Once a year — OK, maybe twice — I choose to address some aspect of the human condition. Generally these fall into a long-running series I call What is Wrong With People? Everyone has their pet peeves about other folks, of course, I just work mine out on paper. In honour of Mother's Day, I've chosen the virtue most mothers work hardest to inculcate in their spawn: being considerate.
You know how it works, right? Don't bud in line; don't take the last chicken wing; don't fart in an elevator; don't break up via text, etc. And because it's defined less by what you do than what you don't, it's easy to be considerate. Begging the question of why so many engage in outrageously inconsiderate behaviour seemingly without knowing. Let's ease into the discussion with an annoying little something that defies common sense, yet is so common as to be almost comical.
The scene: sitting at a small table in a crowded bistro you're enjoying a nice meal with a friend. A table beside you leaves. Their dishes are bussed and then, before seating the next guests, a staffer armed with a trigger-pull spray bottle and cloth liberally spritzes the table from her waist (i.e., your face height). The mist settles mostly on the intended target, but being aerosolized, not all. It hangs in the air and you can smell it. You look at your food and wonder if you should continue. Was it just water and vinegar? Or some heinous chemical cleaner?
Doesn't matter. It's ridiculous to spray anything where people are eating — especially in the close quarters of today's restaurants. I've even had a server spray a table beside me in such a cavalier manner that I'd had to cover my food. "Sorry," she'd said, before doing the exact same thing to the table on the opposite side of me! Attention restaurant owners, managers, servers: never, ever spray tables when you have customers; instead, spray into your cloth from very close — like 10 – 15 cms — some distance away, and then go and wipe the table. Same results for you, far more considerate for patrons.
Table spraying, of course, is an institutionalized form of inconsideration in that everyone does it as part of a job. Next up is an example of someone whose mother either did a very poor job, or she is just visiting Earth.
In addition to the regular crushed-gravel trail encircling Lost Lake Park are several side footpaths marked "Nature Trail" — rocky, rooty strolls through forest to crowd-free shoreline sanctums. On a sunny morning last week, I angled down one such west-side trail to a cleared point, setting myself on one of the memorial benches to be found along them. Looking out over mirrored water toward Blackcomb Mountain, birds twittered in the branches and a duck dabbled in the reeds; insects hummed through the air and a small fish hovered over a nest it had cleared just offshore. I sat, relishing the silence and stillness, lost in my thoughts.
After a few minutes came a crashing in the bush, and a wide-eyed, thick-bodied, black lab burst onto the point. This wasn't unusual; despite being the very antithesis of the notion "Nature Trail" people see these words as reason to unleash dogs that should otherwise be leashed at all times save for on the Dog Beach. But loose dogs being the norm here I didn't think much of it, figuring the owner would soon appear. Indeed the owner was close behind, but instead of continuing on — as I or anyone with an ounce of decency would do having come upon a scene of someone else's tranquility — she stopped a few metres away. I thought it was to share in the view, so imagine my shock when she produced an orange ball and, with 179-degrees of other compass points available, tossed it into the lake directly in front of me. The dog cannonballed into the water literally at my feet, fetched the ball, hauled itself out and then, in a Just for Laughs-worthy coup de grace, walked up to me to shake itself silly. Yeah, I got wet. And the woman said nothing. Nothing!
I opened my mouth to comment but only exclamation points came out. So egregious was this tableaux that I was in genuine social shock. I looked from the woman toward the Dog Beach across the lake and back, thinking she would get it. Instead she threw the ball again — with the same Groundhog Day result. Birds and fish had fled and the whole moment tipped upside down. When she finally ducked back into the forest — likely to hang a knotted black bag of dogshit on a tree like some gift to the gods of bad manners — all I could think was how my mother would have reacted had she witnessed me do such a thing as a child. And I would have deserved it.
What is wrong with people? Who knows, but sometimes it fairly boggles the mind.