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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lightning and the Lightning Bug

I was talking with a buddy a couple of days ago about the difference in having shame and being ashamed. I love this analogy. That's why I probably overuse it. But it's like what Mark Twain said about the right word and the almost right word. It's like the difference between lightning and lightning bugs.

The subject came up, 'cause we were joking about me being old-fashioned. I don't think I am. "Stodgy" is how I think my buddy put it. He was teasing, of course, but what prompted him to say it in the first place was our reminiscing about the good old days and one time in particular when we were at a black tie event trying to look important and pick up women. There I was in a tux, holding court with a handful of women, and my fly was down. Apparently I stood there like that for at least half an hour. When someone finally pointed it out to me I was mortified. It wasn't that I was ashamed of my naughty bits, covered behind a trusty pair of boxers as they were. I'm quite proud of them. It was that I had shame. Some stuff just wasn't meant for public display.

I'm not gonna be like the crotchety old guy who starts every other sentence with something like "In my day..." On the contrary, today, these days, when I'm in public I'm constantly getting jabbed and pinched by Mrs. B for saying stupid things. I do it on purpose, 'cause I thik I'm funny. I may be the only person who thinks so. And I'm also careful to make sure what I'm saying to her can't be overheard. If someone did overhear me, no doubt I'd be ashamed some times. But I don't think shame exists anymore. And shame can be a good thing, I think. Shame, to varying degrees, is like the manifestation of a properly working conscience.

I'm not seeing that manifestation so much these days among my peers, whether it's brain dead celebutards prancing around w/out drawers on and, coincidentally, bending over to pick up loose change from the sidewalk right when the cameras and flash bulbs come out, Joe Average swearing like a sailor within earshot of elderly women and small children, or 13-year-old girls strutting the mall in tiny skirts and T-shirts with slogans like "Your boyfriend is a good kisser" and "Two boys for every girl" (actual slogans on shirts once sold a popular national retailer for teens).

Mrs. B and I were in the grocery Sunday afternoon - the Whole Foods on Federal Hwy in Fort Lauderdale, if you live in South Florida, and while she was waiting for stuff at the deli I decided to grab a coffee. There was a guy in line in front of me at the coffee counter. And as I walked up, this is the conversation I stumbled on between that guy and the barista:

Barista: So what's going on?
Guy: Nothing, just looking for somone.
Barista: Is he hot?
Guy: You know that guy who works in like frozen vegetables or something, that one with the dark hair?
Barista: He's hot. I think he has something for you.
Guy: Oh yeah, sexy.
Barista: He totally wants to tap that.... (imagine the rest)
Guy: Oh yeah, you know he wants to tap my....
Me (in thought only): You guys are insane. Do you care at all that a total stranger is standing here, listening to you talk about this kind of stuff?

BTW, in case Rosie O'D is reading, if the guy had been straight and talking explicitly about hooking up w/a girl, or it had been a girl in line, talking explicitly about hooking up up w/a guy, I'd have felt the same way.

Shame's good. Shame is the thing that prevents most of us from "actin' a fool," in public, as my Grandma Rosa used to say.

And to the co-worker who paused mid-stride in the aisle about eight feet from my desk and let a butt belch rip earlier - that's right; you know who you are; I saw/heard you - not cool. You, my friend, could use a little shame. You could use a little less protein your diet, but you could use a little shame too.

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  • I had something similar happen when I was at Disney world.

    My son was 6 at the time. We were waiting in line for a ride/exhibit at EPCOT when two "ladies" with shaved heads who were in line in front of us began rubbing on each other.

    It wasn't like they were teenagers... more like late twenties to mid thirties. They began making out and had their tongues down each others throats in short order.

    I grabbed my wife and kid and walked off the ride. Everyone else was either oblivious or just tolerating it.

    I would have been just as pissed if it had been hetero. I guess my point is. lke you said, that some people have no shame.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 1:46 PM  

  • Now THAT was a very good post! Discussing things that should be considered "private" business in public; belching, loudly, in public too -and probably with no fingers to the lips and a shy, "excuse me" offered either, I bet - just two things that some segments of society seem to believe everyone else wants to have this stuff shared with them! I for one, really don't!
    My kids -who by the way aren't really "kids" anymore, they just are that to me cause I had 'em, raised 'em, etc - love to offer up really long, loud belches either in front of me or while they are talking on the phone to me, mainly because they know it irritates me. I hope they would have enough manners to refrain from doing that when out in public but sometimes, I'm just not sure there. They also love to "slurp" soup or coffee in front of me too because they know it turns my stomach.
    So many things rankle me that others seem to think nothing of them. If I wanted a blow-by-blow description of someone's sex life, why not just hand out videos or perhaps, binoculars, give out invitations to watch. And, I betcha some would probably try to do that too, wouldn't they.
    Doesn't it just make you want to ask some folks "Ain't 'cha had no fetching up?" Or, "Were you born in a barn?" I'm definitely with you on this post today!

    By Blogger Jeni, at 1:46 PM  

  • Sorry, James, I'm still trying to get past "some stuff just wasn't meant for public display" and "crotchety" used within two lines.

    Why, back in MY day ......

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 1:51 PM  

  • As one who needs to decrease the proteins in my diet I've felt the burn and shame of "you know what-ing in an inappropriate place.

    Good post!

    By Blogger jali, at 2:15 PM  

  • Great post. I just can't believe how casually kids ... and a lot of adults ... talk about some rather private and sensitive issues these days. I swear so many of them will tell everything to complete strangers. Which is why there are so many predators on the net, I'm sure.

    By Blogger Jay, at 2:53 PM  

  • There are a lot of things of which I tend to disapprove, but I don't know if they would all be considered shameful; there are some things that are not really vulgar or disgusting, but are just in bad taste. It seems as if the term tasteful doesn't apply any more. To me, people who go around with their skivvies hanging out are tacky(another term which doesn't seem to be used any more). Just call me old-fashioned, but I still believe people should exercise good taste.

    By Blogger BobG, at 6:22 PM  

  • "Shame, to varying degrees, is like the manifestation of a properly working conscience."

    Even here, there are two versions, one better than the other. Shame when caught, is good but; shame experienced in your head without any outside influence, is the true sign of conscience.

    By Blogger Dave, at 6:29 PM  

  • I don't know if these people have no shame or if they (mistakenly) think that as long as they are speaking into a cellphone, no one else around (at the grocery store, AT THE AIRPORT) can hear the details of their 1) one-night stand, 2) visit to the gynecologist or 3) latest salary negotiation (with numbers).

    I'll bet even the person at the other end of the phone doesn't want to hear this stuff.

    By Anonymous class-factotum, at 7:05 PM  

  • Was the coworker male for female?

    By Blogger Matt, at 7:18 PM  

  • "Have you no shame?" is a question I often heard my dad utter in reference to some folks when I was a kid. Shame is disappearing at an alarming rate.

    I need for the people in my office building to know that it's unprofessional to talk about their sex lives at work. That would do it for me.

    By Blogger katrice, at 7:54 PM  

  • Hey......IT'S STILL MY DAY....

    Manners are out. The "whatever feels good" gang is in charge.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 12:09 AM  

  • I love this:
    I'm not gonna be like the crotchety old guy who starts every other sentence with something like "In my day..."

    You might not, but I most certainly will! I do it already - say "in the good old days"... when dinosaurs trotted the earth... LOL

    Great blog, btw

    By Blogger Heart Of Darkness, at 5:58 AM  

  • Shame? What's that?

    By the way, did you ever zip up your fly?

    By Blogger captain corky, at 6:15 AM  

  • Shame is when I do something wrong.

    Ashamed is when something is wrong with me.

    By Blogger mist1, at 6:18 AM  

  • fart humor gets me everytime!! Shame, I felt it everywhere I went as a kid. As an adult, I have no shame as I have a working conscience. It took quite a while to get it though.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:49 AM  

  • So that's why my poots (and poops) smell like something crawled up in me and died? Protein?

    Learn something new everyday.

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 8:41 PM  

  • Time was when people cared about other people. Then they cared about what other people thought about them. Then they moved into the BIG cities, felt anonymous, & just stopped caring. Well, a lot of them appear to have done anyhow.


    Good blog though.

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 6:25 AM  

  • I agree, there IS no shame anymore but I am not one to let things like that slip. If I were standing there with or without my kids I would have said something and if I was really feeling irritated I would have said a little more to the manager. Girlfriend don't play.

    That's how you help karma get her @ss in gear.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 12:09 PM  

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