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How Old is a “Sir?”

That’s J.J. Hensley, Pittsburgh crime fiction author up there.

I have a couple of more days running around to  Joe’s Rusty NailJack’s Bar and the Stroll Inn celebrating the

Pittsburgh Magazine, Best of 2014 recognition for ” Best Snarky Nod Toward Local Behavior ,

So here’s J.J.’s guest blog.

I’m 39 years old, but look significantly younger. Even when I’m sleep-deprived and in desperate need of coffee, I still appear much younger than my years. That is why there is no excuse for what recently happened to me in the parking lot of a local Best Buy.

When my wife and I moved here from the D.C. area in 2006, it took us a while to get used to Western PA attitudes. If a clerk in a store asked us how we were doing, our first thought was, “What the hell business is it of yours?” Friendliness had become foreign to us. Upon moving here, I’ve come to accept this change. However, some things cannot be forgiven.

We were leaving Best Buy and I was preparing to put my daughter in a car seat. As many of you know, this is not always a quick process. So, when a couple of guys walked up to the junker car next to us and wanted to leave, I had no problem stepping aside and saying, “You guys go first. This can take a while.” That’s when it happened. One of those two, rough-looking, tattooed, 25 year-olds actually said it. He said it loud and clear. He said, “No problem, ___.

I stood there in stunned silence as the guys pulled away. Doing my best to stay calm, I put my daughter in the car and then placed myself in the passenger seat. My wife started to speak to me, but then she saw my expression and knew something was amiss.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

I tried to unclench my teeth.

“What is it?” she tried again.

“Did you hear what that guy called me?”

“No,” she told me. “What did he call you?”

My fists were tight and my jaw tighter. I did my best to keep my voice level. I kept my voice low, so my daughter would not hear.
I replied, “He called me… Sir.”

What… the… hell?

Look here, Western Pennsylvania – civility has its limits. I’ve done my best to adapt. I don’t think twice when I see fries on my salad. I don’t blink when someone asks me for a gum band. You want to reserve a parking space with a plastic chair? Have at it! But, you will not teach your children to call a thirty-something “Sir.” I still get carded at the Olive Garden for God’s sake.

And to you, random 25 year-old in a Best Buy parking lot: You may think you’re being respectful. You may think that a man putting a child in a sensible family vehicle is your “elder”. You may think positive Karma is heading your way because of your attitude. It’s not. All you have accomplished is to get this Pittsburgh-area transplant to say a phrase he has never before uttered. That’s right. I’m saying it for the very first time, Ya Jagoff!


You can stay up on J.J.’s books by going to his website, HensleyBooks.