Sunday, January 20, 2013

Have You Ever Noticed (Part One)

Have you ever noticed that words can reach out and pat you on the head?

They can.

Let me tell you.

Joe and I were heading off to see Maria Stuarda have her head offed. The opera was being broadcast into a movie theatre that is a subway ride away so we were heading up Yonge Street. At the intersection a youngish fellow, maybe 30, was sweeping debris away from a store entrance. I had to go right where he was sweeping and I, being Canadian, apologised.

He looked up, startled at being spoken to kindly, no doubt.

So he returned the favour.

Here's what he said and I shit you not: That's OK little man.

The light turned and I was swept with the crowd across the street. I noticed Joe, ahead of me, with his shoulders shaking. When I caught up to him his face as contorted in laughter. He thought that was really, really funny.

For the rest of the day, well not exactly the rest of the day, more accurately, until I told him 'STOP!!' he called me his 'little man.'

(Donna, who works with me at Vita and reads this blog regularly ... take note ... once would be funny. ONCE.)

Have you noticed that looks can reach out and slap you right across the kisser?

They can.

Let me tell you.

We were coming back from the opera, again, riding the subway. As we were nearing my stop, I swung the chair into position so I could shoot out the door on arrival. At that time of day the subway platform was packed. There were a group of kids in the upper teens. One of the girls noticed me before the others and her eyes widened like she'd seen something incredibly outrageous. She whispered something to her friends and as they all laughed and then her glance swung back and her look, slapped me hard, and her message that she was superior to me in every way and the right to publicly mock me came with the privilege of her normalcy.

This was one of the few times that others laughed and Joe didn't.

I'll take being 'little man' rather than 'fat, ugly cripple,' though really, I'd rather not have to choose.


Beth said...

Hm. Depending on the tone of the pat, I may well rather be the object of outright mockery. But I'm from the South and Appalachia; not only am I not Canadian (I've said "excuse me" and "thank you," rather than apologize), but I doubt people outside these regions of the US would agree. There condescension is incredibly rude and also cunning, couched as it is in plausible deniability. There the gossips insinuate the worst of insults in sweet caring tones and the hens chorus "Mmmmm-hm!" They'd face social consequences if they were half as rude outright. Bonus: at least with laughs and stabbing stares, you won't get people telling you "They didn't mean anything by it" or think it's funny.
As for myself, I'd rather the insults not be couched in sweetness, but (like you), I'd rather not have to choose. Sorry you had both that day.

Anonymous said...

I like a pat on the head. In spite of my pride, it's a lovely thing to get from people who know me and love me. Would I like it from the man sweeping the street? I think I might. There's something about the dynamics of street sweeper and the street user, that I think would make the pat on the head ok. But I would get a different sort of pat on the head that I guess would refer to my gender or ethnicity.
I have no mixed thoughts about the slap.

John R. said...

Words can hurt like a fist.....period. Glances and darting stares with audible laughing from a gaggle of teens, downright threatening. Insults; verbal and/or non-verbal, just plain suck. Still wondering about the "little man" comment....was it a colloquialism or was it a plain ol' insult?

Either way, bummer.

Shan said...

Hm. "Little man". I think that's funny...sort of like a person might say "thanks buddy" which in some circles is a diminutive. I say "dude" even if the person I'm referring to is a chick.