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Carlton Fletcher

“Mean ole’ woman, I just don’t like your style.”

— Black Oak Arkansas

As a way-after-the-fact response to Rodney King’s famously plaintive “Why can’t we all just get along?” I’ll let this stand as a pretty good answer to his question.

First, let me set the scene for you:

It’s a miserable, rainy day in southwest Georgia — one of those “not fit out for man nor beast” days — and the Albany Mall is overrun with rambunctious school kids whose administrators, teachers and/or parents thought a good educational outing would be a trip to the mall. (I’m sure it’s justifiable for economics and sociology teachers, but busloads of hyped-up kids roaming around such a locale seems a stretch to me, educationwise ... maybe a bunch of teachers needed to hit the pre-Black Friday sales.)

Anyway, the rain is coming down hard, and as a young lady enters the mall, she sees a fellow shopper coming a few steps behind. So she, having come up in the Southern way, waited at the mall entrance, holding the door for her fellow shopper. If you’ve ever committed such a courteous act — or had the favor done on your behalf — you can understand why this lady was shocked when introduced to what has become the new social norm for some.

As the second shopper approached the door to the mall, she said, “I don’t need you holdin’ no door open for me.”

I ... don’t ... need ... you ... holdin’ ... no ... door ... open ... for ... me.

To the first lady’s credit, her response was pretty quick. She waited until the ungrateful second shopper got to the door and let it go, pretty much in her face. She also, having learned a few other not-so-nice Southern ways ... more in the redneck vein ... offered some what most of us would feel was appropriate advice to the woman who needed no door held for her.

That ingrate’s response was to hurl a rash of invective at the first lady as she walked away, a nice moment for the school kids to write about in their “What Did You Learn at the Mall?” essays.

Yes, we all have our bad days. And, yes, while many of us were raised — or observed enough to understand — to be nice to others and to help out our fellow human beings when possible, there are obviously cretins among us who see such niceties as an affront. Those are the people who, no doubt, kick their kids’ pets when they’re angry, refuse to join in when everyone’s singing “Kumbaya,” cut in front of people standing in lines and don’t have the decency to say thank you when someone in their miserable lives does them a favor.

I don’t know what this second woman might have been shopping for on that recent rainy day ... tweezers to help her pull the wings off flies? frozen dinners so she didn’t have to cook for “those damn kids around the house?” thumbtacks to put under the wheels of people in wheelchairs? cudgels to beat on or trip up old people who get in her way? But I do have a bit of advice for her.

Ma’am, even if you are having one of those days where everything is going wrong, there is absolutely no reason for you to treat someone who is doing you a favor rudely. If you want to lash out at someone, go into the mall restroom and look in the mirror. That person looking back is someone who deserves disdain. Or, if you can’t contain your anger enough to function in a semi-decent societal setting (this is the mall, after all) just stay home. Let someone else pick up your frozen dinners.

But if you have that much anger and rudeness inside yourself, take note of that two-word bit of advice that the lady who tried to do you a favor offered when you proved yourself unworthy of such niceness. Then go and do it.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

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