City Life, Part Twenty-Five: Ambassador Of Gentlemanly Comportment
I Am the Very Model Of a Modern Major Gentleman
From an early age, my Southern parents trained me to articulate pleasantries to strangers. As a result, I now walk through my days in Chicago saying, “Oh, sorry,” “Excuse me,” “Pardon me,” and “After you,” countless times.
It’s as involuntary for me as breathing while sleeping. Let’s say that I arrive at a blind corner at the same time as someone else. I’ll then say, “Oh, sorry,” followed by a sheepish chuckle.
If I accidentally bump into someone on a crowded walkway or train, I’ll say “Excuse me.” I say the same thing when someone bumps into me, as if it were my fault.
If I arrive at a doorway at the same time as another, I’ll step back and say, “Pardon me,” or “After you,” accompanied by a gesture for that person to precede me.
The vast majority of these encounters yield no reciprocity, whatsoever; not even eye contact. Sometimes I get the evil eye, as if I had planned on being in that person’s way.
The first few years I lived here, this bothered me. Not the near collisions; but being ignored, being treated like an object.
Now, I don’t care. I don’t expect people to acknowledge me. And I rather enjoy my given role as this city’s Ambassador of Gentlemanly Comportment.