Friday, October 03, 2003

Social studies

I took my son with me yesterday to run some errands, and at one point we were walking down the sidewalk and passed an older gentleman coming the other way. My boy smiled broadly and said, "Hello, old man!" The man, to his credit, said "hello" back without much chagrin, and I giggled and apologized and loudly told my young man that he'd been rude. He proposed to say, "Hello, man!" in the future, and I suggested, "Hello, sir," and figured the possibility of him remembering that the next time the greeting impulse struck was slight.

We got back in the car and went to our next stop, which was my doctor's office to pick up a referral. My doctor happened to be between appointments and came out to chat, and having never met my son was introduced and said hello. And since he has gray hair, I was bracing myself for another "Hello, old man!" But my guy said "Hello," then paused for a moment, and actually came up with "sir!" The soul of politeness. I was feeling pretty proud of his capacity to master normal civility, but then he had to go and add, as he will, "You're the best man in the whole wide world!" So now we have to work on getting that pendulum to sit squarely between being rude and being absurdly friendly. But one lesson a day's not bad.

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