So, there’s this woman at work. Her name’s Mary. You know, like the virgin who gave birth to our Lord. Okay, it’s not; it’s a Latin translation of the name “Miriam”. The Latin version means, “Star of the sea.” Isn’t that pretty?
Mary sits across the aisle of cubes behind me and to my left. She’s got a really annoying voice, and her laugh is about as genuine as a three dollar bill. She’s a mousy woman who’s got moments of real grit and toughness and she displays them at the worst times. Still, in a department of seven, she’s the supervisor reporting directly to a manager…who sits in the cube directly beside her.
When we first moved to this scenic, garden site of the premises, there was a wall between the manager and Mary. About a week into the relocation of our department, maybe two, they requested the wall be replaced with a peninsula they would share. So they can chit-chat about “work” across the table without the encumbrance of a wall between them.
This makes them speak more softly because they’re not shouting over the wall…right?
And the women who are the service reps for one of my company’s larger customers – the name would make you go, “Oh, really? I see their equipment on the highway construction sites everywhere I go,” – also have no dividing wall between them. They basically share a large cube, so they can interact with one another on the account more easily. It facilitates communication. And they don’t have to shout over the wall at one another, so they can lower their voices, right?
Anyway, Mary’s one of those people born and bred in The Big Sh!tty and it shows. All the class and dignity of a woman of breeding from this rathole shines in her as the night time stars.
But Mary’s an important person in my life, I think. She’s teaching me how important it is not to speak like gutter tripe in public.
This is a lesson which has been long coming. I’ve known for years and years I’d have to change my colorful ways with speech or face the consequences of a foul-mouthed brood of urchins running around making biddies cluck their tongues and getting stared at down noses of more refined individuals.
But I didn’t realize how strongly it can accost someone. Swearing is not a matter taken lightly. To now, I didn’t give it a second thought. Matter of fact, there were times I actually reveled in the shock it would give people in certain circles. I sneered while they squirmed and I liked it.
I didn’t set out to be foul-mouthed, but that’s how I ended up. I guess it’s a matter of upbringing, but that’s a different post. So how does Mary help me?
Mary drops f-bombs in a nasally, whiny tone which completely grates my nerves. It makes me pause whatever I’m doing and think, “Really? Did she really just say that?” I didn’t realize how unbecoming that manner of speech is on someone, and fair or unfair, it’s less becoming on a woman. Especially a nasally, whiny one.
She told stories today, which made me shudder and cringe. She talked in volumes which carried far enough for me to hear them, far more clearly than I wanted to. This would have been the time for me to pull out my MP3 player and rescue my brain, but I forgot I had it with me and sat defenseless while she assaulted me with a few of what she claims are dozens of stories of strange men coming near to her, pulling out their wangs, and whacking off.
Her response to the occasions was, “What the f**k?”
She said it and I jerked a bit. She can’t see me from where I sit, but I heard it fine. This isn’t the first time either. But when I did hear it the first time, it made me jerk then too.
I got such a different impression of her when they were moved into our area after theirs flooded. She seemed so quiet and reserved, much more the mousy woman befitting her appearance.
Now I know better. She’s a crass, crude, dirty-mouthed, low-brow woman with all the elegance and grace of a rutting hippopotamus. And every time I heard her drop another f-bomb during her “What the f**k?” stories, I became more and more disturbed.
I wondered how I must sound to those who hear me. I’ve known for most of my life someone can sound much more ignorant than they are for use of foul language. It’s often a measure of low intellect, even though those metering that way would deny it. Frankly, I’m a writer; a wordsmith. Is it really that difficult to come up with a different phrase?
Mary the potty-mouthed city girl, who’s much too old for that sort of lack of dignity and several other things she brags about, is going to be an important life lesson to me.
It might be a lesson I’m learning too late for my kids, though.