Monday, September 1, 2008

The Old Scout: Observations From the Back of the Line

From the desk of Garrison Keillor:

For some people, the urge to compete is very, very strong, such as the
tallGarrison Keillor red-haired woman last Sunday morning at LaGuardia who cut in front
of me at the boarding gate and did it so smoothly, expertly, no body contact, you have to assume she's been acing people out all her life.

She was standing behind me and then alongside and then, although I was moving forward behind the old lady in front of me, Red Riding Hood planted her right foot in front of my left foot and leaned over and handed her ticket to the gate agent and without a murmur of apology or explanation, she slipped into the jetway. Pure competitive urge, for no prize at all, as you see every day on the freeway at rush hour, the salmon leaping, cutting each other off, to get back home three minutes
earlier than if they'd gone with the flow.

A few years ago I would have felt like pulling her hair out by the
roots and spitting on her shoes and saying a few words about the
importance of civility, but I am over that now. I don't care if you
step on my blue suede shoes, just don't steal my laptop and don't hurt my baby. I'm not the judge of other people's manners. I come from quiet mannerly Midwestern people and evidently she was raised in a home in which you had to elbow your way to the feed trough. Not her fault, just as what manners I have are to my mother's credit and not mine.

Back where I'm from, it's considered boorish to thrust yourself forward ahead of those who've been waiting longer. We are brought up to defer, an After You Alphonse reflex, and wave others to go first at the
intersection, and sometimes we use deference aggressively, as a way of encouraging fools to walk out on thin ice and fall in, so we can enjoy seeing them flounder and then perhaps rescue them. And so committee
meetings in the Midwest can be torturous: The knowledgeable sit back and listen to some clueless gasbag blow for awhile and an eternity passes and the main questions are never addressed and eventually the
meeting grinds to a halt and some poor soul is left to do the hard work on her own and the gasbag goes on to his next triumph.

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