By david leibowitz
One of the great privileges of having a newspaper column is the opportunity to share your hard-earned wisdom with readers of this fine publication. Having learned a life lesson this week – from a restaurant server with 14 tattoos, magenta hair and what appeared to be a smallish car key ring in her nose – it’s my honor to pass it along.
Apparently, we’re phasing out plastic straws here in western civilization.
Or, as Ms. Magenta explained when I noted the absence of the straw that used to accompany my iced tea: “Yeah, plastic straws are bad for the planet, so we don’t give those anymore. But I can give you one if you really want.”
She then did an uncanny impression of the stink eye my mom used to give me back in childhood when I would request things like a raise in my allowance or Lucky Charms for dinner.
Thus, I crossed plastic straws off my mental checklist of “Things Good People Are Supposed to Do Nowadays.”
It’s a long list in these difficult times because virtually everything we do is either a planet-killer or a potential “microaggression” someone else may find deeply offensive.
Plastic bags? Out. Gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles? Out. Plastic water bottles? Out. Long showers? Out. Opening the door for a woman under the age of 97? Out. Wishing people a “Merry Christmas.” Out. Asking people, “So where are you from?” Out. Making jokes, sharing opinions, and talking about anything besides the weather and what time it is? All out.
My new plan when I’m around other people is to sit silently and slowly sip room-temperature tap water from a reusable cup. However, I recently read – and I am not making this up – that lack of sufficient eye contact can be deemed a microaggression by folks who feel disrespected by one’s tendency to look away.
So in between worrying that my shirt may be made from non-organic cotton and whether anyone will notice my leather shoes, now I also have to worry about keeping my eye contact level somewhere between “polite interest” and “why is that guy staring at me like Ted Bundy?”
Truth be told, all of this seems like a tremendous amount of work just to be thought of as a good person.
And a lot of it flies in the face of the Golden Rule my parents trotted out all the time when I was growing up: “Treat everyone the way you want everyone to treat you.”
Call me thick-skinned, but I’m not offended when people leave an empty seat next to me in a movie theater or a meeting, or when folks who know my last name wish me a “Happy Hanukkah” despite the fact that I’ve never been to temple and that I celebrate Christmas.
Some of you no doubt are thinking, sure, Leibowitz, the fact you’re not offended is because you’re a privileged white male. Your whole column is just one long “mansplaining” rant, you feeling sorry for yourself because other people actually want to be treated with the same respect you get simply because of your skin color and the fact that you were born with a penis.
Let me offer another theory: Perhaps some people use plastic drinking straws, tell “So a golfer dies and goes to Heaven” jokes and open car doors for women because they didn’t get the latest environmental do-gooder memo, think the jokes are funny enough to share, and believe they are making a respectful gesture.
My thought: Let’s cut each other a bit more slack. Every single action in 2018 isn’t the, uh, straw that broke the camel’s back.