by Chris Quilter
To the young man on a skateboard outside my house: I wish to publicly apologize for being a crosspatch. I should not have called you a rude name and shouted at you to put on your helmet. Amazingly, you complied. But that’s not the point. I violated a sacred principle that I learned from Miss Manners. It boils down to the Golden Rule, except that Miss Manners doesn’t go all weak-kneed by suggesting we will feel uplifted by doing the right thing. We just have to do it, because look at where acting on our feelings has gotten us.
If you can grasp the concept that shushing a constant whisperer at the movies is compounding the felony, you will understand that Miss Manners—while endlessly entertaining—is a strict taskmistress. That’s why her praiseworthy philosophy of life remains as aspirational as the Pledge of Allegiance. Luckily, my lapses in deportment trigger the kind of remorse that was forged in the furnace of an Irish-Catholic upbringing. (This is akin to my luck in not being an alcoholic because that terrific feeling after one drink takes a hairpin turn for the worse after two drinks.) The least I can do is try to make amends via acts of contrition like this—or, as my friends call them, orgies of self-flagellation.
Those of you who know the lingo know that Catholics are taught that true contrition requires a “firm purpose of amendment.” This poses one of those rock-and-hard-place moral dilemmas. On the one hand, if we don’t intend to mend our ways, what’s the point of confession beyond the striking of hypocritical moral poses for the edification of others? On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with firm purposes of amendment. As the proof piles up over the years, we may understandably begin to feel a bit hypocritical.
Still, on the unproven assumption that we get points for trying, here are some other people I firmly resolve not to yell at:
The remarkable number of people on the road who are talking into their cellphones, the risks of which they mitigate by driving slowly in the fast lane.
The equally remarkable number of people who are texting while waiting for the light to change. (I thought they had fallen asleep until my friend Randy enlightened me.)
The police for not aggressively targeting the former, which would go a long way towards retiring California’s debt. (I would never yell at the police anyway, and that was before I saw the Reese Witherspoon video.)
Robo-callers who violate—apparently with impunity—the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007 in order to tell me there is nothing wrong with my credit card account and that I can lower the mortgage payments I don’t have, get my carpets cleaned, and have my pockets fleeced by the operator who is standing by.
The FTC for its abject failure to enforce the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007. (Don’t the commissioners get these calls too?)
People who knock on my door out of concern for my spiritual welfare, when they could be doing something useful like feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
Everyone else who is plainly asking for it.
I know, I know. But as Miss Manners points out: to make the world a better place, start with yourself. That means resisting the temptation to give them what they want even when—no, especially when, for that’s a keener test of character—they parade around wearing their “Kick Me” signs.
Laguna local Chris Quilter helps to write “Lagunatics,” which he claims is therapeutic.