I channeled the spirit of my late Mother today and had a pleasant surprise; the Old Ways still work. Sometimes…
As my other blog is titled, I sometimes feel Lost in the 21st Century. I’m the type of person who is basically a rules follower. I value civility, proper place settings and manners. The problem is the rules- and tricks- I was raised on don’t always work anymore. Especially with Millennials and other younger folks.
Don’t get me wrong. As a gay man of a certain age, I’m very glad to see a lot of the old ways and old ways of thinking vanish and/or become unacceptable. I detest racism, homophobia and am thrilled with the, thankfully, dying worship of the Old South.
No one was more Southern than I was raised and once was. My mother took me to see “Gone With the Wind” at the Capital Theater in Danville, Virginia when I was a young child in the early 1960’s and acted like we were going to Church. She revered it and tried to teach us to do the same. Danville, where I was raised, marketed itself as the “Last Capital of the Confederacy” – because Jefferson Davis and his cabinet hid out there for a few days when retreating from Richmond before the surrender. I went to Washington and Lee University where Robert E. Lee was referred to as St. Bob.
It was a journey to get past all that but I like to think I have succeeded and come out on the other side. As the late Molly Ivins once said, and I paraphrase, when you realize they are lying to you about race you realize they are lying about everything. And “they” were lying about a lot.
I embraced the freedom of thought to let all the Old South bullshit go…
But there are some elements I miss. As I said, civility, manners and a certain reserve being top of the list.
And the tools.
I miss people understanding “The Freeze.” It was a look dowagers and gentlemen of a certain age could use to immediately silence and subdue younger folks or those exhibiting improper behavior. It was a stern look with raised eyebrows that could immediately shut down someone who was behaving improperly. If you try it now, people just think you have had too much botox.
And younger people no longer fear their elders. I blame my friends of my generation for trying to be friends with their kids for this….
But today, I reverted to one of the old tricks my Mother had perfected. And I was pleasantly surprised it worked. Maybe it was because we were in Lynchburg, Virginia where I spent a good bit of time socializing 40 years ago when I was in College, but I decided, on the spur of the moment to use an old trick of my Mother’s.
My Mother, when she put her mind to it, was one of the last, great Southern Belles. She had manipulation down to an art form. Like most women of her generation, she had to use the tools she had in the environment she was in. And I used to be able to do the Southern Gentleman “Moonlight and Magnolias” thing with one hand tied behind my back. She taught me well.
Today, we were in one of my favorite restaurants. It’s a funky place with wonderful food in what was once the old Lynchburg Bus Station. Lynchburg, by the way, has done a much better job than many cities in moving forward and repurposing their historic buildings into places that work for today. As long as you stay away from Wards Road and the area around a certain “christian” university, it’s a very pleasant town. But, I digress…
Here is the situation. My partner and I went to this restaurant, which is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, for Brunch. It was packed. Service was slow. Our particular waitress was young, beautiful and looked like she stopped in to wait on a few tables on her way to an audition for the national tour of “Flashdance.” She did not seem dedicated to her career- which I understand.
However, my partner’s coffee cup had spots around the rim and looked unclean. He kept trying to get her attention. I know how much he likes his coffee, so this bothered me more than it did him that she was not acknowledging his signals. I tried to get her attention as well and she did not pay me any mind either. As a gay man of a certain age, I am used to being invisible to the young. But I don’t like it and don’t take it with much grace. I’m not quite yet at the “get off my lawn” phase of life and try very hard to avoid going there…
But I was not happy. I told him “Give me that” and grabbed his coffee cup and headed to the bar/wait station. I know he had to be a bit in fear of me “going corporate” as he calls it when I go into overdrive and decide to deal with a situation aggressively.
But on my way to the bar I, for some reason, changed my tactics. Instead of being over bearing, I was suddenly possessed by the spirit of my Mother and did as she might have done.
I walked to the bar and smiled sweetly. I addressed the three wait persons huddled around the wait station and said. “I need to get the attention of that young lady. I’ve been trying but I know there is so much going on and she is so busy she must not have noticed.” Smile. The other wait people looked at her and she briefly had the classic “deer in the headlights” look I was hoping for…
I said “Young lady, my partner’s coffee cup is unclean. Can you replace it?” She then wanted to argue with me. Mistake. She said “Those aren’t dirty spots. We scrub those mugs all the time and they just won’t come off.” I smiled bigger, cocked my head and inserted a hard look behind my eyes as my Mother had trained me. And to my surprise, it worked. She said: “Well, maybe I should just get him another cup.” I said: “That would be so kind of you.”
He got his new cup and the service improved significantly.
Maybe the old tricks now work because they don’t know they are tricks. Or maybe there is a genetic fear of the elders that just has to be properly invoked.
In any case, I’m going to have to develop a hybrid method of dealing with conflict and see how it goes….