Friday, January 28, 2011

Smile From Ear to Ear

Remember those pancakes at IHop?  The ones I ate while finishing The Footprints of God?  The smile on my face as I chowed-down was due, in no small part, to something that happened as I entered the restaurant.  Read on, denizens, and see what filled my heart.  Just another reason I love Tucson!
It was late and dark and cold.  I was alone.  I wasn't anxious about my safety, but I consciously chose a parking space close to the entrance, under a light pole and near a family group who were just exiting their car. 

I took my time, not wanting to open my door into them.  I collected my wallet and my novel and closed the sunroof.  By the time I beep-locked The Schnozz my safety net people were approaching the door of the restaurant.

There were 4 of them - an abuela, a mom and a teenaged boy and girl.  The kids were just a little bit more dressed up than is usual for Tucson teens.  Not fancy stuff, but their outfits had obviously been chosen with care.  His jeans weren't sagging and his top hat sat at a jaunty angle on his carefully gelled hair.  She was fingering her pretty bracelet which matched the clip in her hair.

It could have been one of those awkward moments, when the young man's eyes met mine.  He was holding the door for the women to pass through.  Not begrudging the action, but doing it with grace and a smile.  But I was 20 feet away and his party was moving to the hostess station without him.  It could have been awkward.

It wasn't.  There was a huge smile on his face as he stood there, patiently waiting for me to cross the lot from my car to the doorway.  I was impressed.  Very very impressed.

The bright lights glinted off his orthodontia as he grinned in response to my kudos and compliments.  You are so well-behaved.  Thank you for reminding me that there are still mannerly children in the world.  I rattled on.  The Cuters, had they been there, would have been cringing.  Enough already, MomBut I didn't care.  He was wonderful and it needed to be said.  

Are these your grown-ups?  What a wonderful job you've done raising him...  and then I realized that I'd mis-judged the situation.  This was a chaperoned date.  He was out with his girlfriend and her mom and grandmother.  Some part of him was showing off and I was part of that story.  As I covered my tracks and centered the compliments on him rather than them, I watched the girl's eyes swell with pride.  As she glowed, he grew taller.  

The hostess arrived and escorted them to their booth.  We said our goodnight's as they walked away, ladies first, the young gentleman bringing up the rear, his hand gently encouraging his lady friend to go first.  And then, as they left the lobby area and entered the restaurant proper, he took off his hat.

He took off his hat.  Someone had taken the time to inform him that gentlemen do not cover their heads while dining and he'd heard it.  Loud and clear.  Good behavior had been internalized and there he was, in the exact situation where manners would earn him brownie points, and he had the tools to glean them.  

I couldn't resist.  You are really perfect, aren't you?  I called after him.  

He turned, and smiled.  Was it triumph?  Glee?  Self-satisfaction? Pride?  I'm not sure.  I do know that there was not a hint of embarrassment anywhere to be found. 

I smiled all the way through my all-you-can-eat-pancakes.  And I paid their dinner check.  Just added it to mine and walked out the door.  I didn't wait to see how they reacted; I did it more for me than for them. It seemed to be the least that I could do for the joy that he'd given me.

It was a real Tucson Moment.

Can you tell why I love my town? 


  1. Whew! I was right there Miss A...shades of Herb Caen and sooo proud of you. oxo's, Artess

  2. I taught in an inner city high school for 21 years, and I taught just this type of thing for dates and dinners. I am so pleased to know someone else is teaching it, too, and it's being used by a very nice young man. Thank you for picking up the tab. And, for sharing the story.

  3. A lesson for other fellows. Good behavior is rewarded...hopefully the young man will tell others, so it can be passed along...debbie

  4. I went into my son's sixth-grade parent-teacher conference. Me facing four teachers at once. The language arts teacher started off by saying, "I have to tell you that your son is the most polite, respectful child in the sixth-grade." (Grades? Those are good too.) But that was all I needed to hear.

  5. How lucky you were to stumble upon the scene. How wise of you to know it.

  6. That's amazing 'cause in my experience guys today know nothing about the manners of hats and holding doors. I always LOVE when men do that and he will grow-up to be a good man too. Manners are important. They show respect for others and well as for oneself.

  7. Isn't it mindboggling that kids are still talked to, guided to adulthood by parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles who want them to live happy productive lives. If that happened more maybe, just maybe..the world could heal from the mess we are in right now. Morals and manners, such a simple aspect of our lives that has gone out of fashion. That's why you couldn't get over the kindness, it's that rare! Hope each day finds you stronger...

  8. There simply aren't enough people like that in the world today. Many could learn from that wise young man.

  9. And what a great story you gave them to pass along! And thank *you* for passing it along to us. I'm beaming myself just from reading this!

  10. I so love it that this was the story you lived on that Friday night; as you give it to us, it comes back to you in its full beauty. And that is why we write.

    Meaning it in the kindest and very best way, especially as it relates to your storytelling (not a hint of embarrassment, now): You are really perfect, aren't you?

  11. I have been instructing Mr 5 and Mr 7 in the art of holding doors and shaking hands and pulling out chairs. It's not a matter of "can't she do it herself"? It's a piece of respect for your place in the larger world. I tell you, denizens, when he took off his hat he absolutely slayed me :)

    Somebody is doing something right!

  12. I am so happy to hear that someone is still being taught to remove hats indoors. That used to make my father crazy, and now it makes me crazy. Unfortunately, I am surrounded by students, staff, and faculty who were never taught. :(

  13. I tried posting once, but it didn't go through, so I'm going to try again!

    Dear Suzi,

    You are just such an inspiration! I wish that there were more people in the world like you.

    If you plan to go to the Gem Show, I work at the IHOP on Grant/I-10 in the evening. It would be an honor to serve you some pancakes and give you a big hug!

  14. Great post. Not too many people can make an IHOP
    incident sound like something from Gone with the Wind. She's baaaaack!

  15. Tami, I will look for you at the IHOP next time I am in need of carbs... and as soon as my wounded self can travel and sit.

    Nance, perfect? I know that G'ma thinks I am :) I was just in a perfect place and had the thought to end it with a smile.

    Isn't it nice to know that WE are not the only ones who consider good manners a necessity for modern life? As I told the Cuters growing up "Manners Make the World Go 'round.... smoothly"

    And yes, FeDuke, I am slowly climbing back :)

  16. Great blog post about manners in today's society especially with our young folks. Being raised in a conservative household as a guy I was constantly reminded of the little things that mattered to women of all ages (Holding the door open, letting the female go first, taking your hat off when you entered the establishment, and pulling the chair out for your female family members and friends) by both of my widowed grandmothers and they carried over to my adult life. Maybe I was raised the old fashion way but it has made a difference in my life. It is something I have passed on to my teenage son A.J. and I know he has picked up his father's habits. It is amazing to watch the reaction of the younger generation's female population when a mid aged man holds the door open for them. They usually say "Thank You" and I say "You are welcome". Hope you are getting better. Also, tell the Green family when you see them "Thank You" for Christina's organ donations. I cried for two hours straight the night I found out the Green Family had donated Christina's organs to children in need and I knew she was an extremely special person. Almost six years ago I was on the receiving end of a transplant (Heart)by my donor David who had died tragically also. I truly know what the meaning of "The Gift of Life" means because I am recipient of such precious gift. God Bless you Suzi and family along with the Green Family.

  17. I am here to check and see if I can comment and report back to kenju who is having trouble commenting on you blog. I am so very glad I came because I loved this post a great deal.

  18. I used to work in an elementary school where my children also attended. They knew that their mother would not let them wear their hats in the house, but in school? Well, that wasn't the same, was it? To their chagrin, it was indeed, the same.

    I remember asking some of those young boys repeatedly to remove their hat, but particularly when they were about to sit down to eat in the cafeteria. Some of them had never heard such an outlandish request. But on the whole, those who removed their hats, looked at me sheepishly and said, "yes, ma'm" as if they knew it was proper and correct.

    Yes, we are sort of learning that our youth are learning. I just hope it continues.

  19. I am so happy to hear that you are healing and thanks for your thoughtful posts.


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