Darren and I had dinner last night with a friend of his from grad school and her husband. I’ll call them Flannery and Theodore. It was great. We are like-minded politically, which helps, and we all like to read, and know a little (or a lot) about history. They liked the restaurant we picked out, and we all enjoy a drink with dinner. But they were also really kind. Darren and I are both introverts and frequently find ourselves, following a social situation, second-guessing everything we said, or being glad it was over, or having to take a headache pill afterwards and lie down. Okay, we’re a bit odd. But this lovely dinner made me realize something. A lot of people are kind of rude.
A few months ago, we had a few friends over for “movie club.” That’s our silly way of referring to dinner and a movie. Darren and I are big fans of Runaway Train, wherein Jon Voight and Eric Roberts escape from a hideous prison in the middle of nowhere but manage to get on a train, only to find it is on a downslope and the engineer has had a heart attack. Rebecca De Mornay turns out to be on the train too, so you end up with a little drawing-room morality play, but moving at 90 miles an hour. This is a thought-provoking, forgotten movie with lots to say about choices, and concocted families, and love. I will concede that the title, or the presence of De Mornay (who is actually a terrific actress), or even Eric Roberts’ participation (because he has played some cheesy parts in his career, you might forget how brilliant he is — go watch The Pope of Greenwich Village, right now) might give one the wrong impression. So in the invitation email I sent out, I made sure to say it was better than it sounded and we were sure it would at least be a good movie for discussion, even if others didn’t like it as much as we do.
So, everyone arrives and we eat and catch up and then we start watching the movie. But one couple, who we really liked a lot, started making fun of it. From their edict that the movie featured cheesy dialogue and bad acting, to their critique of the plausibility of the train’s brake system design, they started out slow and gained traction as they made merciless fun of this movie we like so much. Now, I promise you, you don’t have to like all the movies I like. But if you’re in my house, and I’ve told you I love this movie, how about a little restraint? How about actually watching it instead of keeping up a running dialogue so that you manage to miss the best exchange in the movie, when Manny explains to Buck why neither of them will ever be able to fit in in the real world:
Manny: If your boss says you missed a spot and you gotta clean it again, you gotta do it.
Buck: I could never do that. Could you?
Manny: I wish I could.
After this couple left (and were never invited to our house again), the other people, who had been pretty quiet through the mockery and our lame attempts, at first, to get the loutish couple on board, discussed the movie with fervor. They all liked it, and one friend, who lived in Asia for 30 years, pointed out the influence of animé in how it was filmed. There’s the discussion we were wanting to have, right there.
So, why was this otherwise interesting and intelligent couple so rude? We don’t know. I have encountered a lot of people who are likewise unable to have a conversation or a meal, or attend a party, without making others (or me at least) uncomfortable. One acquaintance of ours, I have learned while flinching, invariably nay-says any and all predictions by me that anything at all that our government might accomplish will end well. He doesn’t have to agree with me, but could he give me the benefit of the doubt that I’m not an idiot?
So, Flannery and Theodore, I salute you. You were funny, intelligent, edifying, and fundamentally polite. I’m so glad we met.