I have an ongoing and secret feud with the television at the YMCA. If I am alone in the locker room, or notice no one is paying attention, I turn it off. Of course, this being America, usually there are several men in various states of undress, staring slack-jawed at the screen. If it wouldn’t get me banished I would tweet photos and tag them #nakedworkoutzombies
For its part, the T.V. tries to make me look like an insane person. It goads me with sportscasting imbeciles, lawyer commercials and news anchors who didn’t have the talent to become soap extras. Once I told it to, “Shut the fuck up,” only to discover I wasn’t alone in the locker room.
Recently, a gentleman asked my consent to change the channel. I don’t remember what was on but it was some tragic news show I was happy to have off. I remember half-hoping he switched over to one of the faux networks, like the CW, and put on a really cheesy serial, Xena the Warrior Princess, maybe.
Instead, he switched over to Bloomberg or some other financial news network. He thanked me for letting him change the channel and I thanked him for being courteous enough to ask.
The channel changer was in his late-50s, with a nose that couldn’t accurately be described as gin-blossomy just yet and a shaved head hiding his bald spot. He was a little taller six feet, a little lighter than 200 pounds and visibly surprised at my comment on his courtesy. I say, “visibly surprised” because we were both naked and, as direct address decorum requires, were looking one another in the face.
During this week’s Todcast, Todd DeHart, my cohost, suggested naked locker room courtesy could be related to vulnerability; the idea being, naked people are less aggressive toward one another. While nakedness could have been a factor in the please-and-thank-you of the exchange, it doesn’t account for the surprise.
I didn’t thank him for asking, I thanked him for being courteous. I wasn’t commenting on the fact that he asked, so much as I was noticing that he was the type of person whose default setting was “courteousness.”
I don’t know that this is the case. For all I know, he coud have been the person who heard me shouting at the television to shut the fuck up, and, recognizing me, was surprised I wasn’t a drooling monster, or didn’t attack him for touching the television for any reason other than to turn it off and curse at it.
What I do know is it’s worth working at setting your default to courteous. As it turns out, it’s a lot easier to switch courtesy off if necessary, than to switch it on in an emergency.