Before Joan of Arc was burned at the stake one of the charges against her was she had worn men’s clothes in public. This is just a very severe case of social contract getting out of hand but think about it…where you work, or shop, if a man showed up wearing a dress and facial make-up then it would be a little weird. The actual value of a man wearing a dress isn’t at all different than a woman wearing a dress, but how we react to social aberration defines what people can or cannot do without some sort of negative response on our part. ( Yeah, I’m ignoring the heresy thing, but haven’t I said enough on that already? )
Cell phones piss me off. I won’t use one when I’m talking to a cashier or wait staff, and I won’t use one when I’m driving in traffic. There isn’t a law against using a cell when in line at the grocery store, but I think it’s rude to carry on a conversation on the phone when dealing with live people. So even though I think it is okay to talk on the open road and that is illegal, I don’t think talking while interacting with a cashier is okay, however it is legal.
Perfume pisses me off. If someone outside of your personal space can smell you then you are wearing too much. If someone outside your area code can smell your perfume then it’s time to stop buying the gallon jug of kerosene mixed with chemical scent sold by a celebrity who wouldn’t be caught dead in the places it is sold. But this doesn’t make it illegal, mind you, just irritating to me.
Moreover, my sense of social and moral outrage depends a lot on my mood. On those days things are going well and I’m happy I am less outraged by the social injustice of improper cell phone usage and perfume wearers. On those days things are going poorly these things piss me off. I give you Monday, March 26, 2012 and a few observations of a day.
If I bring my lunch there is a higher risk that someone at work will want to socialize with me and I won’t be able to write during lunch. If I go to a sit down restaurant and eat I won’t have enough time to write during lunch. I can get fast food but I hate that stuff. There is a sub shop that is less than wretched, it is close, and they have good service. I can get in and out of there, eat my lunch, and still get two hundred words down, and maybe more.
Now, I am all for getting what you pay for and getting what you want. Yet here we go. A young woman on a cell phone is in front of me. She is wearing too much perfume. And she is holding a piece of paper. If you want a quick lunch do not get behind someone ordering for other people. Worse than any of this the woman is downright rude to the man trying to make her multiple orders. She wants a very exact amount of all things on each of her orders. “Naw, naw, that’s too much” or “more than that, Boy” and with each of her demands, in between the conversation she’s having on her cell phone, she raps on the glass partition angrily. She wants mayonnaise not on the sandwiches but in little plastic containers on the side. And then the person she’s talking to changes an order and doesn’t want tomatoes. She wants one sandwich with the bread toasted, but nothing on it, and the stuff that would be inside wrapped up in plastic, and the mayonnaise and mustard in little plastic containers, so she can make the sandwich for breakfast tomorrow. All the while she’s rapping on the glass partition and treating this guy like he’s a moron for not understanding the multiple orders. I’ve dealt with him before and he’s competent and friendly but she’s pushing him the wrong way. She pushing me the wrong way, as well as the customers behind me, who are all beginning to see her as someone who is killing off their lunch hours, too. I take my gum out of my mouth because it now tastes like her perfume, and I drop it into her purse while she’s demanding the guy cut each sandwich into four pieces and wrap them all up individually. There are two guys in suits who are now beginning to exhale loudly and fidget. The guy making my sandwich, knowing I have exact change, helps me leapfrog her in the line and the other guy takes a credit card from the suits and also bypasses the woman. It gets more interesting when the woman tries to pay with a food stamp card and has to call to get the PIN.
She begins the conversation for the PIN with “Who dis? Who dis? Go get Tilly, go tell Till come to the phone now!” and I sit down in a booth just to ride this one down to the ground. I have to see how this plays out. This woman has come to this restaurant with complex and confusing orders, demanded extra everything, made the help here jump through hoops, and now she can’t pay for the order, which she is trying to pay for with a food stamp card. No one says anything to her, but if looks and body language could kill…
I watched as the woman had to scrape up enough money to pay for her order and argue loudly with whoever it was she was speaking to on the phone. I cuss like a drunken sailor, in private, but this woman is just plain foul mouthed. She then took the argument into the parking lot where she stood beside her car with the door open, effectively blocking the parking spot next to her as well as the one where she had parked.
So here are a few questions; what if anything, has this woman done wrong, and on the outrage scale, how bad is it? Another question is this one; the two guys in suits, the three guys who work behind the counter and the woman are all the key players in this. Did you ascribe any race to any of these people given the information I gave you? Do you think the irritation in the scene you could feel would be higher or lower, depending on race? Did you at anytime feel like I was making some sort of racial statement before you got to this question?
Generally speaking, the more disenfranchised a person feels in society the less likely that person is to feel obligated to operate within the social contract. Remember the old jokes about women drivers? What very few people realize is those jokes were predominately about white women drivers because back when that joke began to emerge, there were very few black women drivers, and their race was a much bigger problem than their gender. Is that a true statement? Is it still true today?
I have no idea what it is like anywhere else, but Southern language skills are terrible. I cannot imagine if the two men in suits were looking for an employee, if they would have considered the woman as a prospect, if for no other reason, she sounded as if she was fired from the Snuffy Smith comic strip for not knowing English. It’s an incredible piece of irony that Georgia would make a law mandating English as the official language of the state and its school system fails so utterly to teach it, and its citizens have a disdain for the language as a rule.
Joan of Arc demanded a change in the way things were, created a change, and was invited to a bonfire for her troubles. The Sub woman, of unknown social and racial origins, demanded petty things from a sandwich shop, and here we are now, trying to connect the dots. Do we create an underclass of people who feel so disconnected from the norm they just do not see the inconvenience they cause other people, or is it they are all just selfish parasites who have a sense of entitlement? How do you feel about putting this woman somewhere between those two extremes? Where would you put her? I suspect that people like Joan of Arc rise in history because people do not question the ways things are. One day, things are the way they will be until someone changes them.
I think we’re there, right now.