So, about a week ago, I had a weird experience. I had driven down to Bethesda early in the morning to meet people to go for a long run.
Anyway, I pulled into a parking garage. Since it was still early on a Sunday (before 8), it was pretty empty. So I pull in and start getting my stuff together to go run. Part of this process entails pouring Gatorade from a 32-oz bottle into my personal water bottle, to be easy to carry on my belt. So I'm in the process of pouring and another car pulls into the garage.
And let's be clear here: there are at least 40 empty spots on my side of the garage, and also many others on the other side.
But the woman driving pulls forward, and then starts to back into the spot right next to me. And she stops and, in an impatient tone of voice, asks me to close my car door so she can park.
I am incredulous. In an empty parking garage, apparently what she really needed to do was inconvenience me. So I say "in just a second, I'm doing something here."
And then she starts going on about manners, how I'm rude, etc.
I'm baffled. Again, empty parking garage. Dozens of places where she could have parked immediately.
So this turned into an unpleasant shouting match.
Petty stuff, certainly, but I post to ruminate exactly what people think about when they think about manners. For this woman, her concept of manners was very limited. I could say that it just meant "people let me do what I want" but, to be more generous, it means "people let me park where I want" regardless of what else is going on.
In my conception of manners, the concept includes not unnecessarily inconveniencing others. If that had been the only parking spot, I would have been the one inconveniencing her, since she had no other option. But really, she had plenty of options. She just lacked awareness of her environment. But then, when I confront her with her lack of planning, she has to double down on her righteousness.
I know this is mundane stuff, but it's the food of life, like American Splendor or Jim's Journal. It's the kind of thing that Larry David eats for lunch.