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Those little "treasures" we all would love to bury

2002 Archive

2003 Archive

Before I start, understand I have nothing against French people. But honestly, some of them really take the biscuit. Maybe this is why the English have been intermittently at war with them for the past few hundred years.

I was in London and I decided to go to some of the theatres to see some shows. I saw We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre - fine, no problem there. I also had a ticket to go and see Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre. I was really looking forward to this performance as I'm a big fan of both the book of the musical.

My ticket wasn't a bad one - it was on the balcony and quite high up, but it was central and totally unobstructed. I bought a program and a T-shirt and memorized my seat location so I could nip into the toilets to change my T-shirt to the Les Miserables one. When I came back, there was a French family sitting next to me - and they were the ones who took the biscuit. First of all, I asked the father the time. OK, he was French, but I reasoned he must understand some basic English if he'd managed to get theatre tickets in London. He totally ignored me, even though I was being purposely very polite. I thought "Oh, well," and asked one of the attendants instead, which is what I should have done in the first place.

THEN I discovered his daughter, who must have been at least five years old or so, was sitting in my seat. I told him that his daughter to move. Reasonable request? No, not to him. He stared at me as if I was a lugworm, and turned to his daughter and asked her to move. She started staring at me with malevolent eyes, and didn't move. It took at least five minutes for her father to get her to move too (and he was treating her as if she had the right to run amok in the theatre and I was in the wrong), and by that time the lights had gone down and the orchestra was starting the overture.

I suppose this behavior wasn't too bad - rude, but not very - so I forgot it and settled down to enjoy the show. I discovered that all the people around me were French. Like I said, I have nothing against French people, but they were all so damn rude... First of all the two teenage girls on my right read a guidebook all through the first act, and discussed what they were going to do the next day in very loud voices, right in my ear. On the other side of me, the rude family started talking in French - very loudly too - and their malevolent daughter started wailing and having a mini-tantrum. As if that wasn't distracting enough, another French family in front of me were crunching popcorn and slurping drinks, and the mother and father - who must have been at least 40 - were kissing passionately like teenagers in a cinema. All that would be bad enough in a cinema, but during a musical with live performers, for goodness sake?

I got increasingly ratty during the first half, and although I was enjoying the show, I spent half the time whispering 'Shut up!' under my breath. At the interval, I admit I was a little rude. I turned to the father of the rude family and said, politely but through my teeth, "Do you think you could be quiet during the second half, please?" Hopefully that was reasonable - at least, it worked, largely. It did on the guidebook girls too.

The family in front of me stayed just as impolite. In fact - they got worse. The father, who was sitting in front of me, leaned forward, blocking my view of the stage. I had to lean forward even further to see the performers. His children kept on creaking the seats. My patience was starting to wear very thin.

THEN it got worse. A lot of people happen to die during the second act of Les Miserables, and every time someone died, both his daughters starting crying loudly. I was nearly in tears by this time - not because of the 'dead' characters, but because the people around me were driving me crazy. To be fair, I found out that one of his daughters must have been ill because she threw up hugely about halfway through the second act - over all the people in the row in front of her (the parents-kissing-passionately family). That got rid of both those families, so I was left in relative peace, apart from the vomit smell wafting in my direction.

Now all of this doesn't sound as horrible as some of the other stories, but it wasn't that it was so rude to me and the other quiet members of the audience as it was rude to the performers (who were very talented and professional, by the way). Hopefully I'll never experience it again.

Kids 0824-03

Just a couple of days ago, I had an incident at school that I felt needed immortalizing. Maybe you could add a new section? "School rage", or something like that? Anyway, on with the story.

I go to DeVry Institute of Technology, for starters, so this isn’t kids. We’re all adults. Now, in one of the classes I was taking, the teacher doesn’t bother to tell us when the tests are coming up. We’re supposed to check the outline. Okay, but she hadn’t told me that, so I assumed like most professors, she’d tell us the class before that we’re having a test next class. So I came in to a quiz unprepared, but still got 26 out of 30. Go me!

Where it gets interesting is twenty minutes into the test. That’s when I finished, and was putting my scantron sheet into the pile, when another guy walks in and starts to take one. The Professor stops him, of course. I wasn’t the first one to finish, and no one can start taking the test after other people have left! The guy starts fussing about it, saying how she shouldn’t have let people leave until thirty minutes. Um, no. She has to keep us there for fifteen minutes, actually, no more. I left at that point, since I was done and he seemed to be getting belligerent. When I walked by the class, though, I heard a loud bang. Well, I heard later that he got VERY angry with the Professor. Apparently, he even grabbed her arm, then grabbed a sheaf of papers and threw them against a wall… probably the bang I heard. He nearly reduced her to tears. Honestly! What a thing to do. I said to another student, "Really, that is NOT the way to get a good grade. If you missed a test, beg, plead, and grovel, but don’t yell at the teacher!" Unbelievable. I don’t really like that Professor, but I felt for her this time. Later, I overheard another guy speaking to the Professor about his grade (17 out of 30… ouch…) and he mentioned how seeing that distracted him from the test. While I doubt that was solely to blame, it really didn’t help. Show some courtesy.


I also have another story, along the same lines. Back when I was at the University of Manitoba, in Engineering, we had this one rather unique Professor. Apparently, most people either love him or hate him. I must have been unique in having no real opinion. He definitely had character though, and could give people a real hard time when they got on his bad side. Anyway, one day I was talking to him, in the lab where people were working, about my last mark, which was fairly crappy. I felt I was entitled to a few more points, and if not, I wanted to know exactly where I went wrong. That was going fine, I wasn’t getting any points but he was going over my diagram with me. Then a guy walks up, tears his lab into pieces, throws it onto the floor right in front of the Professor, and storms out fuming! I was shocked, and the Professor excused himself to follow him. I got my stuff together, and when I walked out, I heard the Professor shouting in his office, obviously giving the guy grief for acting like a twit. I just shook my head. For starters, that was excessively rude, and second, why would you be dumb enough to do it with that particular Professor? The lab wasn’t worth that much. Some people just don’t think.

Kids 0731-03

My father and I were driving to the store one evening, and to get there we had to cut through a neighborhood that is a little run down. We come up to a group of kids riding their bikes. They looked to be between 7-11. One boy (who looked to be about 11) was riding his bike in the middle of the road and did not move over as my dad was approaching, so my dad tapped the horn to get his attention. The kid didn't miss a beat; he just lifted his hand and flicked my dad off. We kind of gasped at his obvious lack of respect for elders and his carelessness, but didn't say or do anything. However, as we approached him in the car the boy went to turn his head to avoid eye contact with us and as he did, he totally wiped out and fell off his bike! My dad just kept going and I looked back to see his friends stop and help him up. I suggested we check to make sure he was OK, but we were not in the best area and who knew what these kids might say to their parents, so we just kept going. We couldn't help but laugh though. I think it served the kid right.

Kids 0908-03

When I was in college, I worked at the food court in a grocery store. There were several small restaurants linked. The man in charge of the "Chicken" place (The biggest of the restaurants) worked with his wife. Because of this, they sort of figured that the entire restaurant area was the property of their family, and they could ask us to do whatever they wanted. I worked in an entirely different section. While I was happy to help out, I was uncomfortable with their attitude. They acted like I owed them something. This was especially true when it came to their children.

They would drop their children off at the restaurant at the beginning of the day. The children would wander around, and be expected to entertain themselves in our grocery store. Apparently I was expected to watch them. Dude—I am getting paid to serve food, not watch your children. Then again, I can’t just let a child wander around alone. It’s unethical. They could hurt themselves. They were just kids, and it wasn’t the children's fault that their parents were jackasses.

On top of everything else, these people were ultra religious, and mildly bigoted. So when I was cutting up peppers, and having a conversation with their eight-year old daughter, I got some very big surprises.

"So do you like Harry Potter," I like Harry Potter. I assumed this was a safe question to ask a child.

"Oh, I’m not allowed to read Harry Potter." Oh, considering their religious background not surprising. I’ll just let this one go. But she continued: "Harry Potter teaches you that witches are good. They’re not. They are bad, and they hurt people."

My mother is Wiccan, (I’m a devout agnostic, but that’s irrelevant). For a second, I think "She’s their kid, so I should just let this one go." But then I think, "You know, they left her alone with me. I’m not getting paid to watch this kid. I’ll do my best by her, but I’m doing it out of the goodness of my heart, so I’ll treat her like I would my own."

"Not necessarily, my mother’s a witch" I say. She gasps. I further add, "She doesn’t believe in hurting people. It’s actually against her religion. She thinks that any harm she causes other people will ultimately come back to her. Now, it’s perfectly okay to think that she’s wrong, but please don’t think she’s evil."

The little girl nods. The brainwashing has begun. Her parents kept her completely ignorant of the facts of life. I was raised to believe that this was wrong, and when they decided to leave the raising of their daughter to me, I remedied the situation. When she asked me how girls were different from boys, I explained, and drew pictures. When she talked about being uncomfortable around black-people, I tried to tell her about how I didn’t think they were any different from white people. When she called somebody "gay" as an insult, I explained what it meant, and why I didn’t really think it was an insult. I never presented my opinions as facts--I just told her why I held them and let her decide. She started sneaking Harry Potter books at school. She started to come to me with her ethical questions.

Now, maybe I crossed some lines, but this couple left her with me. They decided, without checking my credentials, that I was responsible for the care of their child. So I cared for her to the best of my abilities. They would probably not be pleased with what I taught her. Their mistake. I have glasses, have short brown hair, and I dress conservatively. I don’t advertise my political beliefs. I could have easily been just like them. But, I could have just as easily been a child molester. Great Rug-rat. Rotten parents. I still hear from her from time to time.

Kids 0925-03

I recently attended a huge party for the family matriarch's 90th birthday. It was, in essence, a large family reunion. The party was being held in a local community hall (a Lion's Club or Knights of Columbus type of place) with a large stage at the front. The stage was, naturally, full of all sorts of kid magnets such as pianos, extra furniture, and so on - the kinds of things that maybe weren't intended to be a giant jungle gym for kids, but seemed to be just begging to be touched by sticky fingers.

As the sit-down dinner started and carried on, I was amazed at how unsupervised the children at this soiree were. Suddenly one discovered the stage, which then attracted all his siblings, which then attracted another and all her siblings, and so on. Soon, almost every child under the age of ten (including a few as young as 2 years old) was on this stage, climbing the rickety furniture, pounding at the piano, not to mention putting their mouths on things that likely hadn't been washed in 5 years. One charming little crumb-muncher discovered the emcee's microphone and figured out how to turn it on, consequently serenading everyone in the hall with his screams.

If a classroom-full's worth of children running wild in plain view of a sit-down dinner wasn't irritating enough, it had been decided that all family photos with great-grandma were to be taken in front of the stage. You'd think the parents would have the decency to remove their kids at this time, but no. These ignorant dimwits let their little hellions clamber all over the place while we were trying to get pictures of relatives together that likely won't see each other again for years. So, in all the posed photos from this occasion, we have these stupid little hyper monkeys who we don't even know, crawling around behind our heads. Lovely.

Kids 1118-03

I have no idea in what category this story belongs or who the truly rude parties may have been (maybe all or us) so I shall await your verdict. In 1981, I was waiting tables in a higher-class steak house (not overly formal, but expensive with excellent food and service). Many patrons were somewhat informal in how they dressed, but that is typical of the relaxed attitude of the city in which I live. One evening, I had just served a party of five when I saw one of the women at the table unbutton her blouse, open her bra, expose her breast and begin nursing a infant while she ate. As I could see other patrons at other tables could and were noticing what she was doing, and being too embarrassed (as a nineteen-year-old male) to speak to her directly, I grabbed a waitress and asked her to take one of our oversized napkins to the woman. I hoped the woman might take the hint and use the napkin for a little modesty. When the waitress offered the napkin to the woman, the woman immediately took offense and began loudly to preach that what she was doing was normal and natural and that no one should be offended or embarrassed by it. Her extremely vocal protest was causing more of a scene and drawing more attention than the breast-feeding ever could have. Before the waitress had a chance to react, an older and very refined lady seated at the next table leaned over to this woman, looked directly at her, and let loose a most vociferous belch. She then stated in a calm and sweet voice that that too was normal and natural, but most people refrained from doing it in public.

The waitress turned white and walked away. Most of the tables sitting nearby whom had heard this exchange burst out in laughter and a little applause. The party of five left quickly while casting quite angry glares at the whole restaurant. Needless to say, I did not get a tip - but I did tip handsomely the poor waitress for her trouble.

Kids 0924-03

 I have a suggestion for a new category: etiquette at sports events. It always amazes me how involved people get into sports games, whether it's the World Series, a softball game in a bar league, or a children's soccer match. This incident happened the other night.

I play in a kickball league every Monday night. Many of the readers will remember this game from their grade school days. It's a great way to hang out with friends, and have some fun (and get a little exercise). Our team is not the best in the league, but oh well. My life isn't ruined because of it. However, we have a guy on our team who drives me batty. He's one of THOSE players, you know, the type that feels every game is for the World Cup and it's the end-of-the-world if we don't win. If the ball is coming to you, he'll run in front of you and catch it, because after all, no one is as a great of a player as he is. Last night took the cake though. We lost the last game of the season by only a couple of runs. Hey, it happens, right? Well, apparently not to him. He stormed off the field, and yelled "You all played like s#$%!" (He forgot to include himself in this statement, even though he missed catching two balls in the outfield). He then marched over to the umpire to argue with him over a call the guy made in one of the earlier innings. The game is over, move on!

And if the above wasn't bad enough, he then threw his glove across the bleachers, and stomped off to his car. He refused to do the "hand line" (where you slap the hands of the other team and say "good game"). He just drove off in a huff. Several players on the other team commented on his behavior. We were embarrassed, appalled, yet amused at the same time. I mean, this is a grown man of 34, throwing a temper tantrum over a game third-graders play in the schoolyard! It's hard not to see the ironic humor in that.

I told my friend that I refuse to play next year if he's on our team. She assured me he will not be playing.

Kids 1021-03

Page Last Updated May 15, 2007