street manners

We were in Manhattan recently and I had one of those short experiences that left me intensely frustrated and wishing that I was more quick with my tongue.

We were turning left on a crowded sidewalk and staying to the left until there was space to walk elsewhere, since you can't very well teleport across the sidewalk. Then, an older lady encountered NWC, who was walking in front of me, and said with what seemed like all the venom she could muster: "You're supposed to walk on the right, Stupid." I paused, and turned and saying, "Excuse me ma'am." I wanted to say that there was no excuse to be that mean about it. She had behaved like a five year old, calling people names.

She had passed, but another older lady, presumably her friend, turned as well to say something to the effect of: "No, she's right, there are protocols." My objection wasn't to her correction, but to her rudeness. Yes, there are protocols, but the purpose of them is to be polite, which she violated in spades. Everyone walks on the left side occasionally. But, of course, I couldn't come up with the right thing to say as quickly as needed (I managed to stammer out "We were just..."), so I just threw my hands up and rolled my eyes before diving back into the crowd.  Mine was a seven-year old response, besting her in maturity by all of two years, and not making my point in the slightest.

So I'll make my point now: the purpose of courtesy rules is to be courteous.  If people violate them, be polite, and possibly firm, in your corrections.  You may argue that the purpose of these norms is to speed up transit, etc., and those are good side effects, but never of such great value to permit rudeness.


Anonymous said...

Exactly right. Once she insulted your friend, she lost any claim to consideration. Pitiful, really. NWC was just a convenient target for an anger that had been eating at this woman well before the encounter, and which may still consume her. This town makes people mean.

ajbc said...

It's always nice to be validated, so thank you! :)