[A] dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot. -R.A. Heinlein
So I stopped by work to grab my paycheck while running errands this morning. The outpost of the International Petroleum Conspiracy is co-located with an outlet of Mega Fast Food, and the joint was packed with the breakfast crowd. I nosed the Zed Three into the conga line snaking towards the parking lot's egress and patiently inched along.
Just as I was only one car away from making my escape, the van immediately ahead of my car shifted into reverse and began to twitch backwards, obviously intending to reverse into a parking spot just off my starboard bow. Since his current course was plotted right through the center of my engine compartment, I glanced in my rearview to ascertain that I had room between me and the Essyouvee astern, selected reverse myself, and tapped my horn to warn the approaching van of my presence.
He altered neither speed nor course, and continued rearward. I hopped the Bimmer adroitly out of his path and tapped the horn again to make him aware of the fate that had been so narrowly averted. Leaning out the driver's window, toothpick firmly clenched in his prognathous jaw, he yelled "Hey! You gotta f*%#$in' problem?" in the mellifluous accent of one of those Northeastern Megalopolii known far and wide for their manners. A problem? Me? With some ill-bred jackanape attempting to park his dented '79 Econoline in my passenger seat? No, no problem at all. I smiled politely at the poor, benighted lout and continued on, serenaded on my way by an ever-fainter string of obsceneties sung in the dulcet tones of his native land.
What would Miss Manners do? The fact that I am typing this from home and not a prison cell will tell you that I didn't do what I wanted to do. But only because I keep forgetting to put my seconds on speed dial.