On the end of grace and courtesy
I sat in my seat, antsy, like a kid waiting to open presents at her birthday party. I had been giddy all day to unwrap this highly anticipated marvel. In the form of art. Hamilton, to be specific. And as the lights go down, and my beautiful gift unfolds before me, I witnessed the death of courtesy, grace, and common decency. In one swift moment, my 41 year-old self was deflated, reduced to what I imagine my 3 year-old feels like when she learns her playdate has been canceled.
See, I simply asked the woman in front of me if she might sit back in her seat, because my dead center view was no longer of Aaron Burr, but of her #*c&i@g head.
Terse voice. “But I’m small, I can’t see. (mumble mumble)” [Incredulous look]. And no movement.
“I’m sorry but I really can’t see. If you could just…”
“Shut up.” She cuts me off.
Yes, a grown woman actually told me to SHUT. UP.
“Did you tell me to shut up? There really is no need to be rude.”
Her husband interjects. “You’re the one being rude. What do you want her to do?”
“Die in a fire?” Ok, no. I didn’t say that. But oh, how I wanted to.
“I just wanted her to sit back. But you are both just fucking rude.”
I am, for the better part of 2 of my favorite songs in this production, completely beside myself with anger. All I can think during My Shot is “oh, I’d like to take a shot…” Eventually, I lose myself in the music, and the amazing world that is Hamilton. And something strikes me.
In battle, even in duels, there was courtesy, grace, and a sense of propriety. Sure, much of it was an illusion. It was a societal expectation. And you know what? It sure would be nice if it still was at times. Perhaps if we weren’t so quick to defend our perceived entitlements. And if we didn’t legitimately believe that those in proximity to us were less deserving.
And as I encourage my mother not to discuss this malarkey at intermission, this woman has the unmitigated gaul to stand up, turn around, and say…
“If you want a better view, you should buy seats in the front.”
“Please don’t talk to me.” You’ll notice I’m still saying things like “please.” Yeah, I dropped an f-bomb earlier. I still said PLEASE.
And these two KEPONTALKIN.
“Walk away. Just walk away.” At this point, I had to raise my voice. It was either my voice or stand up and raise sumn’else. No. I will not. Not here.
“We can be anywhere we want.” They say. And then get to walking. Of course. It was intermission, they had to pee.
At this point, I will admit, tears are welling. Angry tears.
Is this really where we are? As people? The first thing we reach for is incivility? A simple request — to sit back in your seat — is met with venom and disdain. And escalates to people yelling at each other in a theater. A place where people have gathered to appreciate something beautiful.
I watched a production crafted meticulously around a cast of flawed characters, who even in their beautiful mess, could fight and sign off with phrases like “I have the honor to be your humble and obedient servant.” And we can’t muster a simple “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry.” Nope.
I live with my eyes open. I have seen the disgraceful election antics, and have watch the reality show, weave snatching, name calling hot mess that is our 24-hour news cycle and entertainment. But I guess, in the more intimate moments, the places where us average folk reside, that there was a modicum of decency left.
And on this night, when a man graciously stood before a nation that has taken piece after piece of him, and didn’t say “G’luck with that baboon you elected. I’m outtie.” He said “Thank you.” Even to those who tried to shred him for the better part of a decade. He reminded us what’s important. He stood with poise, humanity, humility, and honor. Even humor.
What am I trying to say? I’m not sure really. Perhaps, as I watch entitlement kill grace and courtesy, I’ll steel myself with the lessons the Obama family has taught us these last 8 years. Go high. Walk with your head up, and keep grace as your constant companion. Lean on wit, humor and reason. Don’t let other peoples’ ugliness drag you down to the dregs too. And when that doesn’t work, welp… [takes off earrings, shakes out arms and legs, and assumes a fighters stance] nobody’s perfect.