CHIVALRY IS A TWO-WAY STREET


   
 
 
     It was a perfectly normal plane ride.  Of course, this was before airlines gave up serving food in the “back cabin,” and there were no movies being shown.  We were all just pretty much sitting there, checking watches, trying to stretch in those non-stretchable spaces airlines provide for our comfort.
     Some lucky people were sleeping – I’ve never figured out how they do that – and I was trying to do the crossword puzzle without looking at the answers in the back of the magazine.
     All of a sudden the fasten your seat belt sign came on and the captain’s voice came across the intercom.  He told us there was a problem with the engine and that no one should get upset, but there were some “pro-active” steps to be taken.
     I don’t remember most of them.  There was the bit about removing glasses and dentures, and about stowing anything lying loose in your area into a secure space.  And then there was this:
      The captain said that, as a precaution, the crew would ask that men traveling alone, find seats beside unaccompanied female passengers wherever possible.
      To me that seemed very sensible.  And no one on the plane at the time seemed to find it amiss. But later, after the safe landing and relieved debarking, I discovered that many people resented it.
      “How totally sexist!” remarked one of my male friends when I told him the story.
“What a sexist thing to do!” complained one of my woman friends after hearing the same tale.
   Okay.  Am I just missing something here, or have we come so far in our crusade to make the sexes equal that we cannot admit that – on average – men are taller and stronger than women?
   Doesn’t it seem merely common sense that, in case of an accident, a man might more easily push up a toppled seat or a bit of airplane that is sitting on a person’s head?   And mightn’t a woman be able to squeeze through a smaller break in the metal to get out and signal for help?   Work together guys!  It’s just COMMON SENSE.
    Remember those two words.  They should join Please and Thank You in your Little Book of Magic Words.
   Don’t get me wrong.  I firmly believe that I am as bright – or brighter – than many men.  But I give guys the edge on height and strength.  That seems inescapable to me.
   Several of my male friends have told me sad tales of their efforts to volunteer assistance.
    One example came from my son, Anthony, who, on returning from night class at a local college, announced that he would never, ever, again offer to help a woman do anything.  It seems that as he was walking away from class, the student ahead of him dropped her books.  He moved up and bent to help her retrieve them.
     She stomped on his hand!  “I can do that myself!” she yelled, obviously confusing good manners, and a willingness to help, with condescension.  Did he think she couldn’t pick up her own damn books?
  He got up, walked away, fuming.  
 “You most certainly will help another woman in trouble,” I said.  “It’s the right thing to do!”  Right, but not PC.  And, judging by the bruise on his hand, sometimes dangerous.
   But is putting yourself in the position of being embarrassed by an irate female sensible? Well, no.
   Is yelling at someone who is extending a courtesy sensible? NEVER!  EVER!  NEVER!
   Instead of condescension, why can’t we acknowledge this as just plain old-fashioned common sense,  Books fall…papers scatter.  Two people working together can pick them up more easily than one.
   Is “polite” a bad word these days?  In our mad rush to sameness, have we done away with just being nice to one another? 
   If I am approaching a door, and walking directly behind another person, I expect him or her to at least make sure the swinging door doesn’t hit me in the face – or the butt depending on location.  And I will do the same for the person coming up after me,  no matter the sex, age, race or religious affiliations of that person.
   Is a guy supposed to stand aside and allow a woman to leave the elevator first?  Don’t be ridiculous. That just slows the stampede. Just don’t knock her down getting out first.
   My personal horror story of misplaced independence and lack of empathy occurred when I was living back in Philadelphia  I was riding with a VERY  pregnant – as in ANY MINUTE NOW – friend.  We were in her car because mine was in the shop.  I drove because she didn’t fit behind the wheel. Suddenly a cloud of grey smoke came flowing up from beneath the hood of the car and I began to panic. Obviously, that’s a BAD sign. She said “That happens. We need to get some water.”  
   Luckily, we had just arrived at our destination.  A messenger came out to pick up the papers I was delivering for publication and started off.  I stopped him with a kind of incredulous screech  “Wait.  Look.  Smoke.”  He allowed there was smoke.  I pointed out we needed water, Immediately.  
   By this time my pregnant friend had gotten out too and was standing there just watching.
   The young man looked at the car, looked at us and went barreling off toward the building , returning with a huge bucket of water – WHICH HE HANDED TO THE PREGANT LADY! And even worse SHE TOOK IT!
I yelled at her to put the damn bucket down and at him to take the bucket, add the water to the car.    To this day I do not know if either of them understood my objection  
   I really just didn’t want to volunteer for curb side delivery – of a baby girl, who, incidentally, arrived a few hours after we got home.
   Restaurants are loaded with tricky situations.  Is it essential that a woman go ahead of the man, following the maitre d’ through the crowded aisle? I don’t think so.  Must she sit with her back to the door and should the prices be left off her menu? Must everyone wait while she makes up her mind?  Once upon a time, those were absolutes…Now? Not so much.
   Even though tradition holds that a woman order first, it is just plain rude for a woman to hold up the party while she debates her selection.  When the waiter (waitstaff person?) arrives, if the female in question is not yet ready, everyone should feel comfortable ordering in turn 

 I find it insane that women insist on doing things that are difficult for them, like putting very heavy bags up in the overhead bins on airplanes.  Why?  when there is a perfectly healthy, friendly man standing by who would rather help than watch but is afraid he will insult her.
   Accept help if you need it ladies.  Men have all this testosterone lying about and very few approved places to spend it.  Give them a break.
   Gentlemen, wake up.  Notice that if the bag falls, someone is going to get hurt.  Offer.  On the other hand, if the woman can swing the bag up there as easily as any guy…that’s fine.  That’s equality.                         Someone once told me that the major difference between a man’s approach and a woman’s to almost any problem is that he would rather just hit the problem with a hammer and get it over with while a woman is happy to have a cup of coffee and think of alternate – but slower – ways to deal.
   I could suggest that women fit in the middle seat of today’s planes more easily than the average male and that it would be polite of me to offer to change seats with a big guy scrunched so miserably into the small space.  But come on, I’m talking polite here, not sainthood.
 
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