Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The “Clem Nouri Rule of Polite Society”

Some three decades ago I had a professor in college named Clement Nouri. I remember thinking what a great name that was. It was kind of like the Old West meets the Old World or some such thing. Anyway, the course he taught was rather excitingly called “Business Policy,” and a considerable portion of our grade was based on class participation. Still, the very same people—class after class after class—did the lion’s share of the participating. Really, this was the case, I found, in primary, secondary, and higher education alike. Many of the eager participators in these class discussions did so because they were intellectually curious and desired learning from their more scholarly teachers and professors. But there was also a fair share of said participators who, I fear, liked the sound of their voices above all else, especially in college.

Anyway, in this “Business Policy” course, Dr. Nouri insisted that one and all participate in the class discussions. An oft-repeated catch phrase of his, which has stuck in my brain all these years later, was: “How ‘bout others?” In other words, Dr. Nouri was importuning the “Silent Majority” in the classroom to be heard—come on: anybody other than the usual suspects. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now: My old professor’s three-word question has real legs and can be applied in all kinds of venues and situations outside of the classroom. In fact, I silently ask, “How ‘bout others?” time and again as I go about my daily business. Just yesterday, what I have dubbed the “Clem Nouri Rule of Polite Society” danced like sugarplums in my head.

It came to the fore while I was in a neighborhood drug store—Rite Aid, formerly Genovese, and I hear soon-to-be Walgreen’s—and waiting on a long line, the handiwork of an oblivious woman with out-of-date coupons for starters, questions about the current chain’s flier, and—in general—treating the cashier like she was in a private audience with the Pope. “How ‘bout others?” I internally intoned as the line grew longer and longer and longer. And, at long last, when she actually purchased something and received her change, it took another seeming eternity for her to gather herself together, which, of course, she did at the checkout.

Later in the day, I was in a Chinese take-out establishment with a very small counter to put it mildly in which to place an order. When I entered the eatery, a woman was in the process of placing her order. Straightaway, I could tell she was a pain in the butt but nonetheless patiently waited my turn as I always do. But, alas, after placing her official order—with every “I” dotted and “T” crossed—she didn’t budge. Apparently, she was intent on watching her food being prepared—and asking further questions and making assorted demands—throughout the process. How ‘bout others? I had to at long last shout out my order over this inconsiderate boob, whose elbows were resting on the countertop and spread out a la Charlie Brown ruing his lot in life on the backyard brick wall.

Finally, have you ever been at a party or social event where some blowhard holds court the whole time? Of course you have. And no matter what the topic of conversation, he or she invariably hijacks it. On these occasions, it is high time that all of us vocally and unapologetically enunciate the simple but oh-so-just “Clem Nouri Rule of Polite Society”: “How ‘bout others?” No more suffering in silence.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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