Monday, June 23, 2008

A polite conversation?

When visiting Boulder, Colorado, while my husband was attending a conference, I walked down Pearl Street to a little convenience store called Lolita’s to buy sunscreen and some bottled spring water. There were two tables outside the store, and there were two men sitting at one of them, so I sat at the other to apply my sunscreen and drink my water.

The two men looked to be maybe in their mid-30s or early 40s. Soon two younger men, maybe in their early 20s, came along; they greeted the seated men as though they had met before but did not really know each other well. There was some talk about “last night” as though they had all perhaps been out at the same local bar. Then one of the 20-somethings said to one of the seated men, “By the way, you know, it’s really bad etiquette to use your speaker phone in the bar.”

The seated man said, in a quiet, calm voice, “Oh, really? Well, you know, I don’t really give a f**k what you think.”

The other one continued in an equally calm, polite-sounding tone, “I just thought I should let you know, man, that it’s not good etiquette.”

“Well, I’m sorry if I offended you man, but I really don’t give a f**k.”

This continued for a few minutes, with neither man raising his voice or betraying any anger in his tone, and with the seated man repeatedly using the f-word. Finally, the younger man departed, saying “God bless you, man,” as he walked away.

The seated man talked to his friend for some time after this, saying that he thought the younger man must be very priviledged and accustomed to telling other people what to do and how to behave -- with frequent use of the f-word -- and then said that he was known to be a nice person, that he knew several influential and wealthy people in town, that he was 42-f-ing years old and therefore deserving of respect. He also said that he grew up in the Bronx, had attended UCLA, and that he bet the younger man had never been in a knife fight or pulled a gun on anyone. He said that he knew people who would respond violently to the younger man’s correction, and that such a response would serve as a valuable lesson to the young man -- all the while repeating that he did’t give a f**k what the guy thought. But at no point did he raise his voice or betray through his tone the extent that he was, by his words, obviously offended.

Although I found the ironic diatribe somewhat entertaining, I decided to leave while he was still talking about it because I figured he might eventually say to me, “What the f**k are you looking at?” and I didn’t think I wanted to engage in that conversation.

But he never raised his voice.


  1. That was an amazing encounter Sharon-takes all kinds- the not raising of voices was very creepy in a way course yelling would have been unpleasant as well. Glad you left.

  2. Bizarre. I liked your exit, good idea. And of course, if he truly didn't give a f*, then why did he even have to respond to the younger man, and then go on about it to his friend after the guy left? Methinks the stinker doth protest too much.


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