There’s a reason I’m smiling in that picture

Contributing WriterMay 26, 2014 

This article is not about criminals but about individuals in our society who make life a challenge for the rest of us.

We all know who they are. Some seem to delight in causing problems while others, through no fault of their own, have trouble fitting in. I’ve often thought the penalty for disobedience should somehow be commensurate to the violation, depending on whether or not it was intentional.

Here are just few examples:

When I was a kid in Wyoming, Joe Copley — a crusty old cowboy from my neck of the woods — was stopped for going the wrong way down a one-way street in Cheyenne. That made no sense to Joe.

“I was only goin’ one way!” He carped. No matter; he got the ticket anyway. Joe would come to the city on the average of maybe once a year. A warning would have been enough, and he would probably have gotten by with that had he been the least bit conciliatory.

This one’s different. A while back, while pulling into Albertsons parking lot, the guy in the car ahead of me spotted someone getting into a car that was parked in a prime space.

Apparently deciding the slot was too choice to pass up, he stopped to take it. The problem was, the shopper in the parked car was in no hurry to leave. The guy who wanted the space turned left, blocking both lanes and the intersection.

Now traffic began to pile up behind me, and another car entering the crossing was unable to get through because everything was jammed. I honked in an attempt to persuade him to move on down the way and clear the area. He stuck his arm out the window in a show that he was No. 1, or something like that.

I got out and walked to his car. Politely, I suggested he should move. He rolled the window up without responding. Three other men were in the car, and one in the back nodded in agreement. I thought maybe he’d initiate some action, but no: The jerk got his spot as the rest of us conceded.

Anyway, I thought he should have to spend a couple of days parking cars. That would remind him that he wasn’t in that big of a toot in the first place.

On a similar tack, my wife donates her time as an usher at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts in Tacoma and laments the actions of a few in the audience who persist on doing as they please — like using cellphones or operating recording devices during performances. These devices are distractions or annoyances to the performers as well as other patrons.

She concludes that, for whatever reason, these people think they’re excused from the guidelines that have been laid down for others. It’s not that they don’t know the rules; they do, but continue to disobey the orders until threatened with the loss of their toys.

I’d kick them out of the theater. Word would get around.

There are perhaps lesser indiscretions, like bringing your noisy baby to the restaurant, or the type who won’t let you pass or merge onto the highway. How about the couple who insist on chatting during the movie or the person standing in front of you at the ball game or the person who crowds in front of you while waiting in line?

There are too many examples to mention them all, and although it may seem emasculating, it’s generally best to avoid a confrontation. “Discretion is often the better part of valor,” as the saying goes.

It’s amazing the responses one gets from wearing a smile. Give it a try. People will smile back.

We’ve all at one time or another crossed the parameters of what’s considered acceptable. Being human, we’ll continue to do so, but since most of us are dictated by our consciences, we try to stay the course. The difficulty lies when certain individuals commit discourteous behavior willingly.

It’s unfortunate that they are like this, but it’s probably a good thing. We wouldn’t appreciate nice people if it weren’t for them.

Al Bartlett of Gig Harbor, a retired teacher and farmer, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email him at albert.bartlett@ comcast.net.

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