Thursday, June 22, 2006

Good Manners Have Left the Building

What Would You Do?

The health club hot tub was beckoning me today, even though the temperature outside is hovering around 97*. It has jacuzzi type jets which I used to enjoy, but after remodeling the spa they turned the jets straight up instead of out. This resulted in huge air bubbles that volcano up behind you, wet your hair, up your nose and in your ears, and do no good at all on your back. I prefer that they be turned off as much as possible when I am in there, so I can relax without three cups of water shooting into my ears.

I had just sat down in the 104* still waters, thanking my lucky stars that I had a membership there, when in walks a man about my age who promptly goes to the switch, turns it on and steps into the tub. I could not believe that he had done it without asking if I minded. If I had already been in the tub for 8-10 minutes (my usual stay), I would not have cared. Most people ask if it is okay to turn the jets on - especially if there is only one person in the tub - but he didn't even look in my direction. I immediately hauled myself out of the water and sat on the divider between the hot tub and the pool.

Just as quickly, I set my legs back down into the water, because it dawned on me that if I didn't, he would think that I got out of the tub because he is black. Believe it or not, there are a few people there sometimes, who will not enter the tub if there are blacks in it. I am certainly not one of those, but it occurred to me that he might think so if I didn't get back into it. So I waited patiently until he dove into the pool; I walked got out and turned it off. Luckily, no one else interrupted me before I was ready to exit. I wonder what he would have thought if the scene had happened like this: He is sitting in the tub, blissing out over the hot water and the jets, and I walk in and turn off the switch without asking, blithely stepping into the tub, seemingly oblivious (or blatantly uncaring) that I had done anything ill-mannered?

I try not to offend anyone with my words or actions, but there comes a time when I'd like to stop bending over backward to avoid it. I was at a restaurant drive through several years ago, when after having to wait a good while at the window, I placed the money on the pass through. The woman taking the orders looked at it, sneered at me and almost threw my change through the window before she thought better of it and slammed it down on the pass-through. I didn't understand why she did that, until I read an article a couple of months later how some people will not hand money to black people because it may result in their hands touching. It never occurred to me not to do that - and it never occurred to me that some others might do it - and it sure didn't occur to me that anyone would take offense at it. Since that time, I have always held on to my money and handed it directly to the order-taker, no matter how long the wait, or what else I may want to do with that hand.

How might you have handled this situation? Please believe that I do not want to start any arguments or diatribes on race relations. I would like a suggestion of how to handle such situations without offense to either party. I will delete any comments I find objectionable.


Dara said...

I might have said, "Do you mind if we have the jets off for a few minutes? The water gets in my ears and it's quite uncomfortable." I wonder if he thought you were new and didn't know how to turn on the jets - but then again, I usually give people the benefit of the doubt. Thanks for the food for thought. Here from Michele's.

Prego said...

thanks for the visit. obviously offending is my forté.

my brother and i once pulled to a red light and noticed the two older ladies in the car next to us locking their doors. that was 'cute'.

great post.

Prego said...

No suggestions - other than do what you think is the right thing to do. I have faith in you.

Pickalish said...

I don't know what to tell you because: I never say anything....until I freak out one day. It's a cyclical thing. Every few months someone catches my wrath because of their rudeness, but for the most part, I'm pretty codependent in public situations. I had never heard of either of those examples you used awful, and I really can't believe in this day and age people still act like that!

Prego said...

(by the way, you might get a kick out of this.

Shane said...

I hear ya -- it stinks.

Claude said...

Your story took kind of a left turn on me. First we were on rudeness, then racism, then back on rudeness. Of course, racism is pretty rude, so maybe it didn't turn at all.

It can go both ways, though. A few years ago I was working in a school in a predominantly black neighborhood. For the first few months, when the locals saw me driving through the neighborhood, they'd holler "Yo, Five-O!" at me, thinking I was a cop. Later on, as they got to know me, they started identifying me by the school's name.

As far as handling this guy (regardless of race), I think Dara's pretty much got the right idea. And it might be worth your while to ask someone whether the jets can be re-aimed.

Here from Michele's.

srp said...

Hot tubs in general make my mind go into hyper-imagination mode. I guess it comes from knowing what my ex did with his squeeze in a hot tub.

It's similar to my aversion to Shoney's after an autopsy I did once. But that story is best left untold.

I like the idea of talking to someone at the place about re-aiming the jets.

My float said...

What a tough one. I guess I'd have done the same thing as you, gotten out of the pool. Perhaps you could have chatted to him and then included something about the jets. I agree that perhaps he thought you didn't know how to turn on the jets. My way of dealing with situations like this, where I'm conscious that my actions may be misinterpreted, is to smile a lot and be really friendly and open.

I can't believe people in this day and age still discriminate so much.

kenju said...

About the re-positioning of the jets: A number of people have complained about them and asked if they can be changed - to no avail.

Raggedy said...

I don’t worry much about what anyone thinks in regards to race, ethnic origin, creed, religious preference or what not. You got out because of the jets, if he thought otherwise, his problem.

Have a wonderful day! Hugs

AC said...

His behaviour was either aggressive or oblivious. I get the same feeling in Target, where the aislesways are just too narrow, when I'm standing trying to decide on a toothpaste flavor and someone rams their cart between me and the shelf. "do you not see me? or do you just not care".

I'm agreeing that a polite request to keep the jets off for a few minutes would have been completely appropriate. If the newcomer thinks thats rude, it certainly is no ruder than turning them on without asking. Any issues resulting from your asking to keep them off would fall entirely in his court. When asked, I just assume he would have agreed to your request immediately. Otherwise he 's just a bully and who wants to soak with a bully.

Sharing a hot tub does require cooperation. If he had to have jets, he could have just waited patiently til you were done.

Melody said...

Hmmm. I would have just explained myself, said that you wanted the jets moved/off. Good luck next time...

Here via Michele today.

Terri said...

Quite a story. Personally, I don't feel either of the scenarios has to do with color, race or prejudice.
What the man did, I feel was rude...plain and simple. I would have been forced to speak up, right away, saying something like, "EXCUUUUUSE me! I'm IN here. Couldn't you have asked me first, before touching the jets?"
I'd never heard about the passing of money thing either. That seems to be a bit too touchy. Just my opinion.

Karen said...

Judy, great question. I think I would have done exactly the same thing and had the same thoughts. You sound EXACTLY like me. I get angry when people are impolite and throw their weight around. I have friends who would have said to the man: "Um, next time, would you please ask before turning the jets on?" I'm not that least not most of the time. (My kids would disagree.)

Sorry your comment didn't work on my blog yesterday. I didn't receive it, for some reason.

Have a great day!

Weary Hag said...

Judy - EXCELLENT post.

I was going to type exactly the same thing that "Raggedy" said. (glad I read your comments first)

When I was a bit younger, I used to be quite concerned not to offend anyone's race, religion, etc ... then something happened. As I aged, I realized that it is not MY job to be the emotional caretaker of everyone on this earth. It's impossible to second guess what anyone is thinking as a result of my words or actions; but the reality is that if they FIRST think bias or prejudice, then it's not my problem, it's theirs.

Tia said...

Hmmm.... My tendency would have been to react the way you did. But the polite confrontation would probably be better.

I wish us both more occasions where we can feel free to speak our minds while being kind about it.

Thumper said...

The guy at the hot tub...I probably would have muttered "gee, no, I don't mind if you turn the jets on" as I got out. But I would mutter that no matter who had done it. Lady at the take out window...well, that really was her problem. If she assumed you didn't hand her money directly because of the color of her skin, she's thinking more about race than you are.

Face it, people assume a lot. I was in my car last year, top down...I had just started it up and was reaching for something when two guys walked by, and as they did the doors locked. They do that automatically after the engine's been on 30 seconds. One guy said to the other, "Did you see that? She locked the doors and we're not even black!"

WTF? Locking the doors is not a racial thing, it's a GENDER thing. If I'd locked them on my own, it would have been because they were two unknown males. But people assume.

You can't let other peoples' assumptions get to you, you know?

November Rain said...

With me it was the sauna one time... I was in there with one other lady... and they always ask before pouring water now it doesnt bother me but it bother the other lady

or to walk in and have 3 laying down who refuse to sit up and make room

I would have wanted to state flytly please dont turn those on flat out but doing it and wanting to do it are two different things

I normal keep quiet and suffer others rudeness but there comes a time when you have to draw the line

November Rain said...

oh btw hi from michele

Wordnerd said...

Black, white, or purple -- what he did was inconsiderate. I would have left the tub, mentioning that the jets are uncomfortable for me as I got out.

I'm sorry that racism and discrimination exist, but like a couple of the other commentors mentioned, we can't worry that every single thing we do might be misconstrued.

Greg Finnegan said...

"Ex- CUUUU - ZZZZE MMMEEE!!! Turning on the water jets just like THAT surprises my little HISSSSSSTERICAL. She's my Florida Cottonmouth Snake, you know, about 3 feet long, who just LOVES the tub IF no one turns on the jets. She always goes for the one who turns it on, too. Now how do you know she knows? More to the point, WHERE DO YOU SUPPOSE SHE IS RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE SHE SCOOTED OUT OF THIS POOL AS SOON AS YOU MADE YOUR BIG, BIG MISTAKE?"

goldenlucyd said...

Very stimulating post Kenju. I'm thinking about how I'd handle it. Probably a lot like you did. It's funny. The folks that are the most oblivious and inconsiderate of others are often times the first to take offense at an imagined slight to themselves. And THAT has nothing to do with race, gender or age. Some people are just self-centered and touchy.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Act like everybody's white, or everybody's black, or green, or purple. Anybody takes exception, all you can do is say: So it goes.

Malinda777 said...

I would have asked him if he's been in the tub since the settings were changed and did he realize it would go up his nose and ears.

We would have laughed, and if he still wanted it on, I would have left. I see no racial move here at all.

Then again, that's why I bought my own hot tub for the patio and I can have the jets any way I want them :)

Cyndy said...

Of course it wasn't racially motivated but I can certainly see why you had a dilemma, I would have too. What I do see also is the rudeness that is rampant these days..such as his actions. I don't belong to a health club, but the one I did belong to had separate hot tubs for women and men. Of course, I knew nothing and I was in with my suit on and every other woman was naked! ha
Here from Michele

panthergirl said...

I think I would have said something. Just a simple, "I really prefer the jets off. I'll just be about 10 minutes if you prefer to wait."

Like you, racial stuff never even enters my consciousness so when I hear things like "people won't get in if there's a black person there" it blows my mind. Seriously. This is the freakin' 21st Century!! Unreal, and depressing.

Here via michele!

doubleknot said...

Being a person raised in both commuities - black, white, oriental - I don't have many prejudies left - I would have asked the gentleman if you could turn off the jets for a few minuets. I wonder now if I am a little prejudice when I go to the grocery store if there is a black cashier I always choose her or him - seems they are so much more politer and do their work while the white ones I have problems with a lot of times. I may have to do some thinking about this.

MareDog said...

I'm so glad I found your blog! You have a knack for commenting on things pertinent to my life, too. As I've mellowed, I tend to think that these things are more the result of thoughtlessness than downright rudeness -- and they cut across all age, race, and gender groups. Each time, I become a little more conscious of my own need to be more thoughtful of others.

But they still make me m-a-d!!

CLOWNSRME2 said...


Carmi said...

I would smile snarkily at him and thank him for so generously asking me if it was OK to turn the jets on. Then I would laud him for his treasured empathy and his ability to put the needs of others before his own.

Then I'd walk off and let him mull over his slothiness.

The world is definitely becoming more rude. We ran into it at a movie last night, where a group of kids made so much noise that another patron finally confronted them and threatened them. It worked, but the fact that it happened at all speaks volumes about how little some people feel about the needs of others.

I hope I'm wrong, but the anecdotal evidence sugesting a degradation seems to be piling up everywhere.

You handled it in a fair and balanced way. If only more folks were as sensitive as you.

Gerbera Daisy said...

I agree with Carmi. I think the world on the whole has become more rude. It is sad, really. There are so many self absorbed people.