Sunday, May 6, 2012

Contrition




Sometimes one does terrible things. And it's intriguing just how long it can take to find oneself out. The bad or selfish or egotistical or arrogant or self-righteous deed does not necessarily register at the time, at least not sufficiently. I realized I was overstepping a delicacy of social conduct, but the full possibility of its consequences did not strike me until today, two months later. While contemplating those passing below my balcony the quiet thread of my thoughts lead to a remembrance of the sad incident, and I felt deeply, seriously, remorseful. My contrition, I'm aware, might however be entirely speculative.

Two months ago I met a previous student and his girlfriend at my local hangout. I'd not seen him in over a year. They met me outside by my car, as arranged, and they pushed me in my chair inside the restaurant. My usual table was free. My chair fits nicely away from the people traffic. I do not even need to look at the menu. I've taken many a friend there. Living on an island by the sea I bring friends from the States, from Australia, from Alberta, from the mainland, and from around to share my favorite place to be, to eat that is. I am a regular! And it has often been the same waitress who has served me. A woman perhaps 40 something. She's seen me with most of my friends. But she's never acknowledged my specific presence. Never quite seemed to see me. Yet I've left her reasonable tips. I've been pleasant and polite and handed up plates to her, a difficult thing for me to do in the circumstances. And on this day, with my students, when she came to the table something of the proud Mr.P in me felt like being acknowledged.

"It's time we knew each other," I said. Instantly there was awkwardness. I drove my point, albeit gently. "You don't seem to recognize me, yet I come here often. I am... " and while I was finishing my little self-aggrandizing introduction it was evident to us she was  embarrassed, but I could not withdraw the tenor of my missive. We ordered. Someone else brought us our meals. I did not see her again. I remember thinking that perhaps it was the end of her shift, perhaps she was caught up with other tables, and that was that. But I confess, it has kept niggling at me. I have not seen her again since then. But I  never did quite resolve that moment, did not admit culpability. Until today, too much later.

Another student I've not heard from in over a year just wrote. I finished my response, made my coffee, went to sit in my favorite arm-chair with the balcony viewpoint, and wondered why I'd not heard again from that other student and his girlfriend I'd taken to the restaurant. And then I recalled my aberrant behavior, thought of my needing the attention, of my embarrassing the waitress, of her perhaps resigning that day thanks to the final straw of a customer being rude, of her feeling awkward and 'less than' in front of my students young enough to be her children, of her uncertainty and being perhaps pained by my being in a wheelchair and virtually accusing her of not recognizing me. Of her possibly feeling hurt and sad because she'd perhaps lost someone handicapped. Of her being bereft and... Well, speculation is what it is, full of fanciful imaginings.

Point is, we do or say things out of ego, out of a need for something we do not get or did not have, caught up in the moment as we are. Or is that really: caught up in our own future or past? For myself, I am contrite for what I did then. Contrite. But does it suffice?


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