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Yes, Steven Slater, the freaked-out JetBlue flight attendant, went over the top when he picked up the mic and called out nasty names for the passenger who kept dragging her bag down from the bins, when she’d been told to stay in her seat, just like the rest of the rule-obeying passengers on the flight.
Yes, Steven Slater was wrong. But wouldn’t you have liked to be him, just for that moment? It’s a moment out of Airplane, or Airplane II. (I cherish the image, unsafe and unwarranted though it may be, of Slater grabbing a beer, punching the button, and sliding down the safety chute.)
You know the moment. It’s the moment when the jerk sitting next to you won’t turn off the his (or her) cell phone, even though the flight attendant has said, repeatedly, “Please turn off all cell phones.” It’s the moment when, although the flight attendants have said, “Please remain in your seats until the plane has safely reached the gate,” some jerk gets up and starts jerking his (or her) bag out of the bin, even before the cabin lights have been turned on.
I’m not apologizing for Steven Slater, whom I’ve never met. I know flight attendants can be rude, beyond words; and I know Steven Slater faces felony charges, so I’m not taking sides in the case.
Steven Slater, and his passenger, certainly ate up a lot of time for everybody. Didn’t they?
And they still do. Don’t they?
Neither of them followed the rules, remotely precisely.
But still — although he’s out of a job — don’t you envy Steven Slater?
Just a tiny bit?
Is there such a thing as “disaster etiquette”?
I live in Nashville, where we’ve been suffering the duress of major flooding, ever since this past weekend.
The theory is that, as the water level rises, everybody rises to the occasion, and everybody’s best behavior rises to the surface. (At least that’s what we see on CNN, when a dog is trapped on the roof of an SUV.)
I fear that is not alway so.
This past Sunday, fellow homeowners and I devoted three full hours to mopping out and swabbing up the muck in the lobby of the condo building where we live. Throughout the process, another homeowner strolled amongst the mix of us, talking on her cell phone. (The legend was that she was maintaining contact with our building’s Maintenance Engineer.)
Once the initial cleaning was done, and once the swabbing/mopping team had decided it was time to hose down the entryways, the homeowner-on-her-cell-phone stepped in and said, “You know, I’m not truly comfortable with what you’re doing, right now.”
To which my response, looking up through the spray of my hose, was, “Go home.” And so she went.
Even a gentleman, mop-in-hand, has his limits.
Did I do the right thing? (Of course, I did.)
Even when sandbags are being hoisted, hand to hand, it is never wrong to say, “Thank you,” even if a grunt gets in the mix.
It’s wedding time, and the invite business, sticky-note-wise and otherwise, is already bedecking the break-room bulletin boards.
One, fiercely engraved, says:
Mr. and Mrs. Herrick Kinsley Postough
request the honour of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Mr. Jeremey Allan Glanzich
Saturday, the sixth of June
Two thousand and ten
at six o’clock
Church of the Best Birthings
856 Interbred Road
Then there is another, simply thermographed, with an entanglement of wedding rings dancing round its margin:
Ms. CAUSELINE ROBERTA INGAWE THOMAS
and Mr. ALBERTO FRANZ DiFOCCO
along with THEIR CHILDREN (from a number of previous marriages)
cordially invite YOU to join THEM
as they SOLEMNIZE their
REAFFIRMING PERSONALLY SACRED VOWS OF HOLY MATRIMONY
June 6, 2010
(Saturday, starting at 5 p.m.; continuing until closing)
Monimo’s Gyros Take-Out and Kurdish Dip Bar
528-K 4326 E.128 St.
New York, NY.
(Cash bar only.)
Please R/S/V/P at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is one supposed to do, when such invitations appear out of nowhere, briskly pinned up on the cork board in the office break room?
One may assume that Margienne’s invite, deeply engraved, is stuck there simply for purposes of information, intimidation and the setting down of boundaries.
Causeline’s invitation may be asking for something more — especially if it’s accompanied by a sign-up list for the
“IT Office Pot-Luck Lunch and Second-Time-Around Wedding Shower,”
focusing on wine and
gifts they might use for their children, ages 9-13
(registered at Target.com, including kitchen utensils)
Large Break Room
Please sign on, below.
Guests are requested to clean up after themselves.
Must you sign on? (Of course not.)
Must you show up for the party? (No, especially if you have no interest in being involved in any office wedding showers, ever again.)
Must you bring a gift, if you show up for the party? (Not necessarily, since, in many instances, the dictum is “your presence is your present.” A fruitless and ineffectual dictum, if there ever was one. It’s useful, always, to stop by the wine store, or by a shop that hawks clever cocktail napkins.)
What’s more, if you don’t take a present to the party, age-old propriety maintains that you don’t eat the cake. That’s the basic trade-off.
Age-old propriety is full of itself.
Go to the party. (Go on-line; send Causeline the Target-store garbage can she’s been dreaming of.)
Eat the cake.
Here’s an egregious example of implausibly foul behavior. But it actually happened. Names have been changed, for obvious reasons.
My friend Minerva invited her friend Genette for a stopover on Genette’s cross-continental trek in retreat from her recent, bad divorce. (Minerva didn’t know how long Genette was planning to stay, but that’s fodder for another post.)
Once she settled in, Genette asked, “Do you mind if I smoke?” (Both Minerva and Genette are in their mid-50’s.)
Minerva gave up cigarettes ages ago; so she said, “Thank you for asking; but I don’t smoke anymore. So I don’t like smoke in the house. It’s so nice to wake up with all the windows smelling fresh and clean.”
To which Genette responded, “Do you mind if I smoke?”
To which Minerva responded, “Oh, you mean SMOKE,” as if she were experience a flashback of self-discovery and enlightenment. It was a flashback from sometime in 1978.
Genette grew a little dreamy-eyed, and said, “Un huh.” Then she tried to give a conspiratorial little wink, but she wasn’t really very good at it.
Minerva said, “Actually, I’d rather you didn’t. It might make the dog sick.”
Minerva set restrictions, as best she thought she could, on Genette’s indulgences. As it turned out, Genette only smoked while driving around the neighborhood, driving her own rented car. Genette drove around the neighborhood three times a day. She ran the air-conditioner and opened the windows, every time she got home.
For good or ill, of course, Genette was putting Minerva at risk, legal-wise, from time to time.
Etiquette-wise, Genette should have addressed the issue ahead of time (although etiquette is not the major issue in this case, since legalities are involved), telling Minerva, “I smoke a bit, from time to time,” to which Minerva’s incontrovertible response would have been, “I love you; but not while you’re staying with me.”
Minerva set herself at risk, legally. Such is never a hostess’s responsibility.
Sometimes, the most hospitable thing to say is, “Go home.”
My friend Angelique has made a lot of new friends on Facebook. She’s also dug up a few old ones. She’s not completely sure she’s done a good thing.
“All of a sudden, there were my three best girlfriends, all the way from kindergarten through grammar school” she confessed, in a plaintive, advice-needy phone call yesterday. “We hadn’t seen each other since seventh grade; then there they were, right there on Facebook. And ‘BAM!’ we were little kids — four 50-year-old women acting like little girls, giggling about Charlie Tepley, who got hair on his chest before the end of the sixth grade. It was total girl-talking, just like we used to do in our p.j.’s.”
Then the other fluffy bedroom slipper dropped.
By a cruel fluke of fate, all three of the former 12-year-old best friends, now in their 50’s, have moved back to town, full of stories about their children and grandchildren. They are very hopeful, individually and as a unit, that Angelique and her husband, Morey, will be able to join them soon, for dinner — a cookout — a movie — or a rafting trip. (Angelique even met with one of them for drinks, and it was awful.)
“I didn’t ask for this,” Angelique said (and I thought I heard a hint of sniffling in the background). “I feel so terribly, terribly hateful.”
Angelique is not being even remotely “hateful.” Instead, she is attempting to remain in charge of her own life. Maybe a dinner date with these past participles of her childhood would occupy only an hour-or-so of her life, and then the matter would be ended. But, with a new can of worms opened, and with a cluster of old friends newly returned to town, who’s to know where it might lead? (Invitations for more cookouts, more rafting trips — maybe even a weekend in a sweat lodge in Arizona?)
Angelique’s careful response might be, “Morey and I are up to our necks, right through here. Hope we can stay in touch.” If the tone-deaf middle-school alumnae don’t get the message, and keep pressing on, Angelique has every right to say, “It was great being back in touch with you,” which is in the past-tense.
Afterwards, as further messages appear in her In-Box, Angelique need not even open them. “Even if they think I’m completely awful?” she asked. “What if they never want to speak to me again?”
I said, “Sounds to me like ‘Mission Accomplished.’ ”