If you happen to live in Texas, then you’ll probably recognize the men I talk about in this post. If you don’t, then just know Texas is, by and large, a friendly place. People have an expectation of how everyone should behave in public and we call it Texas Friendly. Courtesies do not extend to the roads of course. Texas drivers will cut you off, run you down, and imperil your life just to beat you to the next red light. But once you exit your car and go to some public place, the murder attempts cease and everyone is very nice. There is a lot of smiling and holding open doors and making polite conversation with complete strangers.
There is also chivalry. Good, old fashioned, offer-that-lady-some-help-because-she’s-too-delicate-to-take-care-of-herself, chivalry. I’m old fashioned enough to think that’s a good thing. I like it, even when it reaches the levels of absurdity as it did a year (or so) ago for me when I went to a local gas station.
I had a low tire on my pick-up truck. Not a flat tire, just low. It needed air and that is always such a pain. So instead of heading directly to wherever it was I needed to go, I had to stop at a gas station and put some air in that tire.
Life is hard.
Once I got there and parked myself in front of the air machine thingy, I realized I didn’t have any quarters. I had to go into the store and get some.
Life is hard.
The store was FULL of customers. The line was HUGE. There were at least seven people ahead of me. I had to just stand there and wait with nothing to do and my knitting was in the truck.
Life is hard.
Because I was so bored (and without knitting) I started noticing things. First off, everyone in line ahead of me was male, dirty, and purchasing cheap beer. And they were really dirty. As in grimy hands, covered in dry wall dust, clothes splattered with mud and old paint, and smelling like sweat. They all needed baths. No. Scratch that. As my mother would say, they needed to be boiled.
Oh, yeah. It was about 5:30. It was quitting time. All these guys just got all work and they are going home to crash (and probably not bathe) while drinking their nightly allotment of beer. That explained why the line was so freaking long.
The second thing I noticed was an incredibly rude guy up by the counter. Here was the reason the line had gotten long in the first place. He was slowing things up and being unspeakably rude to the man behind the counter. The shopkeeper was an immigrant, probably from Pakistan judging by his accent, and the rude guy was saying nasty things about foreigners and jobs and and all that.
The third thing I noticed was that everyone else in the store, all these very dirty guys, were being super polite to each other. Uh huh. Cuz that’s how you do it in Texas. When confronted by a jerkface you ignore the bejesus out of him while being your cheeriest, most polite, self. The theory seems to be that if everyone else is very, very nice to each other it will cosmically cancel out the rudeness going on and no one will even notice it anymore. In fact, if we as a group really pour on the sweetness and light, the jerkface may cease to exist and disappear in a wisp of smoke.
I’ve never seen that work and it didn’t work then either. In spite of all the awkward smiling and nodding and standing waaaay out of each other’s personal space bubble, Jerkface was still there. The shopkeeper was telling his customers “Sir, you have a very good day for you, sir” because even freshly minted Texans by way of Pakistan understand these social rules. But it wasn’t working. When Jerkface gave up insulting the man at the counter he said something to the next guy in line (who ignored him with the power of a thousand suns). Then Jerkface looked up and caught me watching him. Crap. I knew I’d be next. Everyone else seemed to know this too. There was this big intake of breath and then… it happened.
Jerkface said something to me. To me, the only woman in the store.
(Honestly I have no idea what he said. He was mumbling. He might have said something like “Hey, nice boots”. He might have said something really nasty. What I do know is that all those dirty guys reacted. They over-reacted and it was completely adorable.)
One man stepped bodily in front of me to protect me from any further vicious mumblings. The shopkeeper started shouting “Sir! It is time for you to be going now, sir!” A third man grabbed Jerkface’s arm and walked him right out he door.
Then they all looked at me. And smiled. I looked at them. And smiled. Then I realized I got to go to the head of the line.
Maybe life isn’t so hard after all.
So I stepped up to the counter (and smiled) and pushed a dollar bill across and asked for four quarters. The shopkeeper gave me my change and told me “Ma’am, you have a very good day, ma’am”. I said thank-you and went to leave but the absurdity didn’t end there.
When I reached the door, a dirty man set his case of Keystone Light beer (Yech! have you ever tried Keystone Light? Yech!) down on the floor and said “I’ll walk you to your car”. We stepped outside and I told I was parked over by the air machine thingy because I needed to put air in a tire. He said “I’ll do it” and held out a grimy hand. So I gave him my four quarters and my tire gauge (yes I have a tire gauge and I can find it when I need it and aren’t you impressed?).
I just stood around and watched while he aired up that tire. Then he checked the levels in all my other tires and topped them off too. This all all took twice as long as it would have if I had done it myself but I smiled the whole time because I’m Texan and this man was trying to make me feel better about having been mumbled at. When he was (finally) done he gave me back my tire gauge and watched me climb into my truck and drive away. He watched me all the way out of the parking lot.
I managed to not start laughing until I was at least a block away. I wouldn’t want him to feel insulted or unapprecaited. Here was a man that had worked hard all day and them took the time to help a lady he didn’t even know. He was a real gentleman under all that dirt and sweat. I hope he enjoyed his wretchedly cheap beer.
Life can be pretty good sometimes. Sometimes, it can be absolutely hysterical.
* Some apologies. I had an assortment of pictures ready for this post but imgur.com (which is where I host my pictures) seems to be taking a vacation. At the time of this posting it won’t come up for me. That’s okay. I’m sure imgur will be back soon and my pictures didn’t have much to do with the topic anyway. They were just some of my favorite shots from around Texas. I’ve settled for just the one, loaded directly into WordPress and I hope it doesn’t slow the page-loading-time down too much. That picture was taken at The Window, in Big Bend National Park and the end of a 6 mile hike I made with my mom, lots of camera equipment, and heavy bottles of drinking water. At the end of the hike she and I may have needed baths ourselves but had to settle for glasses of iced tea. At least it wasn’t cheep beer, right?