It was date night for my son and me the other night. He got tickets to the final Raptors game of the season from his godmother and since sportier Dad had work, I scored the second ticket. In all truthfulness, he and I can’t get enough of each other so the evening to ourselves was sure to be a hit.And it was. The arena was bursting with energy, we won, earned free pizza, and the dog steeplechase halftime show took his attention hostage like a highway fender bender. Of course, no opportunity for me to people-watch and learn some lessons on humanity were spared.
1. We picked up dinner before the game at the nearby market-style restaurant. The cheese pizza we ordered that we were told would be ready in 10 minutes instead took 20 because, well, they forgot to make it. I watched the discovery unfold, as the dude searched for it in the brick oven, found nothing, mouthed oh crap and proceeded to make the pizza in silence. After he slid it into the oven, he leaned over to the other pizza-making dude and while his words were inaudible, I knew what he was saying because Other Pizza-Making Dude looked right at me. Pizza Dude One returns to the counter and starts making the next pizza ordered and Other Pizza-Making Dude hollers out, “Personal cheese pizza?” It felt like the scene in Meet the Parents when Greg Focker is the only one standing at the airport gate. “Yes?” “Your pizza will be ready in 3 minutes.”
2. Thirty seconds before the halftime buzzer, fans across the arena started vacating their seats for potty breaks, shopping and wandering. In the row behind me, a well-dressed young lady was shimmying herself out when she accidentally knocked over a guy’s full bag of popcorn. The moment awkwardly but very clearly indicated that she knew she was responsible for the half-bag and the mess on the floor, but she said nothing and continued to the staircase and disappeared. When the third quarter began, she returned, new glass of wine in-tow.
3. The door of the pedestrian entrance of the parking garage was being held by a homeless person sitting on the ground, inverted hat in front of him. As we leaned over to drop him some change, I saw that he had less than $2 collected. We thanked him and followed two ladies, again well-dressed and donning the new We The North scarves, who walked right through the same door in silence and without eye contact between them and the doorholder.
I share these observations not to nail individuals but to analyze the larger “we” that all behave this puzzling way all the time, let’s be honest. Why are we so afraid to be wrong? To say sorry? To try to fix it (because, woman, you afforded the second glass of wine, surely you could have kindly picked up a small popcorn for those guys)?
Well, actually, let me rephrase. In all three scenarios, someone committed a faux-pas. Fine, nobody’s perfect. He forgot to make my son’s pizza. She kicked over the guy’s popcorn. They didn’t acknowledge the beggar’s manners in holding the door for them. What fascinated me was that the fear of addressing these mistakes paralyzed each of them.
We make concerned conversation at the water cooler about racial tension in the States and the latest ISIS-linked atrocity but do not, from our remarkably-safe corners of the world, contribute to an invisible movement of being polite, having integrity, showing vulnerability and risking the consequences of minor social offenses. How much more fake-perfect do we need to be? We already post cropped and filtered photos that nobody really needs to see. God forbid someone pulls back the curtain and discovers that our house never looks that spectacular on a Tuesday after school and – gasp! - that looking away or saying nothing about our mistakes does not, in fact, make them disappear.
I think we need to rethink the self-preservation thing and make a habit of saying the following more freely: “My bad.” “I’m sorry.” “Thanks.” (Don’t even make me add “I forgive you” to this, people. Hashtag-next-post-just-might-be-about-mercy.)
These may not have a direct impact on the events in the Middle East, but I think our own corners will be all the better for it. And I suspect it won’t be nearly as painful as we think.