Some years ago at the supermarket, I was pushing a cart down the aisle. Up the aisle, with a child in her cart, came this pretty-faced, broad-bodied mu-mu-gowned lady.
Not until she drew alongside me, and her words heavy with sarcasm fell on my ears, “Did you have a good look? Did you see enough?’ Did I realize I’d been starting at her?
Stunned with embarrassment, I stood stock-still. She walked on, and even when she turned the corner, I could hear her voice angrily protesting to her companions about ill-mannered, oafs like me.
Coming to, I wanted to run after her, explaining that I wasn’t looking at her, but at the yoke of her dress. By coincidence I was making a dress similar to hers, and having trouble setting in the yoke. And that’s where my eyes were fastened, to see how the yoke of her dress was set.
I should have gone after her. I didn’t. My spirit wanted to, but my feet were rooted.
My explanation might not have made her feel better, but I would have one less regret to carry around on my conscience.
O Lord, all these little regrets. They lie asleep then suddenly awaken to prick our memory with the sting of a needle. And we must relive what we want to forget. Perhaps, they are meant to serve as reminders to be mindful of our manners.
As you age, and experience life, interacting with people socially and at work, the more regrettable memories accumulate. And while there’s a desire for a mental cleanser to erase them, there’s no cleanser, unless you’re devoid of scruples.
The worse regrettable moments are tied to sharp words, directed at a spouse, friend, or neighbor. It can be as an unintentional the slip-of-the-tongue when you point out something that’s troubling to the individual such as their weight, occupation, social status, or origin. Or it could be a well-craft barrage of words, designed to inflict emotional pain.
In either case, they’re awkward to take back, and can be difficult to recover from as the pile of insults, innuendoes, and barbs pile up.
My grandmother regards these “pricks of memory” as a reminder to be mindful of one’s manners. However, technology has resulted in a decline in manners. The niceties of truly talking to someone is now a call-on-the-run, a terse instant message, or hastily written email. One’s attention is reduced to sound bites, interrupted by buzzing phones, and dinging devices. No one is rude because almost everyone is preoccupied – getting updates, snapping selfies, responding to texts, checking an email, watching flicks, playing game or making calls or listening to what’s being piped into their ears via Bluetooth or earbuds.
Attention spans and courtesies have fallen off the ends of bell curves, becoming seemingly non-existent. As a result, if my grandmother would have spied the “broad-bodied mu-mu-gowned lady” today, she probably would have pulled out her smart phone, and brazenly snapped a picture of the women’s dress. She may have even posted it to Pinterest or maybe her Facebook page, commenting she was sewing a similar outfit.