A tale of two gentlemen


People / Monday, July 29th, 2013

Confession: I have extremely archaic ideas about male behavior. I know they are archaic, but I hold to them stubbornly nonetheless.

*****

I stood in line at a busy supermarket, a cartful of groceries in front of me, my sister-in-law in line behind me. We stood there, chatting and waiting, comparing bargains. Waiting longer. Chatting some more.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” said a voice behind us. I looked past April and located the man speaking. He looked to be in his fifties at least, heavyset, wearing a dress jacket. He talked to me over her head. “Excuse me. Can I go ahead of you? I have only two things and I’m paying cash.”

I stood there looking at him. “Alright,” I said. It was the only word I could find at the time; the rest were strewn about the floor where my jaw had dropped them.

“Thank you,” he said sincerely, and passed me up. But he didn’t look me in the eyes again.

If you can feel okay with yourself after cutting ahead of two women, be my guest.

*****

I sat in another supermarket, this time at a table selling chocolate bars with my son. We made good money, our sales steady and our crowd interested.

Our next customer looked to be in his seventies, a healthy old guy with a bill cap and a little paunch. “What do you have here?” He leaned over the chocolates.

“We have Daffin’s candy bars, one dollar each—caramel, peanut butter, or almond,” I said.

“Almond,” he said at once. “She likes almond.”

I grinned at him. “For a lady, huh?”

He straightened up enough to look at me sidelong. “She’s been my baby for fifty-seven years,” he said proudly, and handed over his dollar.

Now that’s a man.

*****

It would have been so nice for the Mrs. Men to be able to look ahead before creating nuptial agreements and see how their guys would behave in supermarkets someday. But probably they cared more about what kind of cars the boys drove and whether or not they had acne. Silly chicks.

7 Replies to “A tale of two gentlemen”

  1. Can I say something in defense of the guy at the supermarket? While it seems incredibly rude, and indeed may have been, perhaps he was running late and wouldn’t make it to the next place in time. He may have hated doing it with all his heart, but it waiting on you two may have made him late to something that he could not afford to be late to. It happens sometimes, and it’s not always the fault of poor planning, either. 🙂

    1. Yes, we discussed this possibility at the time. 🙂 There were none of the usual signs–stress, jitters, coat-tails flying–he did it calmly and as a matter of logic. But it does help to remember we don’t know the full story.

      1. That’s true about the signs. When I am in a long line and fear I will have to wait interminably, and i have a deadline, I am very jittery- I can’t stand still, I look at my phone to see what time it is, I’m craning my neck to see if another line opened up or has been moving faster 🙂 If I seem calm, there’s a 99% chance that I am NOT in a hurry! 🙂

  2. Now here’s an interesting cultural comparison, because there’s one extreme in the Brits and their love for the queue, and there’s another in Israel, where cutting in line is not a big faux pas. I’ve been known to do the internal jaw-drop and eye-roll, complete with the mental question, “Didn’t your mama teach you not to do that?!” (she probably didn’t) so I thought I was still pretty American in my thinking.

    But in this case, I’m impressed that he had the courtesy to *ask* before implementing his highly practical solution. Which makes me wonder how much Israeli culture I’ve unconsciously picked up.

    Ahem.

    That said…I have huge respect for gentlemanly behavior. So hopefully my cultural musings won’t obscure your much more important point.

  3. For the Mr. Excuse me guy, it may be he always wanted to have some kind of interaction with a Mennonite lady and here was his chance. (I don’t know why that strikes me funny) I just hope it felt as a.w.k.w.a.r.d. to him as it did to you.

  4. In Ireland, it’s considered polite to invite someone with fewer items than you to go ahead of you in the queue.

    Asking to do it though…only in America. 😉

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