By Jack Engelhard
I’m not perfect either but I’ve got to say, people are tough to take.
At the diner where I had breakfast this morning, the sign in the Gents room said, “Employees Must Wash Hands.” That’s a sign we find everywhere.
My cat knows to wash her hands after doing her business. People have to be told. We call this evolution? Maybe Darwin had it backwards.
In the doctor’s office the sign reads, “Always cover your mouth when you cough.”
Been on a train lately, or subway, or bus? Or the mall? So I don’t have to tell you that (generally) people do not adhere to this hygienic courtesy.
People cough and sneeze up close and personal – and they curse. I remember the F-word as something we uttered privately after getting cut off in traffic. Today, it’s gone public. We hear it everywhere and there’s no use saying, as we used to, “Hey, there are ladies present.” First, it’s so prevalent that there’d be no place to start or stop. Second, ladies do it, too.
As you can tell, I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. That’s because the neighbor’s dog woke me up six o’clock this morning – woke up the whole neighborhood. But I’m the only one who complained. Neighbors don’t talk anymore, not in this America. So I asked the neighbor to please do something about the dog.
He did – and we’ll see about tomorrow. They’re new neighbors so maybe they don’t know the rules.
You’d think, of course, that all of us would know certain rules. This is not a jungle, or maybe it is.
Wait. My bad mood began on the trip I took to New York, and back. The lady behind the counter was chomping on potato chips, with one hand, and was on the phone with the other hand, chatting about her son-in-law. Finally, she asked what I wanted. I wanted to buy tickets. Obviously, I was interrupting her personal life with business. She did the transaction with reluctance and annoyance. She was happy again when she got back on the phone, and back to her potato chips.
At the bus station in New York, the lady at the Information counter did not have information. I asked her about the schedule going back and everything she told me turned out to be wrong. But I did catch a bus and sat in front of someone who was snoring peals of thunder, mouth wide open.
Next to me a lady was on the phone. Maybe we ought to outlaw cell phones. Or maybe we ought to outlaw people using cell phones in public.
Or maybe we should outlaw people.
My cell phone loses contact after 12 seconds. Other people can talk for hours, like this lady on the bus.
She had a voice so loud that really, there was no need for a telephone. I caught her entire life’s history, like what the x-ray said, and what the babysitter did.
I missed one part and asked her to please repeat that part that I had missed. I was trying to be charming. There is no charm in this America.
When I got in the car I was on a road whose speed limit is 40. The car in front was doing 20. I was tempted to signal that I wanted to pass – as we used to do years ago. You signaled, and you passed (where it was legal and safe) and everybody got home as friends. Today, of course, in this America, if you pass someone, you never know who’s in that other car!
When I get rich, I’m staying home. But meanwhile, please wash hands before leaving.
Novelist Jack Engelhard is the author of “Indecent Proposal” that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His latest novels are the newsroom thriller “The Bathsheba Deadline” and the suspenseful love story “The Girls of Cincinnati.” He can be reached at www.jackengelhard.com