Open-and-shut case of rudeness

March 06, 1995|By KEVIN COWHERD

Look, I read the newspapers and magazines, I watch the talk shows. I know that good manners disappeared in this country around the time running boards disappeared from cars.

But one thing that still frosts me is when you hold the door for a person and that person doesn't say thank you.

This seems to happen a lot to me, to the point where I wonder if I have a sign on my back that says: "Please do not speak to this man. This man is part of a home incarceration program and is not allowed to socialize with the general public."

It happened again the other day at a convenience store, where I had gone to purchase a lottery ticket.

There are days in this business when I sit in front of the computer and my mind is a vast, empty expanse of nothingness. This is why I buy lottery tickets, to guard against that day when the managing editor calls me into his office and says: "Y'know, you should really think about opening a Dunkin' Donuts. I hear they do very well."

Anyway, I'm coming out of the convenience store when suddenly, using my incredible, almost reptilian peripheral vision, I see a guy leaving right behind me.

The guy is holding a large package in each arm. So being the gentleman that I am, I hold the door open for the guy and say: "Go ahead."

I'm telling you, it was such a beautiful moment, I got a little misty-eyed myself.

So the guy waltzes through the door and now I'm expecting to hear him say thank you. That's all, just a simple thank you.

Except this guy doesn't say thank you.

Not only doesn't he say thank you, he doesn't say anything.

My first thought was: OK, we're dealing with a guy who's had his tongue cut out.

Because it seems to me that only a person with a severe speech impediment would fail to say thank you in this situation.

For a moment, I was actually feeling sorry for the guy. A guy without a tongue, you gotta feel sorry for him, right?

Except then this guy's wife or girlfriend or whoever rolls down the car window and yells: "Barry, you got Salems, right? Not those #$%& Kools."

So now I'm expecting Barry to nod or shake his head in lieu of speaking, the way a guy without a tongue would.

Or I'm expecting him to drop his bags and whip off a little sign language, maybe something that says: "Relax, I got the right smokes."

But Barry doesn't do either of these things.

Instead Barry says: "You wanted Salems?" in this real cranky voice.

Which pretty much shot down that no-tongue theory. A guy without a tongue, sure, he might be cranky. But he couldn't say something like that.

In fact, I just tried saying, "You wanted Salems?" without using my tongue and it came out, "Eeeww aaann Saaem?"

You couldn't even understand it.

So it turns out the guy can speak just fine. Apparently, he's just another rude pain-in-the-neck who doesn't feel he needs to say thank you.

Anyway, it so happens that while Barry and the missus are carrying on this riveting conversation, I'm still holding the door open.

So now Barry turns and walks back in the store to get the Salems.

This time I figure he's got to thank me for holding the door open.

Look, I don't care whether you have a tongue or don't have a tongue. You can't twice pass a person who's holding the door open and not say thank you.

Or so I thought.

Because once again, Barry passes me and doesn't say thank you.

Instead what Barry does is mutter: "That #$%&* woman will drive you crazy."

Then he waltzes up to the counter and says: "Hon, lemme trade these Kools for a pack of Salems."

Well. By this point, of course, I'm doing a meltdown. I figure the guy's a jerk. And one thing's for sure: I'm not holding this door open any longer.

So I let the door swing shut and start walking toward my car. Two seconds later, out comes Barry. And he gives me a look like: "Hey, how come you're not holding the door open?"

Then the missus rolls down the car window again and says: "Do I have to go in there and get the right #$%&* cigarettes?"

Look, I'm the first one to say this is a great country.

But some of the people . . . you really have to wonder.

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