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.