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Ungrateful Ad Nauseam

Some years ago I had joined my son’s class (10-12 year olds) for a hike on day two of a three day school camp. Knowing I planned to return home after the hike, I was asked by a teacher if I would take a student with me who had been feeling unwell. She really wanted to go home and my helping out would save her Mum making the long trip to the mountain area. The school community was a small rural one, the girl (we’ll call Fay) lived 1km from us, she knew me from helping in the classroom and was glad to be going with me.

All good. Well, not quite..on the way home she projectile vomited in the back seat of my car (and the front seat etc..). Ok, so I’m a Mum…I cleaned her up and we carried on the journey. The school had informed her Mum (we’ll call her Clair) we were on our way.

On arriving at her home, Clair met us and what ensued is enshrined in my memory as an example of extremely bad manners.

I said hello and let her know her daughter had been sick in the car during the drive home. Clair’s manner was standoffish and her total communication with me was hello and goodbye, whilst fussing over Fay, who had a suspected tummy bug, not a serious illness.

I recall feeling something was missing, but said goodbye and drove home to the onerous task of scrubbing out someone else’s child’s vomit from my car’s interior…yeech.

While doing so, I had time to realize what had been missing were the words “thank you” and “sorry”and I had a gut feeling I’d been on the receiving end of something unpleasant (Clair’s attitude) and was totally puzzled as to why.

Although ours was a small rural community, Clair and I had never really met, although our kids were in the same class, and we knew where the other lived.

Some background- My Family and I had moved to the area 5 years earlier. I was involved with the school and learnt the community was a mix of newer residents and long term families. I was a friendly, busy young Mum. I had noticed Clair didn’t return friendly waves (mine) and she hadn’t been welcoming in any way at school events, and… I cringe at my naivete now ( but I was young -my son was my eldest, Fay was her youngest and Clair was twenty years my senior )and my friendly nature meant I really didn’t take such things personally . Ignorance can be bliss (but only for so long) End of background.

Now, I hadn’t expected a brass band welcome and effusive gratitude when delivering her daughter home, just normal, everyday politeness. I am sure anyone would. I am also sure if it had been my child someone had helped in such a situation, it would have gone like this;

“Thank you so much for bringing Johnny home and for saving me the two hour round trip to the mountain.”

“I’m so sorry for the mess. Please let me drive you home (1km) Leave your car here so I can clean it for you, or have it professionally valeted. It’s the very least I can do!”

And I probably would have baked a cake a few days later and dropped it off, as a personal gesture of thanks. (Just something I learnt from my Mum- thanks Mum!)

When I explained how puzzled I was by Clair’s demeanor, to someone who knew her very well -a long term resident Mrs D (who btw had always been smiling and friendly to me) she enlightened me, “Oh, that’s just the way Clair is!” Me- “Really?” and “Why?”

This was to be my lesson 101 in recognition of not just a Special Snowflake but a SSSS- Supremely Superior Special Snowflake.

You see Clair had married into a family who had lived in the area for five generations. In Clair’s eyes (and her family’s)this was grounds to be regarded very Specially and certainly a Whole Stratosphere above others. Realizing that I was unfamiliar with such attitudes, to aid my understanding Mrs D added that as a girl Clair won a local sports cup! Her specialness knew no bounds. It seems even prior to marriage, the seed to Clair’s SSSS attitude were sprouted!

Knowing Clair so well, Mrs D said she would have been Mortified- Completely out of her Comfort Zone- to find herself in a situation (that day- or indeed any) where thanks, graciousness and consideration were required from her, because she really did not do these things! and certainly not towards anyone she considered beneath her! Me- “Really?” I’d had no idea! It seemed Clair had always looked down on lowly newcomers, who were not from wealthy land owning families or movers in prestigious sports club circles. The only people impressed by Clair were others like her. Now Mrs D had heard from Clair Fay had been brought home early from camp and that I “obviously did not know Who She Was!! It bothered her greatly when anyone did not understand and acknowledge her status in the community!! I was then and remain flummoxed by this specialness and any omission on my part! (perhaps a pamphlet to new arrivals to the area wouldv’e been handy?)

This experience was a huge eye-opener to me, as I was raised in a large family and taught no-one person is better than another and respect is earned (thanks again Mum) I was genuinely gobsmacked that people with hugely inflated egos and sense of entitlement can exist, certainly past kindergarten age and into adulthood, while raising children of their own!

In the years since, I have of course encountered many Special Snowflakes of varying forms and degrees. I remain Unimpressed by their Specialness. Simple everyday SS’s appear everywhere. Encounters with Supremely Superior Special Snowflakes, in Clair’s league have thankfully been more rare.

However exist they do! Most people will encounter such extreme SSSS behaviour at least once in their lifetime, and such superiority lauded over others, is hugely insulting to anyone on the receiving end.

Surely an appropriate and effective response is called for, especially if their seriously bad manners have always gone unchallenged. This could result in a weakening of the SSSS gene!

In my case years ago, Clair’s rudeness at the time went over my (naïve) head! However I am sure if I experienced and identified such an extreme case of bad manners today, it would go like this and I would feel just fine about my response!

Me- “Gosh..what was that? (to the sound of silence) Thankyou?? Oh that’s quite alright! Anyone would do the same! (I’m darned sure Clair would not have for my child!!)

“I’ll put the bill for my car to be valeted in the post”

“Bye now” 0905-12

I think you will go through life frustrated if you expect overt expressions of gratitude for acts of kindness.   You assisted the child more so than the mother.  The definition of a hero is someone who does the right thing without thinking they are owed appreciation or honor.  Let it go.

{ 70 comments… add one }
  • Rebecca September 20, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Yes, I’ve also witnessed the small community phenomenon of long-time residents feeling that only they are entitled to opinions on matters that affect all who live there. They have their own internet forum and you should see the hostility expressed to any newcomer who comes along and suggests that there might actually be a better or more efficient way to do something (ie something that affects everyone, ie schools, parking, road use, libraries, things that everyone pays tax for). You just want to shake these people and tell them to open their eyes to how the rest of the world thinks. Somebody told me they’d lived there 10 years and she was still considered a newcomer.

    If what Mrs. D. says is true, “She came over here and didn’t know who I was!!” is actually pretty funny. The OP did Claire a huge favour, and all Claire can focus on is that this (sniff) NEWcomer didn’t even know who I was!

  • Emmy September 20, 2012, 8:17 pm

    I am with Margaret and am surprised how many people think vomit in the car is just par for the course with taking the child home. Should she have just said she didn’t want to take the child home and have the mother go fetch her instead? When your child accidentally breaks or damages something, you offer to pay or fix it. I don’t see why this case would be any different. The OP saved Claire a long trip, the very least Clair could if she was a decent person would be to say thanks and offer to pay for the damages.

    I do think the OP made some assumptions about Claire based on gossip. Claire sounds unfriendly, ungrateful, and rude, but I did not see how she was an SS. I could also forgive Claire for being very concerned about her child and temporarily losing her manners. However, there is no excuse to not seek out the OP and thank her another time.

  • hakayama September 20, 2012, 8:38 pm

    The lack of even a simple thank you is more forgivable than not cleaning up the puke.
    If the upholstery is fabric with a nap,triple pox on the SSSS. 😉
    Also, it’s “ad nauseAm”.

  • gramma dishes September 20, 2012, 8:47 pm

    OP ~~ It seems to me that a lot of people are coming down on you today. I’m surprised at that. I don’t agree with them. I’ve actually known people like Claire in my lifetime. They consider themselves in essence a form of royalty. Everyone else is lesser and is thought of as their own personal “servant” and should feel darned happy to do things for them! Her not even thanking you for bringing her child home and her not apologizing for the mess and smell left in your car is frankly unimaginably rude.

    Eventually Claire will run out of people willing to do her bidding and bail her out. I don’t care a diddly about Claire. I do however care about her child. Eventually this child is going to be left out of everything and sadly she’s not going to have a clue why that is. She has no one to model appropriate behavior for her, so she’ll likely grow up to be just like her aloof mother — except it won’t work in another place or another time with other people. Poor little girl! She’s going to have a rough row to hoe.

  • ItsyBitsy September 20, 2012, 11:28 pm

    It’s true that virtue is its own reward but we’re not all saints. Regardless of the small town pecking order and who said what, Clair should have thanked the OP for bringing her sick child home and it would have been a nice gesture to have at least offered to pay to have the car cleaned.

    Several commentators have taken the OP to task for expecting Clair to have thanked her on receipt of the child but how much concentration and effort does a quick, “thank you” take, even as you hustle said child off to the doctor’s/bed? More to the point, there was no excuse not to thank her in some way the next day.

  • NicoleK September 21, 2012, 2:27 am

    OK, but even if she thinks of herself as the Lady and you as the Servant… who the heck doesn’t thank their servants?

    To those of you who have domestic help, are there any among you who don’t thank your cleaning lady/nanny/gardener for their help? Who wouldn’t be horrified if your kid puked in their car?

    The grand lady doesn’t quite grasp the whole concept that with Noblesse comes Oblige.

  • Hollanda September 21, 2012, 4:17 am

    RedDevil, the beginning of the OP simply said the girl had been “feeling unwell”, it doesn’t say necessarily how. For example, she could have had a bad headache, or thought she was getting a migraine. Projectile vomiting is different to usual vomiting – it can travel a very long way and cover a lot of distance. And there is usually little or no warning. So in that case, I don’t think there would have been time to get a bag or bucket for the trip home.

    I 100% agree with your first paragraph, I don’t think I would like to eat a cake under those circumstances either.

    Re: the gossiping…the OP didn’t say she joined in with the gossiping. She merely repeated what someone else said. Whilst this is almost as bad as gossiping oneself (perpetuating rumours), it is not quite the same thing and maybe she just didn’t know how to respond at the time. That said, I did wonder why the background came after the original story and why it was longer than the story of what actually happened…

  • Margo September 21, 2012, 5:30 am

    I thinkthe problem is that all OP knows for herself of Clair was that Clair was dtandoffish and didn’t say thank you. This was clearly rude, but there may be reasonas, such as being distracted, being shy etc. TYhat doesn;t excuse her for not have called or sent a note later to thank OP, of course.

    However, the allegation that Clair thinks of herself as better than other propel etc all came from a 3rd party – there was nothing in OPs story to say tht OP had encountered any other behaviour or comments from Clair to support this.

    Of course, there are people who have a (generally unwarrented) idea of their own importance / superiorty, and this can be particualrly marked in small communities,but it’s not clear to me from OP’s story that she had anything other than another person’s gossip to believe that that was Clair’s viewpoint.

    (I grew up in a small village. We moved there when I was 10, and my parents moved away after over 15 years. We were ‘incomers’. Having lived there for 10, 20 or 25 years really isn’t very long compared with people who have lived there 6- or 70 years and whose family have llived there for 400 years!
    However, where I lived, it really wasn’t a snobbish thing on the part of long standing residents – It was more a case of having a lot of experience and shared history.
    I don’t ever recall being deliberately excluded or looked down on. But then we did tend to join things, and join in with things, rather than opposing them aor seeking immediately to run them.
    The people who did get explicitly talked of as ‘incomers’ or found it difficult to get into longer standing social groups etc were people who moved in an immediately tried to make big changes, and who were rude and tactless or otherwide unpleasant.
    (I can think of one couple who were forever complaining that they were ‘excluded’ becuase they were ‘incomers’, and that specific individuals were snobs and thought they were better than the incomers because they’d lived there so long. This couple had moved to the village, immediately started demanding that some very longstanding arrangments were changed (for instance, they wanted the church to change the times of Sunday services because they didn’t want their guests to have to get up early and move their cars, if they had parked overnight in the Church’s parking spaces, they also, having bought a house which was immediately next door to the primary school, complained about the noise made when the childrne were in the playground, and about the number of people who would drive and park on the public road near their house, when picking up and dropping of their children at school ) they used to make lots of derogatory comments about people’s appearance, accents etc. As many of the residents were related to one another these comments often ended up being made to someone who was related to the person being mocked or cristisised, so of course caused massive offence. This particualr couple were the worst offenders, but there were others.

    I guess what I’m saying is that there are often 2 sidesto that kind of story…

  • Chocobo September 21, 2012, 8:20 am

    Clair should have at least said thank you for the ride home and the inconvenience, but the last half of this entry is just plain gossip. It has nothing to do with manners, or Clair’s behavior.

  • Cat September 21, 2012, 9:37 am

    Syd: Re: the origin of the word “snob”. You are correct in that some websites will tell you that “snob” originally meant a shoemaker or his apprentice, but that it evolved into its current meaning of someone who believes themselves to be equal to nobility without the good manners one expects of one of noble birth about the 19th century.
    Other websites will tell you that it is an abbreviation for the Latin sine nobilitate, abbreviated as S.Nob. and that it began to be used when Cambridge Univerity in England ceased educating only the sons of the nobility and began allowing the lower classes to enter in the 17th century.
    Social class is far more important in England than it is here in the United States. I can recall a lady who once taught Princess Anne at her riding academy saying that the problem with English universities was that they admitted any intelligent person when they should educate only the upper classes. We Americans nearly fell over as it is not part of our cultural heritage to think along those line.
    She went on to say that one should remain in the station of life into which one was born: if your father was a butcher, you should also be a butcher. Again, this is not what we teach our children to believe in this country. She was a product of her training and of her social class. She had made her debute at the Court of St. James and was unfailingly kind; she just was unaware of the American approach to social class.
    We are the home of the great middle class. Few Americans feel they are lower class and social mobility is the rule for most of us. What daddy did does not rule our ambitions.
    However the term originated, I am partial to the Latin explanation. It certainly fits this situation better than talking about shoemakers.

  • Lapis Lazuli September 21, 2012, 11:52 am

    I’m a bit surprised at the negative comments towards the OP. Yes, the OP and Mrs. D should not have gossiped, but who among has gossiped at some point in their life? Possibly about new or unfriendly neighbor? The OP had tried to be friendly to Claire (“I had noticed Clair didn’t return friendly waves (mine) and she hadn’t been welcoming in any way at school events”) and it appeared that Clair had no interest in OP, until OP could do something to help her.

    OP did Clair a major favor. If OP had declined to bring the daughter home, Clair would have to drive the several hours to get to her sick daughter and then drive several hours back with a sick child. The child may have projectile vomited in Clair’s car. I can understand Clair momentarily forgetting her manners, being worried about her child and wanting to get them to bed or the doctor. After a few days, when the child was better, she could have phoned or written a note to express her thanks.

    Speaking of the vomiting- I am *assuming* (forgive me) that many of you are moms and dads and have dealt with cleaning up your child’s vomit. Let’s face reality; it’s a part of life but it is still nasty. When you have to clean up another person’s child’s vomit without any thanks, now or later, it makes it all the more arduous a task. It would have been nice if OP had thought to bring a bucket/ bag, but if it’s projectile vomiting, the bucket / bag is not going to help too much in the close confines of a vehicle. Even with the good cleaning many of us moms and dads can do on such a mess, it could still smell for a while. Getting in a hot car at the end of a long work day, that still smells of vomit several weeks later, it quite unpleasant. Both of my boys have vomited in my car. I cleaned as much of it up as I could but I also paid to have it professionally cleaned. Pros have access to cleaning agents and machines that I do not.

  • Angel September 21, 2012, 12:10 pm

    I read OP and I think a lot of this thread is being a little hard on her. While I think it’s over the top to expect that Clair would have the OP’s car cleaned THAT VERY SAME DAY, it is not over the top to expect Clair to at least say a simple “thank you.” How hard is that? Apparently very hard for some people.

    I am one of those shy people and some might say a little aloof especially when I meet new people. I do however, try to be civil at all times even to people I don’t like or feel comfortable with. And it’s not because I think I’m better than everybody and it’s not because my parents raised me as one of those “special snowflakes” it’s because I have had a lot of bad experiences early on in my life and I don’t trust easily. To me trust and respect are things that need to be earned. That being said, I am appalled that Clair did not say thank you–I don’t care how much confusion is going on at the time, I would have expressed my gratefulness at the time and been glad that there was a person there like the OP to take my child home. To me, a person who volunteers to drive a sick child home is someone worthy of the courtesy of a “thank you.” There are not enough people like this out there and kudos to the OP for being a person like this!

    OP, it seems as though you probably do things like this often enough to know, not everyone is going to be grateful for the things that you do or even say thank you. Having children has definitely taught me this LOL. I would chalk it up to a lesson learned and probably not be too quick to do this person a favor in the future. But that’s just me 🙂

  • Fiona September 21, 2012, 12:15 pm

    I suspect Mrs. D was deliberately setting up you and Clair in conflict with each other. Some people gain a sick thrill when they manipulate others into a fight. They they break out the popcorn and watch. I had a co-worker who would do something similar. She would approach me and say “Julie said a bad thing about you” and then go to Julie and claim that I’d said something mean about Julie. I quickly learned to verify this person’s “news” with a trusted third party.

    Mrs. D was probably hoping you would march over and confront Claire, and you were smart not to play along. It makes me sad that some people misuse their skills and energy to deliberately stir up drama and provoke more hurt feelings.

  • EireCat September 22, 2012, 3:20 am

    You seem like a very nasty, unhappy person. The kind of person who gets faintly slighted and then has to gather around a whole bunch of reasons to feel vindicated like a dragon clutching at coins. I seriously hope that any one of the many people I have probably made an etiquette stumble with when I was flustered and worried and thus had not, properly and to their cake-baking standards, thanked or apologized to at that perfect expected point in time won’t be quite that petty. I hope that they’re at least forgiving enough that they don’t feel the need to not only gossip about the event around town and form deep-based and ill-advised opinions about the matter, but also to write in to a highly populated website about it to further lick their self imposed wounds. That would be really embarrassing and I would be mortified. I mean, I wouldn’t do that to someone else. I’d just take it on the chin and let it go with knowledge of at least one child brought home safe and one good deed done. I was raised better than that after all. Thanks Mum!!!

  • PolitePolice September 22, 2012, 7:10 am

    Did OP render a kindness in bringing Claire’s child home? Undoubtedly.
    Was Claire rude for withholding thanks, not offering to make some sort of effort to have OP’s car cleaned, and superior attitutude? Most definitely.

    What stood out to me, though, was the post-incident gossiping. OP, the ‘kindly’ Mrs. D, Claire…all were guilty of talking about someone else. IMO this is a community that is comprised of either the entitled or the outsiders–both sides talk about the other to make themselves feel they are the ‘better person’.

  • Brian Katcher September 23, 2012, 11:37 am

    I was with you until you started ranting about your community’s social structure. She was rude as heck, but you’re making a soap opera out of it.

  • Katie2 September 23, 2012, 3:40 pm

    If someone’s kid vomited over my car and I wasn’t profusely thanked for taking care of them, you bet I’d be ‘gossiping’ about them. Appalling behaviour. Where I come from, it’s considered normal manners to take care of your own (family’s) vomit. I can totally understand why the OP feels the way she does.

  • Echo September 23, 2012, 7:38 pm

    I get a little annoyed when MGM productions are made from intangible details – gossip from a third party, a perceived attitude, imagined slights. Take all that away and what have you got? A woman who didn’t say thank you to the woman who delivered her sick child. Rude, sure, what not really worthy of the outrage generated in this post.

  • Syd September 24, 2012, 10:56 am

    @Cat: The Latin derivation seems far too neat to me, like many folk etymologies. I am wary of any etymology which includes abbreviations or initials (Port Out Starboard Home etc.) as they are rarely, if ever, reliable. The shoemaker version is twistier and makes less ‘sense’ on the surface, but rings more true because of it; words rarely have a direct line of descent from a single coinage, and it’s even odder for a regional or in-group (Cambridge students) colloquialism to retain a single meaning over centuries. The references I’m getting state that the modern sense was popularised by Thackeray, which is plenty of time for it to morph from a seemingly unrelated word. In any case, basing an argument on a popular etymology is shaky, as the word itself does not prove anything.

    Incidentally, it’s not ‘here in the United States’ for me. I am English, and working-class by background and profession. Your riding school example would have been just as outrageous to me- it is not part of my cultural heritage to think that way either, I was not ‘taught’ it as a child and if I reproduce, I won’t be infecting my offspring with it. I would probably not have been laughing though because I find that form of classism seriously worrying and not very funny.

    However I do not agree that the US is a classless or all-middle-class society, whether in regard to one’s self-image or in the plainer terms of ‘what daddy did’. It’s not what we have in Britain, but it’s there- a difference in kind rather than degree, perhaps. Fluid social mobility is a good ideal, but that has certainly not been my experience nor that of the Americans I know.

    I can’t really write a simple summation of modern British class structure and how it relates to the stereotypical one, but I assure you that your impression is a little oversimplified, if not outdated. However, I do recall you making some previous comments on British society, which provoked some discussion- not a one of us can cook, we put hats on eggs and are all obsessed with the Queen. Please consider updating either your jokes- if that wasn’t meant seriously- or your view of the UK.

  • Sherry November 10, 2012, 12:15 pm

    Basing your opinion on Claire because of some nasty juicy gossip you heard about her seems to be as impolite as what she did. She owed you a thank you and the offer of paying to have the car cleaned, and it was rude of her not to do so. For you to carry the tale and then engage in a gabfest about her with someone else was every bit as rude.

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