I'm joining the entire Red Room community in writing a short blog post on this week's topic: "Bad Manners." We'll choose at least one of these blogs to be featured on Red Room's homepage next week, and we'll choose three blog writers to receive free books from Red Room Authors. Submit your blog entry by Friday at 10:30 a.m. PDT [GMT-0700] for consideration. Be sure to tag the entry with the keyword term "bad manners” so we can find it.
I had lived in my building for about two weeks before I met the building's self-appointed etiquette enforcer, "Frank" (I've changed his name because that is the polite thing to do). One evening, we rode the elevator together to the same floor. He was silent the whole way up; then he stepped off behind me and watched me walk to my door. When I inserted my key, he shouted a gruff "Hey!"
I turned and smiled.
"Hey!" he said again. "Do you live there now?"
"Yes. I moved in a couple of weeks ago."
"Oh yeah?" He squinted at me. "Well. . . . The guy who used to live there was really good looking." Then he looked me up and down with a grimace of distaste and warned, "Don't slam the elevator gate, because everyone on the whole floor can hear it." Then he shambled down the hall.
Frank is a small, frail old man who is nonetheless very menacing. No one in the building is living up to his standards--except maybe my apartment's former tenant, the good-looking one. Maybe that handsome fellow never earned a Post-it on his door saying, "DO YOU THINK YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT. PLEASE CLOSE THE ELEVATOR GATE QUIETLY!!!!"--like the Post-its that get stuck to my door, once or twice a month.
(The thing is, if you close the elevator gate too quietly, it doesn't latch, and the elevator gets stuck: it won't respond to call buttons. When that happens, you will soon find a large piece of paper taped to the inside of the elevator, proclaiming something like "INCONSIDERATE MORONS!!!!! CLOSE THE F***ING GATE!!!!!" [The asterisks are mine].)
He's especially proprietary about the garbage area in the basement. There are two signs above the blue recycling bin. One says, "NO PLASTIC BAGS IN THE RECYCLING BIN." Below that is a sign that says, "CAN'T YOU F***ING READ? NO PLASTIC BAGS IN THE RECYCLING BIN!!!!!" Every time I take down my recycling, I have a moment of panic, wondering whether I have accidentally mixed a plastic bag in with my wine bottles and newspaper, and earned a curse on my door. The newer sign above the composting bin warns us morons that if we "DON'T TIE OUR BAGS TIGHTLY, WE CREATE FRUIT FLIES!!!!!!!" And while I'm not sure that Frank has the cause-and-effect exactly right, I put my compost in the bin of the apartment building next door, just to be safe. I hope they don't mind.
His signs appear in the lobby, too. A new tenant, for instance, thought that the bench in the lobby might be a nice place to leave some old books and issues of The New Yorker for other tenants to take if they so desired. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. "THE LOBBY IS NOT A GARBAGE DUMP! PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE YOUR GARBAGE ON THE BENCH!!!!!" And, by the way, don't leave your newspaper down there overnight, because "YOUR MOTHER DOES NOT LIVE HERE!!!!!!!" Unless she does, of course--the couple on the third floor have a little girl. For her, at least, that sign was not only unpleasantly aggressive but also plainly incorrect.
Frank's signs are a real drag on building morale. And they're so pathetic in their inefficacy that they're almost comical: insults and expletives just don't work to make people behave more thoughtfully toward others. When we are sure he's safely in his apartment, other tenants and I have laughed about them. . . an especially feisty one on a Walgreen's Pharmacy sticky note, for instance ("Time to refill your prescriptions, Frank darling!" we giggled.)
But they make me sad, too--because you can see throught them, right into Frank's world--and what a miserable place it is. It's a world where everyone is his enemy, where all his inconsiderate, moronic neighbors greet him with steely silence and averted eyes, and mock him behind his back.
All because he hates bad manners.
Causes Charles Purdy Supports
San Francisco Food Bank, Gay Men's Health Crisis, Project Open Hand, San Francisco SPCA, Smile Train, National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association...