Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, January 31, 2008

On Politeness Being the Best Ammunition

"You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something."
-H.G. Wells

One Summer my Spouse and I, living in a little town in Northern California, attended a local Civil War Reenactment. All the participants were in costume of the period- the 1860s- and there was a veritable array of things to view. There was a battle on one of the fields- staged, of course, for our viewing but exhilarating nonetheless. Cannon thundered, horses charged and children played, a unique combination on a balmy afternoon.
We paused alongside a gentleman who was, perhaps, in his sixties. He had a fondness for cannon and was explaining to a slowly assembling group that the cannon in front of us had been built by his own hands as part of his hobby. He had designed it based on an existing cannon he had seen, had done so exclusively for the festival and was proud to be able to show it to us.
I noticed a young woman next to us. She was frowning slightly. She leaned forward and, interrupting the man's entire speech without any shred of hesitation, asked in a loud voice, "did you fire the cannon?"
The man explained gently that it was a replica only and not, in fact, a real cannon that he could demonstrate.
The lady was obviously irritated that he had misunderstood her.
"No, that's not what I meant." She shook her head in annoyance.
"I'm sorry, Maim?" said the fellow reasonably. We all waited.
She barked, "did you fire the cannon during the Civil War?"
There was an appalling silence. I do believe that cannon to the left and right of us, and all the horses too, ground to a stunned halt in the field. The man smiled to himself and recovered his composure with amazing elegance and gallantry.
"No, Maim, I did not. That was before my time, I'm afraid."
The woman shrugged and seemed disinterested which, given her question, was not altogether a surprise to the remainder of the group.
To be that tolerant and polite in the face of ignorance and rudeness- one can only strive to be that patient. We ought not to make people feel foolish, even at those times when it is most desirable to do so.

No comments:

Please look around, explore my writing, leave a crumb:
I welcome comments and thoughts.