Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Was Guilty of Retaliatory Rudeness

According to etiquette mavens, one should not fight fire with fire. In other words, if someone is rude to you, you should not respond in kind. Doing so would be engaging in retaliatory rudeness.

I confess that I have engaged in retaliatory rudeness. However, I haven’t done it recently.

Way back during the Late Jurassic Period, I lived in a studio apartment in a singles complex, aka the party place. (Trust me; I did not know it was a party place before I moved in. I moved there only because the complex was within walking distance of my new job.) The apartments were not soundproof. One Sunday morning, a thumping noise woke me at 2 a.m. It sounded like someone was bouncing off the corridor walls.

A minute later, I heard the next door neighbor’s door slam. Either Neighbor or the friend he dragged home must have been partially deaf. I could hear their conversation without even attempting to eavesdrop; they might as well have been sitting next to me.

A few minutes later, Neighbor ramped up the noise level by turning on his stereo and cranking up the volume. My ears throbbed, and the lamp on the end table shimmied to the edge of the table and toppled onto the carpet. I stumbled out of bed, over the lamp, and into the bathroom to look for my earplugs.

I stuffed a wax blob into each ear and sat down on the sofa sleeper to consider my options. I could bang on the common wall with a shoe or book or maybe a frying pan. But I doubted that Neighbor would pay any attention to my effort to get his attention—even if he heard me.

Or I could call the cops. Letting them handle things would be an effective way to shut down the nonsense next door. However, that idea probably was not a wise one in a place where some tenants were rumored to be drug users and others were rumored to be armed. (Honest, I did not know this before I moved into the complex. I had moved from a small town to a city fifty miles away.)

And anyway, at that time, I didn’t have a land line, and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. So, in order to call in a complaint, I would have to scrounge up a quarter and walk downstairs to the pay phone.

Not a good move in that place during the very wee hours of the morning, especially for a woman.

I never considered doing the most logical thing; i.e., going next door and asking him to please knock it off. I was just too chicken. (See preceding paragraph.) Mostly, I didn’t want to mess with a couple guys I didn’t know and strongly suspected were either drunk or high.

As it turned out, someone was braver than I was. About forty minutes after the racket started, I heard someone banging on Neighbor’s door. A few seconds later a door slammed somewhere across the hall. I guess Neighbor got the message because he turned  the volume way down on both the stereo and the chatter. I ditched the ear plugs and went back to sleep.

When I woke up, I couldn’t hear anything next door. I figured Neighbor was either sleeping in or passed out. I plugged my radio into an outlet on the common wall, turned it to a country-western station, and cranked up the volume as loud as it would go.

Then I went downstairs to the management office and complained about Neighbor and also confessed to my retaliatory rudeness. The managers were okay with that. They liked me better than they liked Neighbor.

“That wasn’t very Christian of you,” my brother commented when I told him what I’d done.

“Wasn’t very Christian of my neighbor either,” I said.

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