Thursday, August 9, 2012

I Miss Mayberry

Remember when people were neighborly? Remember when they dropped by to borrow a cup of sugar or shoot the breeze while the kids played hide-and-seek in the street? I didn't grow up in the 50's or the 60's so I don't actually remember these things but I've been told and I've seen Leave It To Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show so I believe that we used to be kinder.

Of course I encounter people every single day who are friendly and willing to give others the benefit of the doubt and aren't completely self absorbed. But I also encounter people just as frequently who are the definition of selfish and, well, not nice.

On Tuesday the boys had a swimming lesson that was over at 11:55. The pool opens at 12:00 for recreational play so when the lesson was over, we put our stuff down under a big umbrella and went to get our wristbands. Later, as the pool filled up, a lady approached the umbrella pushing a double stroller. She had dialogue with some other people near us and it was clear that they were together. After a couple minutes she very nicely asked if it would be alright if she parked the stroller next to me so that the two babies who were asleep inside could be in the shade. Of course it was fine with me and I even rearranged our chairs a little so that she could have more room. We chatted. We were, if you will, neighborly. Several families were sharing the shade of the umbrella and there wasn't a bit of a problem. The umbrella is always shared because it is gigantic.

Today the boys had a swimming lesson. When it was done, we put our things down under the same umbrella. There were two other ladies whose kids had also had lessons. As they went to check in, they had their daughters stay on the chairs that they were reserving. As I looked for our passes in my bag, another family came up and I assumed they were with the two ladies who'd left to get their wrist bands. They started giving me very nasty looks and then, to each other, they started in.

"I have no idea what they are doing. You are absolutely supposed to exit the pool before claiming space." 

"This is ridiculous."

"What does she think she is doing?"

"Someone needs to tell a lifeguard because this is not okay."

Now, I had set up three lounge chairs on the very far side of the umbrella because we only tend to stay for about two hours, more than 90 minutes of that is spent in the water, and, when we get out, we don't usually want to be in the shade because we're wet. I was on the very outskirts of the umbrella property. One of the three chairs was completely in the shade, one was somewhat in the sun and the other was totally in the sun. As the boys and I walked to get our wristbands I could not believe how angry they were so suddenly. I also could not ever remember any member of the fitness center telling me that I had to leave before securing a spot. The deck space is huge and there is simply no reason for such a rule.

As we walked back down to our stuff, I couldn't believe me eyes. The most vocal lady was actually shoving my chair several feet. When she saw me coming, she dropped her bag directly next to my chair, in the space the chair had been only moments before.

And, as my good friend likes to say, I almost came out of my Jesus. 

But I remembered that I have Jesus and so, instead of getting into a poolside brawl with another woman, I gathered the boys close to me and whispered that someone wasn't being very nice and mommy needed to pray before she responded the same way. So I asked the Lord to help me calm down and then I asked Him what He would do. Because throwing peaches at them--which is kind of what I wanted to do--probably wouldn't be His choice of responses.

As I finished whispering my prayer, another couple of ladies joined the group. "She just put her stuff right here, in the middle of our space," I heard one of them say. I couldn't believe this because I was not in the middle of them. I was way off to the side. "They are supposed to go out and come back in. I cannot believe how rude people are." (Yes, she said that.)

"Are you kidding?" Another lady asked as I felt my cheeks flushing the way they always do when someone, anyone, doesn't approve of something I've done. "There is no excuse for that. I can't believe this is happening."

Neither could I, quite frankly. There were several adults gathered around now, all of them loudly talking about what an awful person I was for, you know, putting my stuff on three lounge chairs.

The boys and I walked over to the diving pool. That's when it hit me. No, I did not want to be bullied by middle schoolers masquerading as grown women. No, I didn't want to back down when I'd done nothing wrong. But, did it really matter?

Did it really matter where we sat? As I said before, we spend very little time actually sitting. So did it matter where our stuff stayed while we played?

The answer was no. So I set up some chairs much closer to the diving pool and went back over to the umbrella. I left the boys at the new chairs because I honestly wasn't sure what was going to happen. I didn't want to simply pick up my stuff and walk away because, while I was attempting to do some turning the other cheek action, I also didn't want them to perceive that they had bullied me into leaving.

I picked up our stuff and looked at the two ladies who'd been there at the swimming lesson, the two who'd had their daughters saving seats (which had never made much sense to me because hadn't I done the exact same thing?), "You can just have these. We don't actually care where we sit." I said in the friendliest voice I could muster which was hard because my cheeks felt like they were on fire.

One of the women looked confused. The other smiled and said, "Oh, it's not us. We don't need them. It's those people back there," she turned and pointed behind her. See, I had just assumed they were together. But what had actually happened is that the other two women and myself  had saved seats after swimming lessons. We were all there first. Then the other family had arrived and instantly started saying that we were all in their space. As though the umbrella had their names on it. I was kind of super confused by this development. 

I looked at the woman they were pointing at. She was glaring at me. "Yeah. It's us. We're pissed. Because we got here an hour early to secure this spot. And they shouldn't have let you in early."

I could have said several things like, "There's no way you were here an hour early because my kids' swimming lesson didn't start until 45 minutes ago and you weren't here when I walked in." Or, "They didn't let me in early. I paid 50 bucks for swimming lessons and they weren't over until 11:55. Then I had to get their exit paperwork and their suckers and by then the pool was already open." Or, "Wow. You're a pretty angry person." But I managed to smile. "Well, like I said, we don't care where we're at. We're happy anywhere. So you can have our chairs."

And if I'd been the one being rude in the first place, I would have felt about this big (picture my thumb and my pointer finger pinching together with only a very small space between them). I would have probably said something like, "Okay. Thank you very much," and then crawled under the nearest gigantic umbrella and died a little. Instead, she just glared at me and kind of shook her head like she was disgusted by my presence. She never said another word.

We had a blast swimming and jumping and sliding and, at one point, none of the nasty party was under the umbrella so I walked over to the two ladies I'd accused. "I'm sorry I thought you were the ones who wanted me to move. I thought you were together."

"Oh it's no problem. My goodness. I thought we were going to have a schoolyard fight!" one of them said. I guess the other family, who was, initially, clearly mad at all of us, had continued chipping at the other two who hadn't moved. 

And I miss Mayberry. Because I just don't think that would happen there. In Mayberry we'd all squeeze together to make sure that everyone had a great time at the pool. In Mayberry we'd be a little more patient and a little more understanding.

Just so you don't think I'm exaggerating...

This is the umbrella. All of the black squares are the spaces that the other family acquired. The red square off to the side is where I'd set up. The tiny red square in the center is where the other two ladies were. It looks like my square has a premier spot but, with the way the sun is at noon, there is very little shade on that side of the umbrella.

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