As I have said many times on these pages, one of the greatest of my few simple pleasures, in this lifestyle I am trying to perfect, is pretending I am oblivious (while listening more intently than the KGB) to the conversations that go on around me when I am out amongst the human riff-raff. And, as much as you might think the best stories can be eaves-dropped in an eating establishment or a doctor’s office waiting room, it is the bus ride banter that is far more deliciously rich than any other public gathering venue.
And so it was that, on this particular day last week, I found myself needing to make a quick run to the low-end grocery store for a few items to hold me over until the next check. Little did I know that I was headed straight toward a front-row view of a time long past in our culture.
The inbound #10 was empty on the trip down and the walk up and down the aisles was uneventful. Once through checkout, the backpack filled with the goods, I headed out the door and across the driveway to the bus stop.
A lady was sitting in the middle of the three-seat bench so, as I approached, I put my bag down on the cement and prepared to stand and wait for the bus.
But she would have none of it.
You know, the older I get the more my grandmother’s wisdom and her instruction about life and how good and decent people should go about living it makes sense to me. And the more these things come back to visit me when I sit quietly enough and let the lives of random strangers play out before me. Such was the case with that sweet lady as she started scolding me for trying to be a gentleman and yield the seat to her.
She stood up and moved over one seat, patting the seat she had just vacated, and insisted that I come sit down next to her. She said it was too cold outside and that we should sit close together and share our body heat to keep warm, the whole time going on about how we were equal and that I should not give her special treatment just because she was a lady.
I’m not good with foreign language or fashion but if I had to I would say she was from an African culture judging by how she was dressed and her heavy accent. Not able to get a word in edgewise, I quietly obeyed her smiling face and contagious disposition and sat down next to her as she continued to do all the talking… prattling on about how this was the modern age and everybody was equal, all the while lamenting the great disservice that had been done to women by all this “burning of bras and equal rights nonsense”.
And how much she would like to punch Gloria Steinem in the face.
I shit you not: “PUNCH GLORIA STEINEM IN THE FACE!”
It took every fiber of my being to keep a straight face and nod sympathetically in the hope that – now that she was on a roll – she might elaborate, from a woman’s perspective, on an opinion I happened to quite strongly share. But before she got the chance, the outbound #10 rolled up and we had to collect ourselves and our quarters so we could board and be on our way. As the bus door opened, and before I could stop it from coming out of my mouth, I stepped back and said with a big smile – “ladies first”.
Don’t blame me… blame my grandmother.
Once settled in my seat, I drifted off into my own quiet thoughts about Gloria Steinem and the women’s liberation movement and pictured in my mind – as I have done more than once – punching her in the face myself. Don’t get me wrong… I’m a huge fan of the “burning bras” part, but that part about how “men suck and women would be better off without them” business, or how much the movement focused on tearing down men and the role they play- as both a father and a husband – broke a lot of otherwise well-working parts in our culture and Society.
But before I got too far with those thoughts, I heard my bus stop compadre striking up a conversation with the lady bus driver… right where she had left off with me a few minutes earlier.
I fully appreciate that times have changed, and I admit to struggling, sometimes, to keep up with the pace of change(s) in our modern culture. Mind you, my greatest difficulty lies in understanding many of the reasons why it is so important to “kids these days” that we put aside old traditions such as respecting your elders, opening the door for a lady, holding her chair while she sits down in a restaurant, etc. But I do accept – however begrudgingly – that these sorts of behaviors are now considered “outdated” and no longer in keeping with our allegedly “enlightened society”.
Had you been with me when the bus driver and my new bus stop buddy tore off into a rant about the harm that had been done to women because of Gloria Steinem and others you would have been as surprised as I was to learn that – at least these two women- much preferred to be treated the way my grandmother always taught me to treat women.
You would have heard them firing off example after example of how disrespectful this new and more enlightened generation had become when it came to women. You would have heard the driver long for the days when she could afford to stay home and raise her children. And you would have heard my bus stop partner complain about what had happened to her children… products of a school system that had been so busy teaching her daughters how important it was for them to be angry and vocal about the things they were being deprived of that they never got around to teaching them how important it was to put their children and their spouses first… above all other things in life.
As of the publish date of this entry, Google tells me dear Gloria is still alive although she is 84 years old now. Given what I heard on the bus, taking into account how enlightened our society is now, I’d say it’s a damn good thing ‘ol Gloria does it ride the #10.