are on to something, but regardless of how she came to be missing, I mourn her loss.

Friday, I went to my favorite nail salon to treat myself to a long overdue pedicure. Across the aisle from my chair sat an abundantly fed woman whom I would guess to be in her late 50's and who was talking on her cell phone. She looked at me as I sat down and I smiled and settled into my chair.

I absolutely don't mind if a person speaks on their phone in public so long as they keep their conversation brief and their voice at a level which would indicate that they are indeed on a private call. This woman did neither. As I sat reading my magazine and occasionally making polite conversation with my technician, Ms. Well Fed sat with her plump paws being preened, making phone call after phone call and speaking loudly enough for everyone in a twelve foot radius to determine that she was planning a congratulatory trip to Disneyland for her grandson. In the process thereof she placed calls to her daughter, her grandson, her travel agent, her husband and a friend or two with whom she just wanted to chat.

Occasionally I would glance in her direction to see if I could catch her eye. I planned on giving her my best, "Looky here! You're in a public place and you're behaving shamefully" look. It never happened though. Ms. Well Fed was utterly oblivious to the fact that she was occupying space in a public place. She was in her own little world, happily taking care of her personal business for all to hear.

At one point, I heard her make a noise indicating displeasure. I looked up to see what was causing this lovely woman's dismay and saw her looking in shocked disgust at her phone. She called the owner of the salon over and this is what she said: "Dear...I'm SO sorry to have to ask, but my phone has just died. Could I borrow yours for just a moment?"

You could have pushed me out of my chair with your pinkie. I'm quite sure my mouth was hanging slack in wonderment at this point and my eyes had doubled in size in sheer amazement at the gall of this woman.

I watched the scene play out. The salon owner begrudgingly made a choice between her own personal cell and her business phone. She asked Ms. Well Fed if the call would be short and being assured that it would, opted for surrendering her cordless business phone. Ms. Well Fed gushingly said, "Oh thank you dear, thank you! I'll be sure to make it short, I swear."

Place your bets now for what happened next. Go ahead. I'll wait.

For those of you who bet on Ms. Well Fed living up to her word, you lose. For those of you who counted on that puffed up self important and amazingly rude bird to sit on the phone for 12 minutes, tying up a business line while making an ever so important call to her daughter to tell her how very proud she was of her little grandson for graduating from kindergarten...yes, kindergarten, (and who exactly can't accomplish that?!) congratulations!

After bidding a fond and three minute adieu to her daughter, she handed the phone back to the owner and asked, "How long until my nails are done? I have an appointment I must get to across town and this is taking so long!"

No, Dear Friends. I'm not yanking your chain, blowing smoke up your knickers or f*****g kidding you.

I looked around and sure enough. Miss Social Grace was nowhere to be found.

These situations and so many more are ones I witness every day. Human beings lacking in even the basic social etiquette and behaving rudely towards one another. Not a sincere "thank you" to be heard, a door to be held, nor an offer of a helping hand. And in this brilliant age of technology, for which I am grateful mind you, we as a species seem to have taken an even greater leap away from Grace.

You see, Miss Social Grace is who kept us all connected. She encouraged us to smile as we passed each other, hold doors open, lend a hand when one was needed, say "thank-you" for even the smallest of deeds and to use basic common courtesy when sharing space with others. She made us feel good about our fellow man by her presence because she allowed us to see that there was innate goodness in each of us.

A great many of us live in neighborhoods where neighborliness is a thing of the past. We live in a time when technology has trumped manners and we find ourselves holding conversations with people who are texting someone else or replying to people we think are speaking to us but are actually conversing with someone to whom they have plugged into the little blinking blue light in their ear. (This has caused me embarrassment more than once, I assure you! Tall Handsome guy in Target, looking straight at me: "Hi!" Me: "Hi!" Tall Handsome guy gives me quizzical look and as he passes by me, I see the blinking blue light in his ear. Oy. Immediate thought: I'm an idiot. Second thought: I want to kick Tall Handsome guy's ass for causing me to feel like an idiot.)

Have you ever heard the quote by Gandhi, "Be the change you want to see in the world?" If I'm not mistaken, it was the mantra of Miss Social Grace and it's one of mine as well. (Another one is "Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown" but that doesn't really apply here.)

If you happen to see a lovely well dressed lady walking by with a sad and wistful smile on her face, it just may be Miss Social Grace. Do me a favor will you? Please tell her that I remember her fondly and... "thank you."


Angela said...

Amy dear, I chuckled, but yes, you are so right! I am now older than you and fearless of others` opinions, and so I find myself more and more walking up to people, smiling at them and saying, "You may not have noticed, but EVERYBODY can listen to your secrets, and surely you don`t want that?" or such like. And as to Gandhi, I agree with him. And with Erich Kästner who said, Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer man tut es. Which means, there is no good thing, except you do it!
If you have a little time, read tessa`s post of today (An Aerial Armadillo) - she thinks that gorillas are probably the better branch of the family.
Haha, and I liked your comment to Reya`s, my dear Amy. Have a lovely day!

markdw said...

I must confess that, for a very long time, I was one of those who was completely lacking on social graces or niceties. But over the past year, I have made a conscious effort to hold doors for people, especially women, kids, and old folks (jocks and frat-boys are on their own), make eye contact, end smile at people on the rare occasion that eye contact is possible. I've always hated talking on the phone, so I always keep those brief and quiet in public.

I'm pretty sure most people think I'm going to go for the throat, but I smile anyway.

ellen abbott said...

Funny and sad all at the same time. People have become so rude and they don't even know it. What a shame.

I still don't get this whole talking on the phone in public. I'm embarrassed on the occasions when I have to do it. I prefer to retreat to my car to make my calls if I'm out. Unless I'm in the grocery store and can't remember what I was supposed to pick up.

Amy said...

Angela - Oh, yes! I wish I had the courage to say such things to someone! Your phrasing was both tactful and to the point without being rude. I'll check out your blog recommendation because I've thought the same thing a hundred times about gorillas! Oh! And, I love the quote by Erich. I'm adding that to my list of mantras!

Mark - For someone who doesn't feel that they are naturally predispositioned for social graces, it must be a real challenge for you to making such an effort. Bravo for you! Have you seen the movie Crash? One of the morals of that story is that our lives on this planet are intertwined whether or not we see it or like it and how we behave towards one another can have a domino effect. I always think about that if I have momentary lapses of thinking, "Do I really need to be nice today?"

Ellen - I feel the same as you. I try not to answer the phone in public but if I feel I need to, I talk quietly and get finished quickly. I've hung up on my husband many times because he has this sixth sense of when I'm standing in the check out line and calls me. I just answer and say, "I'm in the check out line, I'll call you back!" *click* (He'll forgive me whereas others may not!)

TO ALL - Has anyone figured out who the lady in the picture is?!

Lee Ryan said...

Amy -
There is no shortage of folks who can speak better than me about the disintegration of society, but since I was so sparing on words last goes.

Some time long long long long long ago, people had no choice but to depend upon one another even for "routine" tasks.

Nowadays, it's pretty easy to convince yourself that you can get by fine without your neighbor's involvement. As for me, I quiver at the thought of borrowing a tool from the handyman next door - so I don't.

The "disintegration" part is when, since you try so hard not to depend on people around you, you conclude that they don't matter. Why worry about pissing off the other guy? Who needs him?

I think it's more than people being jerks; it's people consciously deciding that being a jerk doesn't cost them anything.

I think they're wrong.

Great post

markdw said...

The picture is Emily Post.

Amy said...

Lee - And, I think you're right. It's one of those theories of which I was speaking. Thanks for your continued comments and support of my blog.

Amy said...

Mark - You are correct! The original Miss Social Grace.

Bee and Rose said...

Amy...I applaud you for sharing this post! I completely agree with you! I have made a very concerted effort as a homeschooler to actually begin our mornings with a "manners and etiquette" lesson! My son will hold doors for people, both kids always say please and thank you...and are very respectful. It's astonishing to me that simple kindness seems to flown the coop these days.

A stellar post! Miss Social Grace would be proud!

Andrea said...

Oh how right you are!

I hate being in the grocery store when folks are on their phones, calling their spouse asking "what do you want for dinner?" I was walking past a woman once, with that damn thing that looks like a large bug in her ear, just as she was asking that question. I answered the question by saying "Oh, spaghetti and meatballs would be great." She looked at me like I was nuts. Can you imagine that? I love messing with people like that!

Seems we've lost our senses of humor along with our social graces!

SJT said...

First I would like to sheepishly ask if maybe, possibly, you were sitting next to MY mother? hee hee. And secondly....I concur. Although, I live in MN and you know what they say about MN nice. It's real and thankfully it's lovely.

Amy said...

Dawn - Thank you for leaving such a nice comment, and thank you for teaching your children the ways of Miss Grace! I do as well, but sometimes wonder if I've done a good enough job. Teenagers!

Andrea - Too funny! Yes, I've also found that a lot of people have become quite humorless. Rude and humorless. Not two of my favorite qualities. I always enjoy your comments and humor, My Dear!

Missy said...

Hi. You've been tagged. Please visit my blog today if you get a chance. Thanks!

lakeviewer said...

Amy, this is precious and funny. Yet, so sad too. We have lost our ways.

Lover of Life said...

Hi, I'm visiting via Missy's blog. I absolutely could not agree more with this post. Well said.

Angie said...

Great post Amy.

I'm constantly amazed by the rudeness displayed in public. And worst of all, the people who insist on having incredibly loud conversations never seem to have anything interesting to say. I read a quote in a book once that said, "If you're going to speak loudly enough that everyone can hear you then you have an obligation to be interesting."

Amy said...

SJT - Ha! No...probably not your mother, but go tell her I said, "Get off the phone!"

Rosaria - Thank you! I know that there are still people out there who know their manners and use them, but generally speaking, we have indeed strayed, haven't we?!

Lover or LOL - Thanks so much for dropping by! I appreciate you leaving a comment. (Especially since you agree with me!)

Angie - I'm writing down that fantastic quote! My notebook is getting filled with brilliance learned from my dear bloggy friends.

Reya Mellicker said...

Oblivious people are often also very needy. Those two qualities in combination get on my last nerve.

Tessa said...

Oh, that is the most brilliant post! Profound, funny and beautifully written. Would that every Ms. Well Fed read this and take note. Well said, Amy!

I also wanted to stop by and say thank so much for visiting my blog and for your lovely, heartwarming comments on my encounter with our magnificent 'cousins'.

Amy said...

Reya - Ha!'s true. It occurred to me that Ms. Well Fed simply needed to be the center of attention. Makes her no less bothersome, does it?!

Tessa - Thank you so much for the compliment. It means a great deal coming from someone who writes as beautifully as you do. I have really enjoyed reading your posts.

Snowbrush said...

This was excellent. No, you can never catch such people's eye. They've shut everyone nearby out in favor of those who are far from sight. I see them walk past with little children who look lost from the time they and their (presumably) parent appears until they're out of sight. Dogs deserve better.

Amy said...

Snowbrush - Thank you so much for stopping in and leaving a comment! I've been reading a bit of your blog. (Sorry to hear about that shoulder! I've had some issues there myself. Ouch!!)

Taylor said...

In my time in the healthcare field, I've met people like the woman you describe. What I've noticed about these people is that they feel as though they are and should be in charge wherever they go.

Mica Romanage walks in at 9:35 for her 10 AM appointment. She's brought in paperwork from our website, and is upset that she still needs to complete a form that isn't available on the website. Immediately after finishing, she will ask for the restroom. What does this mean? She's been so busy today, even already at 9:35, that she hasn't even had time to use the toilet.

After she sits in the waiting room, the patient scheduled at 9:40 will arrive and go back first. Mica will usually take this with gnashing of teeth as her efforts to take control and move up her appointment have failed. 9:50 rolls around and huffiness sets in (after all, she's just been sitting here for FIFTEEN MINUTES). The true character of Mica is put on display when she pulls out her phone and decides that she has time to put in some work. She'll make a few calls and push some appointments around because (loudly) "this is going to take longer than she thought." Her son C/P/Br/Haden will have to wait after basketball practice for 15 minutes. That's okay because Coach takes no issue with being a babysitter for her son, she makes the call.

Finally 10:05 arrives and it's Mica's turn. She hangs up the phone out of respect for the doctor (a courtesy denied the staff, other patients, and anyone else that's been around for the past 15 minutes).

When she's finally done with the doctor at 10:25, Mica will, for the first time, mention her desire to purchase glasses and contacts. This means additional tests, insurance claim changes, and repeated explanations of benefits she "just didn't have time to look over."

The time is now 10:40 and in the past hour Mica has managed to make everyone's day harder, including her own and some people she hasn't seen yet today. It's now my turn to help her choose some frames, but, "we have to hurry because she has to be somewhere." Over the next 10 minutes she tries on 10 frames once and 5 frames four times. When she's settled on one it's time for a 5-minute explanation of benefits paired with a 5-minute selection of lens options. It's only 11 now, not at all bad for an appointment but she came early and isn't happy.

Checkout isn't a simple affair. Another 5-minute insurance explanation accompanies the revelation of the final cost of all services and materials. This is needlessly lengthened by Mica's telephone conversation. Now comes the time when a contact lens follow-up needs to be scheduled to take place in 1 to 2 weeks.

This is big; out comes a planner with several colors of ink and we have to find an open appointment time that works for her. She goes out of town in 9 days (bad news about her glasses, they take longer than that) so we have 6 slots to choose from, scattered cross two days. These times are: the first, before lunch, after lunch, and the last. With such few options to choose from, she'll take the last slot on the 8th day (is it okay if she's a little late?). As soon as this is decided she's on the phone moving appointments around. She forgets to hand me her card to pay until I point at it and smile. She hands it over and I finish. My "have a nice weekend" is met only with her incredulity over the fact that she's been here for over an hour and a half already, and that now she'll be 25 minutes late to pick up C/P/Br/Haden, spoken more matter-of-factly than with any concern, worry, or urgency.

Mica never seemed to be happy and only smiled once when she told a nervous joke about how much she runs around. I don't know how she lives like this, but she steps over everyone in her path and tries to time-compress everything she can. Constantly squeezing events between events and making everyone work harder for a small margin of benefit. I hope she has some fun on her trip out of town, but she'll probably have to make time to fit in all the fun with which she has those days filled.

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