My buddy Robert the photographer extraordinaire and I were leaving paid parking yesterday when I realized we'd failed to get his card validated in the area where we were shooting group photos.
"I can get that stamped, I said.
"Nah, it'll be 60 cents," he said. "Don't go back in."
So, three minutes and $2.00 later we had the Robertmobile on surface streets again.
"You know," he said, "I acted a lot more polite at the booth than I felt when I realized the charge. Sometimes manners just kick in and you grin and go on."
And sometimes manners don't. I worry I'm turning into an asshole.
Flash forward - it's today and I'm in line at a sandwich shop. A guy somewhere between 55 and 155 is hanging out at the counter between ordering stations. I don't know why, but I really hate disorder and confusion when all I want to do is stand in line, order, pay and go sit down.
But there's confusion and re-direction and the clerk asks the person in front of me - "Can I help you?"
But the person in front of me has already placed her order with another clerk working the take-out station. Great - she's placed her order and is, I don't know, rolling pennies. Maybe it's time to GO ON TO THE NEXT PERSON IN LINE!
That would be me. After a little more confusion the clerk sort of looks my way.
"Do you want to do me?" I ask. Not the best choice of words, but I wasn't expecting to have to do any prompting, you know, to buy food in a restaurant.
She gets my Reuben and iced tea on record, and as I'm paying the old guy wakes up and starts babbling.
"Do you?" he asked. "What does that mean?"
I ignore him. I'm just trying to order a sandwich not send cryptic signals to anyone loitering at the check-out counter.
"What? Do you? I didn't catch that," he repeats.
I finally look at him and glare and say: "I didn't throw anything in your direction."
He doesn't know quite what to say to that, and as he starts stammering I move on, feeling almost immediately like one of those jerks in neckties that I hate.
Unlike Robert, my underlying manners burned out in a burst of impatience some time ago.
Maybe the old guy was hanging out at the counter because he didn't have anything else to do, and maybe he was babbling just to make a joke and be friendly in that folksy yet annoying way old guys have.
And maybe my rapier-like retort did more damage to me than to anyone else.
You always think back on situations, and the things you should have said.
Sometimes when you say them, you wish you could take them back.