So I've been thinking about yesterday, at the Pancake House, pre-coffee freak out, and about how there was this table in front of me, with this couple who had two middle school/teenage kids... and I couldn't help but think this is just like a scene from Magnolia. The wife looked very... depressed. She looked like Frances Conroy in Six Feet Under... no one was saying a word, and the husband...He looked happy he was getting chocolate chip pancakes on a Sunday morning.
At some point, the husband reached for the syrup (again) and a dollar fell from his pocket onto the floor. I saw it, then looked at 3 other people sitting closer to him than I was...who saw it, and I waited for someone to do the right thing. They did nothing. They all glanced at the dollar on the floor, and went back to eating their pancakes... So I got up, walked over, picked it up and tried to hand it to the husband who was so out of it (I blame the chocolate chip pancakes) that he didn't even look up at me. He just grabbed the bill and put it under his glass of OJ. Meanwhile, his wife (let's call her Ruth...), stared at me like I was some kind of alien and without taking her eyes off of me said, "Bill...Bill...that girl... she's trying to tell you something!" The daughter, who was wearing more eyeliner than I was (and I wear a lot of eyeliner) was looking rather amused by the entire situation, and kind of had this shit eating grin on her face that made me realize how uncomfortable I probably made people in high school when I used to wear that same exact shit eating grin on my face... and the son (who clearly takes after his father) glanced up at me once and then asked his dad to pass him the syrup. So I stood there awkwardly for point two seconds, and said, "okay, well enjoy breakfast." But the entire time I'm thinking, "well..hell I should have just kept the damn dollar..."
It made me think about manners... and this funny conversation I had when I was a sophomore in high school...
I should tell you first that I've gone to three high schools in my life...and this story happened while attending high school #2...an art school for talented assholes like me that were too arrogant to appreciate the fact that despite the shitty general education we were getting, the art classes were actually pretty good.
Anyway, I met this girl there...she was so cool in all the ways I wasn't. She wore black pea coats, her mother (who was divorced I believe) had been a prima ballerina for the NYC ballet and had graced the cover of Vogue in her hey. They lived in a row house that was filled with art books, and old vintage posters, and on weekends hung out with Robert Duvall at his ranch... and the girl, (we will call her Maggie), had a bedroom that made me feel like an infant.
For one thing, while all my friends and I had been collecting stickers and reading Seventeen, this chick was collecting vintage dresses... and reading ee cummings. She had a collection of dresses the Met would envy and she was particularly fond of dresses from the 20's and 30's.
Maggie used to smoke Marlboro Lights. Her brother had introduced her to cigarettes while he was fucking around in Paris for a year... and she had grown fond of the idea that smoking was a culture in and of itself. We went to the boardwalk once, by the torpedo factory, and got cheap Chinese food and sat out by the water, and she handed me a cigarette... I told her I really don't smoke... and she told me smoking was sexy and that the French do it all the time,...and well why wouldn't we want to imitate the French? After all they are tres chic and we are tres stupid for being culture less Americans.
I mean... this was the girl that gave me my first espresso which I turned into an Americano by accident because I couldn't figure out what the hell I was supposed to do with a shot of coffee...and couldn't fathom just drinking it as it was... so I added like 2 cups of milk and a shit load of sugar and pretended I thought the experience was so great... she thought it was hilarious..."First espresso?" She said...and I in turn felt like a royal asshole. But like any teenager, desperately trying to fit in and feel cool, I took the damn cigarette and smoked it. And when I was halfway finished, Maggie said:
Maggie: Just remember... smoking has it's own culture. There is such a thing as smoking etiquette.
Me: Like what do you mean?
Maggie: Like...when someone comes up to you and says, "Can I bum a cigarette?" You should always say yes. Even if it's your last one because... it's like a code. You do it once, and fortune will smile upon you one day, when you're in need of one... Plus Karma is a bitch.
Me: Uh... okay. (blowing smoke <---her not me)
At the time I remember thinking... "maybe when I'm 40, I'll get what the f**k she's talking about..." but I think what she was talking about...was manners... and it had little to do with smoking, and more to do with the fact that people are dicks. She just said it much more eloquently than I ever would. She also masked it with some "smoking culture" bullshit... and while I agree...you should share, I'm really actually quite bad at sharing. I hate sharing actually but for the record, was always generous with my cigarettes when I smoked... In fact, you'll be happy to know, that pack of cigarettes in the center console of my car... don't have them anymore because I gave them away... poor guy...old cigarettes are disgusting, but I did warn him they were probably skanky. He took them anyway...
Whatever. The bottom line is... I do believe in good manners, and giving people their money if they do in-fact drop it on the floor of a pancake house and are too busy wolfing down chocolate chip pancakes to be none the wiser... and even if I say I should have kept the dollar,... I wouldn't. My parents may have raised an ex-smoking a-hole but they didn't raise a fool...