On formalities

15 May, 2010

Wherein politeness sinks to new depths.

The other day, riding my beloved bicycle Clark Gable home from work, I took the rather slow-moving traffic into consideration and proceeded to make a smooth, swift left turn from one one-way street onto another, always moving in the direction of traffic.  The light was about to change (admittedly, I don’t know for which street), so I caught the magic lull of 2 red lights and no cars.  As I sailed through the intersection, a nice lean into the turn, I heard a voice from a car shout out “It was a fucking red-light, Miss!”

I can only assume he was talking to me, or at least my guilty-enough conscience was aware of the red light that I had run.  But there was little time to waste thinking about the legality of my turn, as I realized that the end of the admonition was followed by an awfully formal title.


These being the mean streets of New York City, there are many names that I would have expected to follow the motorist’s exclamation.  None of them are ones you’d expect to see on an envelope.  I laughed as I wondered what possessed this outraged citizen – who felt some wrong had been done to him when I sped through the light he had to wait for – to qualify his outburst with such a formal title.  Had his speech not have included the F-bomb, I could have chalked it up to his own sense of manners, politeness, and righteous approach to do-gooding.  Instead, I am left with the absurd, amusing memory of  a perfect Brooklyn – and perhaps more specifically Cobble Hill – moment of gentrified moral conflict.

I’m glad he didn’t call me “Ma’am.”  Or “Missy.”  Or any word beginning with A, B or C.

However, I wouldn’t have minded a well-executed “Lady!”

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