In Which I Settle On The Ethical Response To A Popular Obnoxious Kiss-Off

Bite me

For the third time in a week, I experienced a newly popular faux-polite farewell, finally decided on the appropriate rejoinder, and executed it.

The offending statement is “You have a wonderful day!” and its many variations, uttered by someone who has behaved jerkishly, has been told so, and who doesn’t have the guts or integrity to apologize or acknowledge that he or she might have been wrong. It’s a sarcastic comment that means the exact opposite of what its literal words convey, deliberately contrived so that the speaker can feign innocence if he or she gets a harsh response, and can smirk inwardly for pinching off an adversarial encounter with a coded “Up yours!”

I don’t know when this trick became a fad, but it has. For some reason, everyone who has used it on me has been female. It is a passive-aggressive device. I first became aware of the “You have a wonderful day!” ploy when the staff at a doctor’s office informed me as I went in for scheduled treatment that I would have to pay many thousands of dollars on the spot though they never notified me of this in advance. After pointing out that I found their conduct unacceptable and unprofessional, that their explanation was dishonest, and that I would no longer be using their employer’s services, the snottiest of the desk staff fake-smiled and chirped, “You have a wonderful day!”

Just now I was completing an emergency walk for Spuds, as a rainstorm loomed. I usually don’t try our walks before 1 pm, because the elementary school is next door, and virtually any route risks running into kids of all ages, many of whom are prone to run up to, at or around my friendly but large and often over-exuberant dog. I thought I was literally home free when a path that leads between the church across the parking lot by our home and the adjacent elementary school playground next to the church looked and sounded clear. Then a small boy, masked for some damn reason, strolled right at us, so I Ied Spuds over to the grass on the right so the child could pass. Then two adults and a group of about ten kids, running all over the place, followed the boy, so I continued on the grass to the playground’s basketball court, and started to give the kids a wide berth.

This wasn’t enough for the woman in the group, who confronted me with, “Sir, in the future, would you please use the perimeter?,” as she vaguely pointed to the other side of her group. I answered, “At this moment, I am giving your kids as wide and safe passage as I can. Usually I take this route when school is out or when no children are in evidence, and I’ve been doing that for 40 years. If you are telling me that I should walk an extra 200 yards (around the school and the church), yes, I often do that, but it’s starting to rain, so I’m trying to get home the most direct way possible.”

“Are you trying to go that way?” the officious intermeddler asked as she pointed off to the right, not that it was any of her business.

No, I said, sharply, as I pointed to the left ahead of me. “I’m trying to go that way, to my home, which you can see directly past the picnic area and the cul-de-sac there. So I will now circle around your group, as planned, then head to the left, where there appear to be no impediments whatsoever, and then over the remaining 30 yards to my property. That was what I had planned to do, and that is what I’m going to do.”

Whereupon she turned away and issued her “You have a wonderful day!”

“Bite me” I replied.

This is ideal because,

  • It expresses contempt for that which deserves contempt.
  • Unlike her comment, it is direct, honest, non-ironic, and unequivocal.
  • It makes it clear that I am not fooled by the deceitful words that pretend to express good will when they do not.
  • “Fuck you” would be excessive, and
  • If this response catches on, perhaps the sarcastic kiss-off of “You have a wonderful day!” will join “Peace!” and “Right on!” in the ash-heap of history.

39 thoughts on “In Which I Settle On The Ethical Response To A Popular Obnoxious Kiss-Off

  1. Bad idea, Jack. In this case you were probably safe on the spot, because it was a woman, but some men tend to go zero to sixty in one second if they perceive disrespect. Unless you want to get clocked, it’s better to just sneer and go on your way. Also, you don’t know if this woman has a very large husband or boyfriend, who might come find you and teach you a lesson. Yes, I know it’s stupid and dangerous to go gangster on someone just because of something they said, but you never know when someone’s anger is going to disable their good judgment and lead them to do something crazy. I just won a motion in which the other attorney accused me in the papers of perpetrating a fraud upon the Court. I wanted to go over him and tell him exactly what would happen if he disrespected me like that again. Instead, I sneered and walked away. After all, HE’s the one who lost the motion, HE’s the one who looked like an idiot, and HE’s the one who got a talking to on the record by the District Judge.

    • Passive aggression should not be rewarded. I mentioned that only women have used this approach…unethical women. She was wrong, and should have said “OK then.” Any guy who used such a weenie tact as to say “have a wonderful day” meaning “Up yours” is not going to have the guts to “60.”

      I’m not going to be intimated by the “Assholes’s veto,” and certainly not by the “Potential asshole’s veto” or the “Asshole’s potential asshole husband’s veto.”

      (And I also had a 60 pound pitbull with me…)

  2. I have always seen such statements as “Have a nice day” at the end of a disagreement as saying that although two people may disagree on something, the person who says “Have a nice day” does not take what the other person said personally and wishes them well.

    • You either have nicer encounters than I have, or you’re assuming the best when the reality is often not the case. It’s a smug kissoff, and the height of insincerity.

  3. Knee jerk reaction:

    This “officious intermeddler” may have been exercising her “duty to confront.”

    Yes, you were an “attractive nuisance” (Spuds being the attraction; you being the nuisance), but you handled Spuds fine, so there was really no reason for her to say anything “this time.” She is trying to protect the kids and was, perhaps, overly vigilant. Vigilance sort of requires that.

    It just should not get to that point. Unfortunately, the duty to confront tends to escalate conflict.

    And, yes, her response does nothing but escalate things further.

    -Jut

    • There was no duty to confront, because I was doing nothing wrong by any measure. She was assuming an irreposnisle actor because 1) dog bias 2) “Think of the children!” and 3) she didn’t know me, nor did she know what she was talking about. The duty to confront attaches when there is something happening that has to be stopped or curtailed….like self-righteous neighborhood scolds accosting responsible dog-owners. Hence my duty to confront.

      • Jack, any measure?

        Any measure?

        Your measure appears to be that you avoid that route at certain times to avoid kids.

        That was my read in your post.

        By your measure, you were taking a short-cut because of weather.

        Fine! I am not disputing you are responsible but you avoid kids to avoid a risk. And, here, faced with that risk, you were properly vigilant. But, even if you were doing nothing wrong , you were doing something you would not normally do.

        No?

        -Jut

        • True, because of an abundance of caution, more because its a hassle for me, not to avoid any risk to the kids. Managing Spuds is fun, but it’s hard work if he is tempted by potential friends.

      • Other Bill:
        From his description, I could not quite grasp the situation exactly. There was talk of perimeters, time frames, etc. Why does Jack not go at a particular time of day? What perimeter is she referencing? She thought he was somewhere he should not be and he was somewhere he would not normally be at that time. Any confrontation was completely avoidable.

        If you want to know…for doing…what? It is for this:

        “I usually don’t try our walks before 1 pm, because the elementary school is next door, and virtually any route risks running into kids of all ages, many of whom are prone to run up to, at or around my friendly but large and often over-exuberant dog.”

        it appears that both Jack and the woman are trying to avoid something involving the interaction of dogs and kids.

        Me? I hope that I have taught both kids that, before petting a strange dog, they ALWAYS ask the owner for permission. This was most recently confirmed last week. The children need to be as disciplined as the dog-owner. There have been times where the owner has said that the dog was a service animal, or was not for petting. My children complied, but they needed reminding so that, hopefully, it is ingrained.

        It’s a group effort. And Jack should be invested in that just as much as the woman.

        -Jut

        • I’m going to give Jack the benefit of the doubt and assume he was exercising reasonable prudence to avoid any problem arising.

          • Well, sure, assume that.

            Let’s assume he was exercising reasonable prudence. Leaving cognitive bias aside, I will assume it, too. I am sure Jack is extra-ordinarily aware of his dog, and the risks involved with the interaction with kids.

            The officious woman has no such luxury. If she is doing her job, she needs to be hyper-vigilant. She can’t give any stranger the benefit of the doubt. She has to treat any animal as dangerous.

            Can she be doing her job and still be an asshole? Absolutely! Don’t misunderstand me: she is not blameless here. In fact, she had the last clear chance to de-escalate the situation—and she blew it!

            -Jut

        • I live in a cul de sac facing a about three blocks worth of property of a chuch and a elementary school, with a large field, playground and park attached, including a tennis court. The entire area is dog-walk central in a neighborhood where there are hundreds of dogs. The path around the large area is routinely used by dog-walkers, but since children are around in large volume because of the playground, field and school, being responsible and avoiding situations where a child might get frightened or hurt takes some planning and quick reactions. The path used by dogwalkers goes between the church and the school and leads out to a street. The kids are also prone to use the street’s sidewalk: school buses stop there.

          In short, both children and dog-owners use the same area, with certain limitations. The duty of vigilance is on the dog-owners, since the kids are unpredictable. Spuds is great with kids, but I don’t take any chances.

          I walk him at different times of the day according to my work and other vicissitudes. This time, as I wrote, I was rsuhing to get home because of a rain storm, and chose to cut between the church and the school, requiring me to walk maybe 50 feet on the expanded asphalt play area to get to the wooded area that leads to my house. It’s easy to avoid kids and crowds, just requiring some zigging. Which is what I was doing. The officious woman was assuming that I was not responsible, and was not taking proper care. I was. I resent the assumption. She was wrong. I explained she was wrong. She was then an asshole.

          I’m going to take Spuds the same route tomorrow, and hope that I run into her again.

          • Jack: “ The officious woman was assuming that I was not responsible, and was not taking proper care. I was. I resent the assumption. She was wrong.”

            This is where the logic is tricky. Is she assuming you were not responsible, or was she not assuming you were.

            Those are two very different statements.

            -Jut

            • She treated me as if I was not responsible. No question about it. And since I was clearly keeping my dog on a short leash and moving away from the kids, that was unreasonable.

          • It doesn’t change my main point, going with the golden rule, but, when she asked that in the future you use the perimeter, was she referring to some unwritten rule that most dog walkers would know, i.e., take Cameron Mills to Monticello instead of cutting between Westminster and George Mason? If so, wasn’t that a reasonable request (at least in clement weather)?
            Also, the trail seems to start at the end of Argyle, wind past a public park, pass through the school property next to the church, and empty into the Westminister Church parking lot. Is that entire trail often used by dog walkers, or, do they normally skirt around the school and church, using the streets? If the latter, her concern would be legitimate (although with the golden rule, she should make an allowance for bad weather).
            And, why in the world would you want to encounter her again tomorrow? ‘Bite me’ wasn’t a sufficient ending?

            • NO. The path between the church and the school is an easement, used by all, including dogs. There is also an easement through the playground, because the public path around the school field and playground has no exit on one end that does not involve crossing school property.

              ( the last part about going out of my way to run into her again was facetious.)

              • With that layout and use of space, I would think there would be regular encounters between dog walkers and those using the church or school grounds, and given that, the woman should have accepted your and Spuds presence.

                • Oh, there are. That’s why I had the definite impression that she knew neither the neighborhood, the geography, or really any of the specifics of what comity and co-existance in the neighborhood involves

  4. My personal passive aggressive hobby horse is “I wish you well.” I think it’s more often done in writing than verbally. My online research confirmed it essentially means “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” I think it’s a favorite among women blowing off guys. Incredibly disingenuous, verging on signature significance.

    And while we’re on common expressions, why is it hardly anyone under forty ever says “you’re welcome” when responding to a “thank you?” Why do they invariably say, “no problem?” I ignore them but I’m tempted to say, “Did I say anything was a problem?”

    • And “boss” has replaced “sir” or “ma’am” even in customer service. I don’t like it and will use the latter until I die, but I have come to realize it’s not meant to be as disrespectful as it sounds. They just haven’t been taught better. It’s the de-evolution of language in a dying culture.

    • I find myself saying “no problem” a lot. I haven’t really thought too much about why; I guess it’s because “you’re welcome” sounds too formal or cliche. While acknowledging gratitude definitely shouldn’t go out of style, the way it’s acknowledged has already changed plenty.

      “Oh it was no trouble.”
      “Don’t mention it.”
      “Think nothing of it.”

      • “Bless your heart” is a versatile and nuanced phrase that can mean any number of things, depending on tone, intonation and emphasis. A video example!

      • My sense is that it is more along the lines of you/they are just a little slow so we`ll make allowances and wish you/them well. As in, “I’m sure he didn’t mean to be so rude, bless his heart.”

        • “Your an idiot” is one of the primary usages in unpleasant situations, or when dealing with people of little brain power. It can also mean “you poor thing” or “your so sweet” or “I cannot believe you did that” or any number of things given the context. In this case it would mean “you’re an idiot who isn’t worth my time.”

  5. Another conflict, another dilemma — confront what seems to be an unethical comment or action, or go with the golden rule.
    So far as I can tell, George Mason Elementary is closed so there would not be much expectation of meeting kids there. Yet, both the path and the sidewalk leading toward the parking lot and the cul-de-sac seem to be on school property, and kids just might be there anyway. The school districts that I’m familiar with do not want people (men in particular) wandering around school grounds. It may be gone now, but, at one time at least, there was a sign near the sidewalk stating, “No Dogs”. So, maybe the adult with the kids was more on edge because she did not expect to see a dog-walker there, especially a male, especially one with a large, scary dog. (I know, I know, but that’s how they look to a lot of people.)
    Given our ever-evolving language, “You have a wonderful day” (sometimes) does not mean that at all. So, context, emphasis, facial expression all have a role to play in our understanding. Likewise for “Bite me.” To some, it simply means, ‘I don’t care what you think’. To others, it is the equivalent of ‘Eat me’ and thus the equivalent of ‘Suck my dick’.
    So, the question becomes, confront someone whose comment offended us and retort in kind (or worse), or let it go and move on. I favor the latter, and not because, as Steve-O said, there could be bad consequences for me. In a situation like this, the golden rule takes precedence.

    • I agree, though I kind of like Null Pointer’s response, “You too, sweetie!” (though I’d stop at “you too”). As long as the incident is over, I don’t think it should matter to me what people say to close it. “Stick and stones” and all that.

      That being said, I do appreciate the idea of taking the snooty down a peg. If you run into her again Jack, I hope you post a follow-up.

  6. I like it, too, with your stopping point. It’s ambiguous and satisfying at once. I like ‘Bless your heart” when a mild insult is called for. As a damn Yankee who acquired some southern ties, I had to learn the subtlety and proper use of that one.

  7. I have never experienced or even heard of this; I wonder if it’s an East Coast thing.

    I think here in California there is no passive-aggressive middle ground with strangers. It’s either avoiding conversation altogether, or full-on cursing and bird-flipping.

  8. Jack: How about, for an alternative, non-sarcastic comeback and closure of the unpleasant encounter, instead of “Bite me,” you just say, sincerely and flatly: “Too late.”?

    The offender (the lady with all the ostensible good will) has already used sarcasm; that’s enough. Worse, she’s said, in a manner intended to brush you off like some buzzing fly, “You have a wonderful day.” By making your closing remark “Too late,” you have:
    (1) spoken the truth,
    (2) spoken the truth without sarcasm, and
    (3) spoken to acknowledge her remark, while informing her that you recognize her actual attitude, and that you find it objectionable, insincere, even obnoxiously disrespectful, while also informing her of the effect of her assholery and spoken bullshit – all without hostility or tit-for-tat provocation of her objection to what you’ve said.

    Having suggested all that, I am fairly sure that if I had been in the same situation as you, I would have said “Fuck off.” And that, with an implicit “fuck yourself, and your little dogs, too, Dorothy” to her and to any supportive seconds on her side of assholery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.