Friday, June 27, 2008

Crochety Old Woman


The local branch post office should be avoided after 3:00 in the afternoon; but I had to go yesteray afternoon. So did many other people. Only three clerks work at any one time, and usually only two. Much experience has convinced me they only hire people who move like somnolent snails. So I take something to read and prepare for a long wait. Behind me some major-corporate-executive-in-the-making child of about 4 or 5 loudly browbeat his nanny into not waiting in the line even though she tried to explain to him that if she didn't mail her item she would have to pay a $35 fine. Horrid kid! Then a women of my generation joined the line a couple people back from me. She soon loudly announced that the people at this P.O. move like zombies, Then the man [who I actively dislike but am always polite to despite his cloyingly insincere "have a good day," announced "Closed." Leaving only one clerk. It was not even 4:00 o'clock but this did not surprise me.

The woman became almost appoplexic. "Did he say closed? Closed? It's 3:54! He can't be leaving at this hour. Is that other person working?" [A pillar blocked her view.] Someone said, 'Yes." "Like molasses on a cold day," the woman announced without seeing the object of her attack -- it was true but unfair. The scene went on in this vein for about half an hour. The vociferous woman raved on and on. I really wanted to tell her to cool it, that it was pointless working herself into such a froth when nothing in the known world can speed up a postal clerk.

Instead I contemplated my resolve many long years ago that when I was much older [like 50 or 60] I would become a crochety woman and say anything I pleased to anyone, anytime, anywhere in any kind of language -- because I chaffed at being told to be ladylike, keep my voice down, don't make a scene, don't upset the boat, don't draw attention to myself, be nice -- be nice -- be nice! In mid-life I became a playwright and had to learn to "make a scene." That was a hard lesson and I never became really good at it, it just didn't come naturally.

And now I've found that a funny thing has happened on the way to chrochety-ness even though my age advanced relentlessly. I've become nice. Not only nice, rather placid and serene, and I find that the sharp words just won't jump out of my mouth [except in serious righteous anger] they come out phrased tactfully. The habit of living up to those proscriptions learned back in my adolescent and teen years have become part of how I live in the world. Habits of all kinds accumulate and it's fortunate that the good ones are as hard to break as the bad ones.

An ad on a subway card that I saw recently shows a little girl [not a little boy, I noted and said, Hmmm?] with the caption, "Every time you yell at another driver, you are teaching her a lesson." And your sons too! You're training a child to vent anger. And I can imagine that imperious little boy's father -- oh, yes! An executive or a lawyer. My parents were quiet and restrained people. I did not hear many angry words, my models were not angry people. So the anger felt by the teenager I was would have to be postponed for independent old age, I thought. Here I am and I am not angry. This warrants more pondering on my part.

1 comment:

Helen Conway said...

Bad news the postal clerk thing is international. What is it? Fumes from the sticky stuff on the stamps? I send my husband to our post office because it wastes too uch of my limited patience!