Monday, November 7, 2011

The Country Is Awash With Rude People


“What’d they say?” Jim asked Fred, yelling across the street through cupped hands. Their road was busy and a steady stream of cars whizzed by.

“They said turn the lights on and leave them on all night,” Fred called back.

“See, I told you they thought we were a bunch of stooges! They think we’re so stupid we have to be told to turn the lights on.”

Their lights had been on for ten minutes and their canals were well lit. Fred stood and looked over the railing into the water. At first he’d been intrigued by their assignment, thinking they might be doing something important, but so far they were batting five hundred; four pairs of jogger/walkers had heeded their warning, but four others had not, and they had been rude. He was used to kids being rude, but adults? Couldn’t they see the city was serious about this?

His mind wandered and he thought about the state of society in general. People were rude now. No one used turn signals anymore, they just drifted into your lane when they felt like it. No one held doors for others and men didn’t give up their seats to women. When he was young, that was automatic. He blamed women’s lib. And the cell phones: he couldn’t have a meal in a restaurant or watch a movie without two or three of them going off. Worst thing was, the idiots took the calls, yapping at their table as if everyone wanted to hear the details of their pathetic lives, or, if they were at the movies, they would rush out of the theater whispering, as if they were neurosurgeons being summoned to perform emergency brain surgery.

The country was awash with rude people.

Fred worked himself into a funk and thought about packing up and going home, or anywhere he wouldn’t have to listen to Jim Waterman complain. Or put up with rude people.

Instead, he lit a cigarette. People of his generation saw a thing through to the end. If a guy said he was going to do something, he put in his time and finished. He didn’t leave the ballgame in the eighth inning to beat the traffic, he waited until the last pitch was thrown.

He puffed and heard Jim yell, “I can smell your stinky stick all the way over here, Reese!”

Fred wished he had brought earplugs, then remembered he had. Gladys made him tote one of those ridiculous kits around wherever he went: Band-Aids and tweezers and gauze and disinfectant and a little tin of Tylenol and ... yes! Ear plugs.

He popped them in his ears when he was sure Jim wasn’t looking.

He smiled and puffed. Let the fool talk all he wanted.


This is a scene from my horror novel, CANALS. Fred Reese and Jim Waterman are two senior police volunteers, part of the "geezer squad" called on by Captain Bozeman to keep people away from the canals, where a nasty monster was biting and eating people. As you read, they were batting five hundred, which, for you non-sports people, means they only succeeded fifty percent of the time.

Fred has a lot of time to think, and because of his unpleasant partner, Jim, his mind drifts to the sad state of things in the country.

I admit there's some of me in this scene. I'm not a geezer (except to my teenage daughters) and I don't smoke, but I loathe rude cell phone users, which is almost every cell phone user, and I hold disdain for bad drivers. Quite frequently, the two are the same.

Adding to the list of rude people I dislike, which may well show up in my writing, are:

People who leave their shopping cart in the middle of the isle while they comparison-shop brands of canned green beans. What's the difference between a $.79 and a $.89 can of beans, other than ten cents? I don't know but I'll have the answer in twenty minutes. Why don't you use the other isle; can't you see I'm busy?

People who drive railcar-sized vehicles they pull in front of you at the gas station as you pump the final gallon into your tank. They're so big you can't get around them and so have to wait fifteen minutes while they pump forty gallons. Your revenge? It cost them $130 to fill their tank.

People who have no idea what they want, even after standing in line for ten minutes. This happened at the ticket counter of a local arts center. A woman made the cashier explain every show and exactly where every seat was located, while we waited behind her. The cashier called another lady out to help us, and we had to move the rude lady's purse because she'd left it front of the second register.

People who let their children, even encourage, yell and scream and jump on the furniture in your doctor's office reception room. No explanation is needed.

A little bit of myself crept into my second novel, THE MIGHTY T, too. How could it not?