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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Courtesy, and How To Manifest It

I've been giving thought to rudeness lately, and here's what I've come up with. (The reason I've been contemplating it is probably obvious—rudeness is rampant in our dear city. Perhaps everywhere, but certainly on the streets of Toronto.)


First of all, I want to point out that I see rudeness as the absence of courtesy (or civility, to set the bar even lower).


Courtesy—oh, where is the OED when you need it?—I would define as acting with respect and consideration toward those around you. I propose that it is acting with respect for yourself and recognizing your role in the workings of civil society.

I think many people might define rudeness as specific acts, such as giving the finger to a fellow motorist, or cursing anyone who gets in your way. Such things certainly are rude. But rudeness is much more than just active aggression. Rudeness is the absence of courteous behaviour. And I'm fed up to the teeth with our lack of courtesy.


1.         It is rude to hog the sidewalk. If you are walking with friends and someone is approaching from the other direction, courtesy requires that one or two of your group move aside, step back—whatever it takes to allow a fellow pedestrian to pass. You do not own the sidewalk. Now, I will take into consideration your defense ("I didn't see her!") and after careful thought will throw it out of court. It is your responsibility to SEE the people who share the public spaces with you, even if such people are old (oh, shame!), female, homeless, or otherwise undeserving of your attention. This principle holds throughout the year but is particularly important when ice and snow narrow the pathway.


2.         It is rude to stash your used chewing gum anyplace except (wrapped, please) in a garbage container. This means: do NOT throw it on the sidewalk, which has two disgusting results. First, someone will inevitably step in it and have to spend too much yucky time scraping it off. And second, even if your gum does not get stepped on, it leaves a black spot on the pavement. Have you not noticed the grubby, dirty-looking black circles all over our city? Don't contribute to that, please.


However, under no circumstances should you park your gum on the railing of a public stairwell. By all means do that at your own house, if that's what you are called to do. But do not contaminate the handrail of the subway steps so that my fingers encounter your germ-laden deposit as I innocently go up or down the steps. Thank you.


3.         Do not horse around with your friends near the entrance to a public building, making it difficult—or even dangerous—for others to enter the building.


4.         Do not play your music so loudly that it disturbs others. Ditto talking. Ditto talking on your various mobile instruments. Not everyone wants to hear the details of your intimate relationships.


5.         Do not cut in front of other people, whether you are walking or driving. This makes them angry, and they will either retaliate against you (for example, with the rudeness of the extended middle finger) or, throughout the day, against others—the domino effect of rudeness. Don't be the lead domino.


6.         And while you're not cutting people off, consider your escalator behaviour: do NOT, even if you are a tourist and don't know where you are going, stop at the very top or bottom of an escalator to regroup and figure out your next step. Move along, honey, move along. Remember that the escalator is conveying dozens of people right behind you, and they can't walk through you.


7.         Do not block the doors on the subway car. If you are standing near a door and that door opens at a station, move out of the way so people can exit and others can enter. Don't take up the space of the opening by just standing there. If the car is jammed with people and near the door is the only place to stand, the courteous move is to STEP OUT OF THE CAR so people can exit, then step back in.


I had wanted to make an amusing list of everyday rudeness, something that would be pointed but entertaining. I feel that I have instead written a rant. How rude!

Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Found Poetry

In her Christmas/birthday package to me, my sister sent a cunning little notebook attached to a key chain. It consists of four-inch-long pieces of paper rubber-banded between hard covers to make a book. Theoretically I would jot down my observations and musings on these slips of paper (a little over an inch high), then rip them out and re-start my writing life based on these keen observations. I've been carrying this cute thing with me for two months now and so far have had no need of it.


My powers of observation seem to have deserted me. On the subway I read or do double-crostics assiduously, barely lifting my eyes to the scenes around me. If anything did happen I would be a useless witness for the investigators. "Gun? What gun?" "Argument? No, I didn't hear a thing."

I am insulated and isolated in my rigid box, just trying to make it through the day.


At any rate, I will soon stop adding the weight of the cute notebook/keychain to my already too-heavy purse. Perhaps traveling empty-handed, without even the possibility of recording the thoughts that pass through my brain, will stimulate such thoughts.


Once I noticed things, didn't I? Once I saw the world in its oddities and anomalies, its tender moments. Once I looked. The notes I wrote, cryptic to a fault, probably had meaning for me at the time. Now? Not so much. Whatever memories or discussions they were meant to trigger have been lost. Here is my list:


a diamond necklace

Jo's broken leg

clothes from the past (lilac linen dress with buttons along

    the side from armpit to hem)

what's for dinner?

pearls of wisdom

in parks and laneways

buying candy

funnels and strainers (or perhaps it is "funerals and strain"?)

unleash your potential

plucking facial hair

beat cranky men (Alysa)

Burton's dinner, oven-fried potatoes

leaf blowers

Colombia women

drinking as the go-to remedy

squirrel upside down on a branch

Sean, purple Ferrari

Harold, Audi, black and white

Archibald, dark-blue Lamborghini

need to expand soup

waiting from day to day to see what will happen

warm your plates and chill your salad plates

here's how to measure butter






Has it turned into poetry yet?


Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

My father's newspaper—a small Midwestern weekly—was put to bed Wednesday night and "on the stands" Thursday morning. It did not have a section of classified ads. If it had had, I might have spent my high school summers helping people put their words in order so they could sell a lawnmower or a used washing machine.


Instead, my summer job was always to help Art, the editor, compile the news items from the tiny towns in the orbit of our own tiny town (population, then and now, 2500 souls). Pittsburg, Yeoman, Plymouth, Radnor and others I have long forgotten. Each of these hamlets relied on our newspaper to get the word out. Neighbours down the road needed, or at least wanted, to keep up with local doings, and apparently the telephone, with its gossip-friendly party lines, lacked the gravitas of the newspaper. Once the news was set in the Linotype's lead, then inked, and transferred to blank newsprint, it became real. It could be clipped and put into a scrapbook to show others: Look! See our names in the paper! We were here. We mattered.


I imagine those scrapbooks being proudly shown to children and then grandchildren. But by the time the compilers of the scrapbooks died, no one was around to care. Scattered by the four winds to cities prized for anonymous living opportunities, the progeny had been pulling up roots, not pining for the past.


Clean out grandma's house! What shall I do with all these photo albums? No one knows who these people are. Yellowed scraps of carefully scissored newsprint attest to a certain kind of modest life, yet no one wants to claim them. Not one of the children/grandchildren/great-grands wants to box up these albums and deposit them (unexamined) on their own basement shelves.


Clean it all out! Where does it go? To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump. This is the final disposition of my hard work at a make-work summer job.


I hated that work. Is any torture more exquisitely designed for an introvert than to have to cold-call one rural correspondent after another and ask for the local news? Picture me: snobbishly above it all and yet wholly inadequate for the task. One by one I call the numbers Art has given me. Mrs. Waymire in Yeoman. This is (me) from the Delphi Citizen calling to ask if you have any local news to report for this week's paper.


And then I speed-write the doings of that community. Richard and Earline Perry of Chicago visited his parents, Wayne and Betty Perry, over the weekend. Their children, Lisa and Billy, enjoyed playing with their cousins, Joe and Tina-Marie Collins, the children of Harold and Bobby Collins. Bobby Collins is the daughter of Wayne and Betty Perry. New paragraph.


Richard Eikenberry was at home with the flu for five days but is feeling better now. New paragraph.


Little Janelle Crowder has a new baby sister, Ranelle, born July 3 at St. Elizabeth's hospital in Lafayette. The proud parents are Jo-Etta and George Crowder.


All my hard work. All the fortitude it took me to make those phone calls. And the words, like the newsmakers themselves, have returned to dust.


Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hiding in Broad Daylight

The sun must bear the blame.

Its brightness

obscures all it touches.

The truth hides in its light.

Only in darkness will deep truth emerge,

then to scatter as fast as a millipede

chased by a stomping shoe.


My conclusion:

What hides behind the bright day

remains equally inaccessible at night.

Is there then no way to catch

the yearnings and the knowings

of the heart?

With soft words? Earnest enticements?

Silence? Thrumming hums

from barely engaged vocal cords?

Forget this search, that's my advice.

It will come or not, the truth,

but in its own time.

Just keep noticing—or you'll miss it.


Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Early Winter

Early Winter


The door closes behind me.

I am out in the cold,

bombarded by baby hail.

Not snowflakes. No way.

No delicacy, no lacy six-pointed flakes,

each different from the next.

No, none of that soft stuff today

but millet-sized bullets,

miniature kamikaze pilots

whose death-wishing efforts

plunge them to earth

but not before they pass like tiny meteors

before my eyes.


I plow on, leaning into the barrage,

and see the pellets intercepted

by my presence.

They collect in the wrinkles

of my watermelon-pink winter jacket.


Fiercely they fall,

aiming for the extremity of blizzard

but they lack the numbers and energy for that.

Falling hard onto the ground

they melt immediately

leaving barely a wet spot

to remember them by.



Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor