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Manners battle - Qualified Perceptions
Manners battle
This morning, I was standing on the T, when a guy talking to his girlfriend decided to drop his newspaper (one of the little free Boston Metros, not a complicated heavy one) on the floor. After a few minutes of being vaguely irritated at him, I picked it up and handed it to him. "I think you dropped this, sir?" He gave me a dirty look, and took it. Then a few minutes later, he dropped it again. I picked it up for him again.

"Sir, you seem to be having some trouble with your paper."
"I dropped it, I'm sorry."
"I know. Here you go. There are trash cans in all the stations outside the train."
"Well, I'll throw it out there, then."
"But until then, I'll leave it on the floor."

At this point, his girlfriend took the paper. I'm honestly not sure where I would have gone from there. Most people who I hand their trash to have the decency to be a little embarassed and throw it away later. And most people have the instinct to take something that's been handed to them, but he had clearly overcome his instinct by the second time.

I wonder if he talked her into dropping it on the floor again once I had gotten off the train.
28 comments or Leave a comment
From: bakedweasels Date: December 15th, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Good work!

Wish I could +1 this.
marcusmarcusrc From: marcusmarcusrc Date: December 15th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Good work!

ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: December 15th, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oy. Some people don't know when they're being politely told that they are doing something that contributes to a messy or potentially dangerous situation (when newspapers get wet they become ungodly slippery).

Thank you for trying. Even though it doesn't directly impact me, I still appreciate it.
(Deleted comment)
arcanology From: arcanology Date: December 15th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Later nice boy turns out to be either a serial killer or a vampire, depending on what kind of movie this is.
algorithmancy From: algorithmancy Date: December 16th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Or else he's the kinda goofy Seth Rogen-ish guy she had previously spurned.
pekmez From: pekmez Date: December 15th, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
shumashi should write stories about all of our interactions with idiots! I like this.
izmirian From: izmirian Date: December 16th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I do really wish we had the full back story on this person in later chapters. It's intriguing that he spent two lines apologizing before completely undoing his apology. Was he setting up for the "I'll leave it on the floor" line the whole time or does it reveal a tragic inner conflict.
bemused_leftist From: bemused_leftist Date: December 16th, 2011 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe the dropping, the accepting, the apologizing, and the dropping again were all reflexive.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: December 16th, 2011 12:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do think the apologizing was reflexive - that's why the whole "I think you dropped this" trick works at all, because there's a standard polite protocol you follow. Sure, his apologies were totally insincere - but I was being insincere too, I didn't really think he had accidentally dropped an important belonging and would be grateful to get it handed back.

As an interaction, it's kind of interesting, in that neither of us was saying anything at all sincere, and both of us knew that. About all the content that was exchanged was something like

Me: I'm going to keep bugging you about this. Pester pester.
Him: You know, I'm not sure I care.
Girlfriend: Maybe I do care. Here' I've done the thing, you can go away again.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: December 16th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's a horribly unrealistic story.

In a more realistic version, the girlfriend grew up in a home with a narcissistic jerk of a father, and while she's occasionally tried dating nice guys, she never really feels a connection with them. The selfish git, though, constantly undermines her self-confidence and she works like hell to try to gain his approval, but it seems like it's always just out of reach. When they get back to their apartment he screams at her for twenty minutes for making him look bad in public. He never hits her. She cries, and eventually has sex with him to try to placate him.

He breaks up with her every month or two and she calls him desperately begging him to take her back. Eventually they get married and have three kids and he cheats on her frequently. The marriage is loveless but she keeps trying to make it work for fifty years. Their kids grow up to be just like her.

The much nicer boy who never got a chance with her actually has a touch of Asperger's and always comes off as slightly creepy to girls, so has never managed to actually date anyone. He ends up in a dead-end job as an administrative assistant at an insurance company, and spends his evenings alone in his apartment reading Civil War history books.

Also, free trade coffee is bullshit.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: December 16th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I don't read those stories. :)
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: December 16th, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Me neither, but somehow I hear them all the time nevertheless.
mathhobbit From: mathhobbit Date: December 15th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Go you! I've always wanted to do this to smokers, but I'd have to pick up used cigarette buts to do so.
dcltdw From: dcltdw Date: December 15th, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
... There are people like this in the world?

On my planet?!?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: December 15th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
It is rare that I encounter someone whose personal world is nicer than mine is! :)
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: December 16th, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Either you're just screwing with us, or I want to live in your bubble.
probabilistic From: probabilistic Date: December 15th, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
This man should visit Singapore.
chanaleh From: chanaleh Date: December 15th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
You have way more patience than I. I always have the impulse to yell after them "Don't drop your trash on the ground, asshole!", and then stifle it and don't say anything at all. I think your approach is commendable.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: December 15th, 2011 05:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I almost never do anything immediately - my reaction to anything that discomfits me is to freeze rather than attack. But the idea of waiting five minutes and then shouting "Don't drop your trash on the ground, asshole!" is kind of hilarious to imagine, though, as then I become the Random Crazy Shouty person. :)

(Twenty years (oh my god, it really has been almost twenty years...) of working in customer support has given me lots of practice towards being polite to difficult people. Though it does not stop me from ranting about them to mjperson at lunch. :) )
chanaleh From: chanaleh Date: December 15th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Au contraire, ranting at lunch is what keeps you able to be polite when you get back to your desk!
merastra From: merastra Date: December 15th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Srsly? Where do such blatantly inconsiderate people like that come from?

I wouldn't have had the presence of mind or guts to do what you did, much less with that kind of politeness. Go you!
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: December 15th, 2011 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Go you, and fie on him.
ringrose From: ringrose Date: December 15th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
If I were feeling confrontational, I'd ask "Who cleans up after you at home?"
baronet From: baronet Date: December 15th, 2011 09:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Three thoughts

1: Thank you.

2: I like ringrose's suggestion for what to say if the girl friend hadn't stepped in. It highlights the selfishness of his behavior without name calling.

3: While you wonder if he talked her into dropping it on the floor, I wonder what argument he could have used. "Why don't you just drop that on the floor that way you don't have to cross all the way over to that trash can?" works much better inside your own head than it does out loud. Laziness is so much less noble in the second person than it is in the first person.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: December 15th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Three thoughts

2. Escalating is always kind of emotionally tempting, but I think it ends up being tactically poor, because he's not likely to behave *more* reasonably if I make him angry. It may depend on whether my game goal is to convince the crowd that I'm the one who's right, or get him to throw away his trash. On the other hand, ringrose is more naturally intimidating than I am, so he may be better able to get results from angry confrontation than I am.

3. I was expecting it would be something like "Okay, she's gone, sorry about that, here, give me that back". Then he could drop it again. Dunno, it's hard for me to construct a very solid simulation of someone who wants that badly to drop his paper on the floor. :)
marcusmarcusrc From: marcusmarcusrc Date: December 15th, 2011 09:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
So, when I was a kid my parents apparently had to stop me from going up to strangers and telling them to pick up their trash... sometimes, said strangers being big, intimidating, and covered with tattoos...
tallou From: tallou Date: December 16th, 2011 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I love this image.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: December 16th, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Isn't that basically what you do for a living now?
28 comments or Leave a comment