“Bill,” I said, “please take your feet off of the table.”
“What? I’m not hurting anything.” he argued.
“Just get your feet off of my coffee table. It’s brand new and I really don’t want it to get scratched, and besides, I don’t want your dirty ass shoes on a table.”
“Fine,” he snorted petulantly, dragging his feet backwards till they dropped to the floor. On the table top you could see the scratched left behind where he’d stuck his feet.
“God damnit, look at that. This is exactly what I didn’t want.”
“Lighten up. A little Pledge and they’ll be gone.” he replied. I went into the kitchen and got the Pledge from under the sink along with the polishing rag I keep there. Right in front of him I sprayed the polish on the table and then buffed the scratched area. It made no difference, the scratches were still there, now protected by Pledge.
“You owe me a table dude. You can go ahead and take the one you just bought with you as you leave.” I said. I was pissed.
“I’m not buying you a new table. This is just standard wear and tear that all furniture gets. If you want your stupid table replaced, go see the manufacturer.”
“Really?” I asked. “Is that really how you see it?”
“Damn right.” he said, jutting his chin.
“Okay. Let’s test your theory.” He followed me as I rolled my chair out the door to the driveway where his 2012 Toyota RAV4 was parked. I guided my chair with the joystick so that it bumped the side of his car.
“Hey, look out, man. You’re hitting my car!” I smiled at him and pushed the joystick to the side and as I did so, the arm braces gouged a number of scratches into his door. “You bastard!” he shouted.
“Hey, just normal wear and tear. This is the sort of thing that happens in any parking lot. Toyota should have made this car better so that things like this shouldn’t happen. If you have a problem, take it up with the manufacturer.”
“But you did that on purpose.”
“Just like you did my new table.”
“Fuck you, man.” he said, yanking open the car door. He looked at the cratches a second then climbed in, backed out and accelerated up the street leaving a little patch of rubber from his squealing tires. I shurgged and rolled back indoors. The table had suffered even worse than I whought, the dirt stuck to his shoes had gouged the table across the grain, meaning there was no way I would be able to polish the flaws out.
The brand spanking new table, not even a day old, became a project for me. I sanded the entire surface with decreasing grit papers until the table top was completely smooth again. It was difficult to find a stain that matched the rest of the table, but I finally found one called deep cherry that I had to add a bit of black to in order to get it so the refinishing wasn’t noticable. The job took me a week to complete. Bill got off a lot easier. His scratch was removed with about 10 minutes of effort with Turtle Wax. I should have taken a running start when I aimed at his car.
It occurs to me that courtesy is something that we are leaving behind. Much like four TV channels, certain things recede from societies. In our case, I think common sense and courtesy are two of the most prominent of the dying soldiers of communal living. It also occurs to me that the loss of common sense is a big part of the reason for loss of courtesy. The other part is the way that, as time goes by, we have made it so that people are less responsible for their actions than they used to be. When I was a kid, about the only excuse for being irresponsible was being a kid. Even that had its limits though. Bout the time I turned seven I was responsible for everything I did, and to my confusion, the acts of others at times. The idea of sticking my feet up on someone’s coffee table would never occur to me, even if the table had obviously seen terrible times. It simply wasn’t my place to treat someone elses property badly –and it worked both ways. It wasn’t anyones place to put their feet on my table either. Let table be a metaphor for just about everything.
In those early days, making a rude comment to someone would most assuredly cause your nose to meet up with someone’s fist. As that became less and less acceptable behavior, rudeness began to escalate. It’s now gotten to the point that when some seventy-five year old driver cuts you off in traffic, you’re likely to see them hoisting their middle finger up at you to purposely add insult to injury. Like little kids, the geriatric set knows they aren’t going to get jerked out of their car and bitch slapped as they so rightfully deserve. I also think that the internet, and the relative anonymity it offers, also contributes to rudeness. The sense of isolation it gives encourages people to be a lot more candid than face to face communication, replete with proximity to perform the aforementioned nose punch.
At least, that’s the way I see it. And, if you happen to disagree, well, up yours.