July 8, 2009

"Out and About:" (What I spent the evening of 9/10/01 writing)

Out and About
With Shelia Mankovitch

I can’t enjoy a meal anymore. I go out, and there is always someone making a scene. Sometimes it’s interesting. That’s why I follow them around. Its like Jerry Springer, but I have front row tickets. I had thought I had seen it all from romance and intrigue to various back stabbing plots. People seem to be getting more and more petty. Fifteen years ago, I could get two or three good stories from a single meal, now, I can eat out for a week, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’m lucky to hear one worth repeating.
My editor thinks that I’ve become complacent. I have to run “Best of” columns at least once a month now. The columns used to write themselves. All I needed was to sit by a couple that had an obvious difference. Money, class, race, everyone thought that they could fall for someone different than them; they pretended to be open-minded. You don’t have to be a writer to find the fallacy in that belief system. Humans by nature are closed-minded. After years of deluding each ourselves of the inherent equality of all humanity, people are finally accepting the truth that we are all different. I don’t have as much money as the Rockefellers, and I know the brothers on the corner don’t have Joann Sebastian Bach blaring on their speakers at home.
I hate to be called a bigot or a racist, but observing is my job. I’m out, amongst the people. I have seen the fallacy of the equality myth, the failure of the realization of Dr. King’s “dream.” I have personally aired this issue before, and I have had my detractors. Landers said of me recently, “…she is the manifestation of what is wrong with society.” I just call them as I see them.
And what is am seeing is society falling into the gutters. I can excuse sticking with those like you, those who share a common background and a common belief system. However, people are withdrawing in a shell, even being against those with who they share everything, even their wedding vows. People are caring more about appearances than I have seen in my more than fifty years on this planet. I have seen people make themselves look horribly ignorant trying to rectify something that no one would have noticed in the first place.
Case in point. I was enjoying my dinner, at an unnamed restaurant, when I heard a heated discussion brewing. Naturally, my attentions became aroused. There was a young couple, early thirties I’d say, disagreeing on some point. Listening closer, I learned that the whole argument stemmed from which fork the young woman was using to eat a salad. I know there are rules on etiquette and such, but trust me, this was no state dinner. Eventually the argument elevated to the point where the entire restaurant, customers and wait staff, were audience to this crude spectacle. Thankfully, the hostess ushered the young woman to the door, and we all returned to our meals, the background noise of the low mummer of conversations and the muzak not entirely soothing my ears from the recent shouting in my ears.
The point is, no one would see that woman on the street, and no immediately recognize her as she who ate salad with the wrong fork, but I have a feeling that she will have to avert her eyes more than from people who were in attendance that night. The sad thing is that it wasn’t even her fault. Her husband was the one who chided her in the first place. I could give you many more examples of people acting petty, but that one sticks in my mind. I have seen it too much, and I hear it all the time. “Don’t do that, what will people think of you?” Why is that such an important question? What we really be asking ourselves is, “What do I think of myself?” Apparently, that is a question too seldom asked, and that is why I can’t enjoy a meal anymore