Monday, December 07, 2009

You're Excused

When I think of all my sins in their magnitude, it embarrasses me to admit. . .

. . .sometimes I don't like to say "excuse me" when people are in my way.

You see, I believe if I can improvise a trajectory around them without having to actually touch them--no matter how physically-convoluted that trajectory may be--there's nothing to be excused.

First off, saying "excuse me" can be quite socially draining when all I really want to do is just get past the person and continue on with the rest of my life. Why should I have to start a new relationship with a total stranger just to imply that I don't want to be near them? I'd rather not open that can of worms. It's much more convenient to circumvent their bodies awkwardly, come really close to falling into them, and then surprise them (and myself!) by remaining upright.

For instance, consider this large black lady on her cell phone at the pizzeria today. There couldn't have been more than a single foot of room on either side of her between the counter and a large vinyl booth near the exit. Once I was handed my slice of Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, and anchovies, the only two ways out of the restaurant, as I saw it, were to either say "excuse me" or squish myself together as tightly as I could and hold my pizza box far above my head, sliding ten to fifteen baby steps in the narrow strip of floor left over by her enormous posterior.

I opted for the latter.

Twice I stumbled and almost fell into her. Once, after banging my knee against the Formica table and then again, when I attempted to turn myself around prematurely in the erroneous assumption that I'd already traversed the width of her waistline. Sadly, there were still a few more inches to go before I could safely say to myself: "Olly-Olly-Oxen Free!"

Eventually, I extricated myself from this daredevil position. Yet I only had a brief second or two in which to congratulate myself on the completion of yet another physically difficult, almost Chaplinesque, circumlocution of a human form without having to say "excuse me"--when suddenly I noticed a look on the black woman's face that could have killed a white boy.

"Don't you say excuse me?" she huffed.

"I didn't want to hurt your feelings," I returned.

That was a glib response, to be sure. However, by the time I arrived home with my warm slice of pizza--who knows how cold it might have been if I had taken precious time to stop and say "excuse me"--I realized that I had been right after all.

That is to say: what is the purpose of saying "excuse me" to somebody that's in my way? I'm the one that has to perform the over-the-top acrobatics if I don't take the time to say it.

Aren't I the one that's doing them a great favor--a social good, if you will--by not calling undue attention to the fact that they're preventing my egress?

This afternoon, as I stuffed myself with salty bits of anchovy on tomato paste, I realized once and for all what a truly kind person I am. Not many people in today's fast-paced and computerized society would take the time, as I do, to both not touch someone and not make manifest the painful truth that they're placing limitations on my Constitutional guarantee of free travel.

Say what you will, but at least I care enough about my fellow human being to consciously and courteously refrain from uttering two of the most hateful and hurtful words that the diabolical lexicon of modern man has ever contained:

Excuse me