DATE: 3/15/2004 04:07:00 PM
Nobody's Got No Class
Johnny Rotten seems to feel the same way
I have the past couple of days
This is a bit distasteful after the previous entry but, well, tough.
I wish to register a complaint.
Something seems to have been put in the water this past weekend. Or maybe the good cheer of the Christmas season has officially worn off, and people are back to being their true inconsiderate selves. Or maybe I picked an unfortunate time to come out of my personal cocoon of oblivion and pay attention to my surroundings.
Either way, I am left almost speechless by the insipid behavior I witnessed over the past few days. The operative word, of course, being almost.
First and foremost there was the story I covered Saturday. Boy Scouts were serving old ladies a St. Patrick's Day luncheon. (Can the White House Press Corps be far behind?) When I arrived, one of the people I ran into was irritated that a photographer hadn't shown up. I did my best to assure him that a photographer would be there soon (Um...sure), but he kept assuring me that "if they just did a story with no pictures [he was] not going to be happy."
Yeah, I'll be sure to get right on that.
Anyway, a photographer finally showed up. Photographers are often very crusty types, but I've always gotten along pretty well with them. So when I saw him, I asked to make sure he was from my paper, and when he said he was, I said cheerfully, "Good. Me too."
And he muttered under his breath, with the utmost sarcasm, "Great, I'm really happy for ya."
I still don't know if he meant me to hear that. Either way, I did. And I turned to fire back a witty rejoinder, but then I remembered I was in the worst possible place for scathing remarks, peppered as they were sure to be with my usual obscenities--a room full of Boy Scouts and old ladies. So, fuming with rage, I was forced to just walk away.
I did, however, mutter "dickhead," to myself as I walked to the car. So ha.
But really, what was the point of that? What did that possibly accomplish? And what about my making sure that he was from my paper so offended him that he felt the need to be, well, a dickhead?
See, this is my problem. I try to figure these things out. I try to apply logic to things that are patently illogical--I try to find the nice, rational person beneath the dickhead exterior. When I don't, I am often distressed. Maybe someday I'll grow out of this, but for now, it still bothers me. I mean, really, I can see someone being snippy for a good reason--and I give plenty of people, I suppose, plenty of opportunities to lash out at me for good reason each and every day. Maybe I cut them off in traffic. Maybe I don't pay attention to where I'm going (yeah, "maybe"...).
But no. It's always some random person, with some random bug up their ass, who picks you as the innocent bystander they'd most like to take out their inner ugliness upon. It's never the person you cut in line at the bank that comments loudly on the flaws in your physical appearance--it's always some punk kid on a street corner in Lowell when you're just minding your own business.
So I guess it's not the mean-spiritedness of rude people that gets to me. It's the fact that they make no sense.
Take what happened Sunday, for example. On Sunday Steve had a concert with the Tri-County Symphonic Band that he really wanted me to go to, since they were putting on a challenging program and he had a solo in a piece by Percy Grainger, who I can say from experience is an utter rat bastard from the point of view of the musicians who have to play his pieces. He writes things in, say, f# minor for no particular reason.
Are we noticing a pattern here?
Anyway. Steve had to be at the concert two hours early, leaving me with nothing much to do. But the Sox had an exhibition game that happened to mostly coincide with that two-hour period, and I had brought a book. So, I sat in Steve's car with the game on the radio and read Ann Rule's Without Pity. I was quiet, with the windows rolled up, not even smoking a cigarette for fear of offending passerby, and I had the radio playing quietly.
Pedro had had a fairly disastrous three innings, statswise, and had been relieved by Mike Timlin, who was his usual solid self, and Johnny Damon and David Ortiz both blasted home runs. I must say, I was really quite enjoying myself. Which, in retrospect, was a mistake, because apparently I should've been watching out for assholes.
No sooner had I let my guard down, though, than one presented himself. I was smiling as Jerry Remy joked about Damon's home run being hit off a palm try just outside of City of Palms Park when I looked up to find a man standing beside the car.
He'd been wandering around the parking lot almost as long as I'd been there, and I had given him a few cursory glances, but I soon surmised that he was some sort of parking attendant or groundskeeper, and went back to my book as he directed people to parking spaces. Now he was gesturing for me to roll my window down. I did.
"That a good book?" he asked.
"Must be a good book," he said, louder. Then he looked theatrically at his watch. "You been reading it for quite a while now."
"Uh huh," I said, utterly confused.
"So, is that what you're doing, you know, getting a good parking spot near the door and then just sitting there?"
"Well, you have this good parking spot but you obviously don't need to be here, because you're just sitting in the car," he explained (sort of). "It looks kinda bad, you know, because other people are having to park across the street."
I looked at him for about three full seconds before drawing myself up and saying, as coldly and patronizingly as possible, "My boyfriend? Is in the band? And he had to be here at one? But I couldn't go in with him? So I had to wait? In the car?"
"Well...it just looks bad," he said again.
I was at my wit's end. A half-angry, half-bewildered, "What???!?!?!?!?" was all I could come up with.
It succeeded, mostly, because the guy went away. But I could obviously no longer sit in the car.
So, you tell me what the hell that was all about, although good luck, because I was there, and I don't know. But anyway, ever the obedient one, I went inside, stuffing my book in the pocket of my coat because I still had half an hour to wait. I was fishing in my coat again several minutes later for money for my ticket when I realized the book was gone. I walked back where I'd come from and found it stuck in the door. Clucking in exasperation, I reached down to pick it up, which was when an old lady practically stepped on my hand.
"Don't move that!" she screeched.
Now my mind was at the meltdown stage. I didn't even want to understand what the hell she was on about, so I decided just to ignore her. I picked up the book.
"Don't move it! We see it! We see it!" she hollered.
Senile old bat, I thought. I put the book in my pocket.
Then she looked at me. "Oh...is that your book?"
And then she said the Dumbest Thing I've Ever Heard. "Oh, I thought it was there to keep the door open."
WHAT THE FUCK?????
But the best was yet to come. I was standing in the lobby, continuing to read, as other old ladies (another theme for this weekend) bustled and fussed among the crowd, handing out programs while the house manager apologized profusely for the delay in opening the doors. Both she and the old ladies handing out the programs seemed contrite over this supposed delay, and were assuring everyone they'd find plenty to read in the programs they were so generously providing. Twice the old ladies walked right by me even as they forced programs on everyone else.
Finally I went up to one of them. "Could I have a program?" I asked.
She narrowed her eyes at me, clutching the pile of programs protectively to her chest. "Do you have a ticket?" she asked accusingly.
The tickets, by the way, were bright red. One of them was sticking out of the top of my book, which was in my hand, right in front of her face.
A few moments later, brandishing my hard-won program, I was allowed to enter the auditorium where I found Steve, or, as the program had him listed, "Stephan." I think I'll call him that from now on. It's got such a European flair. Kind of like "Raoul."
I passed the only remotely pleasant moments of my afternoon with "Stephan" and his co-euphonium...umm...ist? Euphoniumist? That doesn't sound right. Anyway, his buddy Dave Chace, who also plays euphonium in the band, or, as I like to call him, "Dah-veed." I told them about the Parking Lot Asshole. They were suitably astonished. Then it came time for them to go onstage, during the last number performed by a band of fifth and sixth graders.
The last number was "Battle Hymn of the Republic." This is always a dangerous piece, because you always run the risk of having some old bat who looks old enough to have remembered when "Battle Hymn of the Republic" was a top 20 hit get a little too excited and decide to clap out of rhythm or try to sing along. Which is exactly what transpired during this particular performance.
But this old lady wasn't just content to clap to her own little drummer and wail something like "ay ay ya lee la borry ah LA LA LA LA LA LA..." She also felt the need to comment to her friend next to her about "HOW MUCH SHE LOVED THIS SONG," which of course required an "OH I KNOWWW..." from her friend, which then led to a nice little kaffeeklatsch right there in the auditorium, these two old ladies shouting to each other about how much they loved the song they were currently talking through.
Then the band struck a dramatic decrescendo, which for those of you not down with the lingo out there in Blogland, means they got much quieter very quickly.
The old ladies did not.
So what we ended up with were brief spurts of mostly-audible gabbing between the old birds when the music was loud, punctuated by short bursts of echoingly loud gabbing when the music was quiet.
As you can imagine, absolutely, utterly everyone was giving them withering looks as the song went on. One woman went so far as to turn around and give them a "SHHH!!"
Did it even register?
Well, what do you think?
This was merely my introduction to this mouth-breathing mob of concertgoers, however. I moved my seat to get away from those two old magpies, and soon found myself in an even lower level of the Inferno, as two terrible factors came together to devastating effect: the fifth and sixth graders left the stage, and so the audience, whch was easily 60% soccer moms, felt free to gab through Steve's band's performance since none of their kids were up there anymore; and I decided to sit in front of a small group of teenage girls.
So, let's review: I had somehow violated the sensitivities of others by sitting in a car reading a book and asking for a program, but during the actual concert, those same people were completely unembarrassed by holding loud conversations as people tried to present music onstage. And, of course, unaware that the literature the band was presenting was just about totally wasted on them.
I've participated in and watched concerts since I was a wee child. I have performed in children's choir festivals attended by hundreds of other children. And I have never, ever seen a ruder, stupider, more infuriating audience at a public performance of any kind of music. No joke.
Again, it boggles my mind to try and imagine the motives of these people. If they were going to blow ten bucks on a night out, why not do something they'd actually enjoy? I mean, they couldn't have enjoyed it if they were so bored they started talking, could they?
Oh, God, I don't even want to think about it anymore.
So on to today. Which is when, during the course of making followup calls, I had the following conversation with a woman in Norwell, Connecticut:
Me: Hi, is Linda Lane* available?
Her: Um, that depends on who's calling.
Me: Okay, well, my name is Beth, and I'm calling from (my company). We were--
Her: So are you trying to sell something, or what?
and then this one--the all-time Blue-Ribbon Winner--with a man in West Virginia:
Me: Hi, is Bob Smith* available?
Me: Okay, could I leave a message?
Me: Okay, well, my name is Beth, and I'm calling from (my company) to follow up with Bob about a quote we sent him last year. We're just wondering if his project is still active.
Him: Okay, I'll give him the message. Bye.
Me: Um...can I leave my number?
Him: Well, I can tell you right now he's probably not interested.
Me: Okay, well, we'd rather hear that from him, if that's possible.
Him: Well, that's not going to be possible.
Me: Uh...why is that?
Him: Because he's not here right now.
Me: Okay, well...he can return the call, can't he?
Him (like I'm the idiot): Uh, I'm going to need a number for him to do that.
Look. I thought I was a smart person. But sometimes, I just don't get it.
*names aren't real. Duh.