Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ask Miss Class Factotum

posted Thu, 19 Aug 2004

The subject of today’s lesson is manners. I will address two specific areas: forms of address and the weight room at the gym.

Let me start with the gym.


There are guys in my gym who sweat profusely while they work out. Yes, this is out of their control and we must not snicker at them behind their wet backs. But they have an obligation to clean up after themselves. You know those little towels the attendant gives you when you check in? It’s not a bath towel! It is a wipe off your equipment towel. Use it.

I saw one guy who wasn’t even going through the charade of carrying a towel with him. These guys will carry water bottles and portable CD players and cellphones, but no towels. He was so sweaty and nasty that the seats of the sit-down machines were completely soaked when he finished. That’s just gross. I employed every tactic I could think of, including disapproving stares, to get him to clean up, but all to no avail. Finally, I had to be blunt. I got a clean towel from the attendant and handed it to Mr Sweaty. “You need this,” I told him. Sheesh.

Do you want to touch his sweat? I don’t.

The other thing about the gym – re-rack your weights. For crying out loud – you are there to work out anyhow. How hard is it to put the weights back when you are through? I am so tired of trying to take those heavy weights off the barbells and worrying about dropping them on my fragile, manicured toes because someone just wasn’t man enough or considerate enough to do it. We are not in a swanky, full-service gym where there are maids to clean up after you. Get some manners.

The other thing I want to talk about is forms of address – specifically, when it is appropriate to use a first name and when it is not.

It is not appropriate for the 19-yr-old receptionist at the doctor’s office to yell “Class!” at the waiting room when she wants me (and without even looking up to make eye contact). It is appropriate for her to say, “Miss Factotum.” (And in the defense of almost every worker in M’town doctors’ offices, most of them do maintain that polite formality.)

It is not appropriate for a child to call me by my first name unless I so invite and the parents wish their child to do so. Most parents around here employ the southern practice of having their children preface an adult’s first name with “Miss” or “Mr.” Hence, I am “Miss Class,” which I think is a charming way to handle the situation.

When I was a kid, my parents required us to call adults “Mr” or “Mrs,” even if the adult in question said first name was fine. For some very close family friends, we used “Aunt” and “Uncle” in front of the first name.

This habit was so ingrained in me that when I started my first job out of college, I still called all my colleagues – the ancient ones, anyhow – you know, in their 40s or older – Mr or Mrs. After I had been there for a few months, the VP finally told me that we were on a first-name basis. It was still very strange to me to call someone my dad’s age by his first name.

Even now, I call my friends’ parents Mr and Mrs, for both the friends I have had for a long time and the ones I have met more recently. If they would ask me to use first names, I would (it would be weird!), but my college roommates’ parents are Mr and Mrs L and Mr and Mrs G, etc.

But I don’t like the bag boy at the grocery store calling me “ma’am.” They only do that for women they consider to be old and past their sell-by dates.

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