Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Etiquette For Dummies (and Psychos)
Speaking for myself, I am not quick to judge McIntyre for his actions, as he obviously has a lot to work out for himself. It's true, most people don't like it when you murder your wife, kids, and mother-in-law, especially during a holiday--very tragic. But, if you take a fly on the wall view, McIntyre is not evil in the "classic" sense. Basically, I think he suffers from a case of bad manners.
Let's look at the big picture. The dude spent most of his life on adventures in exotic places for months at a time, where in many cases his life was on the line. Have you ever spent two weeks on a glacier, or at 25,000 feet, in below freezing temperatures? I didn't think so. You don't shower when you're up there, and the folks you hang with on your expedition don't either. There's no time for manners when the possibility of freezing to death, cerebral edema, falling over a ledge (where it's too dangerous for anyone to recover your body), losing a limb to frostbite, or finding a good place to relieve yourself require most of your daily attention. These guys talk about the dump they just took like they talk about their favorite TV show, and nobody cares. Manly things. So there's that.
And let's not forget, McIntyre REALLY DID suffer a cerebral edema, and in a hallucinatory fit, may have accidentally killed one of his sherpas.
"Not cool," you say, "when you're in someone else's country, you're a GUEST."
Bowing foolishly, mangling the language, that's okay, that's what most natives will (barely) tolerate from foreigners. But, when you go on a killing spree while in country, that's when people take offense. Listen, the guy's a mountaineer, for crying out loud! Things are a little more intense in his world. Mountaineers (and surfers) invented the catchphrase, "Intense, dude!" for a reason. So, there's that.
When McIntyre gets back to his country, everyone's coming down on him for the murder. The folks from the dead sherpa's village are seen on CNN, putting a curse on him. And now, he's sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, and his mother in law is giving him grief.
"Are you okay, Sean?"
"You should take some aspirin, Sean!"
"That wasn't necessary, Sean!"
Someone cut her f@#%ing head off, please. Admit it, you're all thinking it. Don't lay it all on McIntyre. Okay, sure, he could smile wanly back at her and limply tell her that he's "all right". That's what most people do with their in-laws. Just get through the weekend without a major disagreement, maintain the illusion that you like them, they'll soon be on a plane back home. Good manners, right?
Depending on which female acquaintance I run into, I have a running database in my brain which contains the correct greeting for each one of them. In Europe, it's easy, because everyone gives each other a proper peck on each cheek. Simple. Not in America. There's no standard, and you have to pre-judge what affection each person will accept from you. Which is more intimate, a hug or a kiss? Depends on the woman. Some require a handshake, some a hug with a tap out at the end, some a kiss on the cheek. Everyone has a different affection sharing protocol, and their own set of boundaries. Of course, you just do what works for you, even if it produces the occasional faltering air kiss.
I'm not suggesting that you practice McIntyre's techniques with women. That would be incredibly gauche. But, as you can see, not knowing the proper etiquette for a given situation can produce some very awkward moments. Give the guy a break. Please. Thank You. --Regards, KB