Monday, January 4, 2010

Learning right from left in East Hampton

I'm born and bred in East Hampton, but have been living for about a year in rural Nova Scotia. (Where strangers call you "dear," and always wave other cars into the flow of traffic, and actually smile at you and say "hi" on the sidewalk. Yeah, kind of like people did here 30 years ago....) Anyway, I've gotten totally unaccustomed to the insane, insane, blood-pressure-raising rudeness of home.

This morning, I had an encounter with such gratuitous meanness and rudeness that it almost gave me a heart attack! In the past, I've often been a customer at a local printing store. (Okay. Guess what? The shop's name is Montauk Printing. In East Hampton, on the Reutershan parking lot.) This morning, the sun was shining, there were no crowds in town, and I was  in a great mood. Then I went into Montauk Printing to buy some paper.

I walked in, picked up a pack of paper, put it on the counter, and  -- in order to free my hand to get at my wallet in my purse -- placed a cup of coffee onto the counter top. "GET THAT OFF MY COUNTER" shrieked the owner, leaping towards me. She didn't say this in any kind of joking way. She didn't say this in any kind of explanatory way. She said it in the infuriated, correctional tone a prison guard would use when correcting the behavior of a convicted murderer who had put his hand on the prison fence.

Because I've become totally unaccustomed to inexplicable, mindless rudeness and meanness, I was very meek and mild and apologetic. "I'm sorry," I simpered, and took the coffee cup off the counter as quickly as humanly possible. (The coffee cup wasn't dripping or anything whatsoever. But I guess the owner doesn't want anything that might potentially leave liquid anywhere near a surface that often holds paper products, right? Unlike in other stores, where it's considered polite to place drink cups on a counter, out of harm's way, at Montauk Printing you should automatically know in advance that this is an unspeakable crime.)

The owner then explained that I had picked up the wrong kind of paper. "If you want regular paper, take the one that says 'Meteor,' on the shelf behind you, to the right, with blue and black...." So I said, "Oh, good, thanks," and stepped back to the shelf and put my hand on a blue-and-black packet of paper marked "Meteor."

"No, not that one!" she barked at me, with inexpressible force and annoyance, "the one on the RIGHT"

I shifted my hand to another packet -- also blue-and-black, also marked "Meteor" -- right next to the first one, and asked, "This one?" And she barked, with mind-boggling unnecessary nastiness: "THAT'S YOUR RIGHT, ISN'T IT??????"

Oh. My lawrd. Who talks to another human being like this? Much less a customer? I just gave a wry smile and paid and thanked her.

But WTF? If someone had behaved like this in  Nova Scotia, literally, people would think they were, literally, ill, and would be express concern, and would gather in neighborly groups to see if the crazily, inexplicably rude person
perhaps needed a doctor.

- Left for Nova Scotia