I have to say, the older and crankier I get, the more people’s off-kilter behavior is appalling to me. Basic manners and simple etiquette are going by way of the flip phone and it makes me sad. And kind of irate.
I was running in the cemetery the other night, because as you know, I need to run in order to avoid my people’s genetic predisposition of a meatball-shaped physique. It’s either that, or not eating doughnuts, and that ain’t happening. When I really need to concentrate on a dilemma (i.e. should I paint my toenails Ballet Slipper or Navy Yard?), I head to the cemetery where it’s peaceful and no one judges my clunky gait, wheezing or the sweat stains reaching to my knees. That is almost no exaggeration.
So I was prancing around, deep in thought, when a large dog, without a leash, came bounding out from behind a mausoleum and scared the living crap out of me. I screamed. And then he did the unthinkable. He lifted his leg and tinkled on a headstone! A headstone! Is there anything more disrespectful? I came to a screeching, perspiration-soaked halt, tore out my earbuds and yelled to the amazingly clueless pet owner, “Seriously? You let your dog pee on a headstone? What if it were your mother’s headstone, man? Not cool. Not. Cool.” And then I ran home as fast as my stumpy little legs could carry me because how did I know if he was an active descendent of Son of Sam? I’m such a coward. I scream first and then retreat. It’s a gift, really.
The sign posted at the entrance states clearly: No pets. And I’m certain they mean no rude pets with weak bladders (besides me). It’s about being courteous and doing the right thing. Why is that the exception rather than the rule anymore? Sadly, this is why there are so few public areas where one can roam freely. Pretty soon, cemeteries, public parks and Turkey Hills will be gated and we’ll need an EZ Pass to gain admittance.
Everything about human nature that annoys me harkens back to the basic life instruction we teach our children. When my son was 8 years old, he wanted to show his (misplaced) school spirit and made the dazzling decision to spray-paint “Warriors” in 5-foot letters upon our garage walls. We weren’t happy, so a punishment followed plus a letter of apology to his father (who thought the whole thing was a hoot) (which is half my problem). But we needed him to value property that was not owned by him. My other son had a penchant for angrily slamming doors. Which broke glass. Which cost him all his lemonade stand profits to replace. Again, an important lesson in respect. And charging more for lemonade.
Last week, one of my favorite miniature patrons was led up to the library desk by her mother. She looked like she was going to throw- up. Her mother instructed her: “Tell Mrs. Heck what you did.” She whispered: “I wrote in the book by accident. In pencil!” She was clutching her little wallet because she was going to pay for a new book. We only charged her 25 cents because she was cute. And honest. And respectful.
Impertinence and disrespect in any form is just unacceptable at every age. Teach kids early and often to value even the smallest things, like a garage wall, and they will hopefully blossom into adults who don’t let their animals pee on headstones.
Or on the leg of a cranky runner.
Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three, a librarian and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life.