But, in my world, Mrs. Vinopal will always be Mrs. Vinopal, whether I’m ten years old or 110 years old. Same goes for Mr. Exeter, the guy who lived next door to us for years who we always thought was so mean and creepy (turns out, he wasn’t) or my second grade teacher, Miss Berry, not to mention every parent of every friend I ever had.
What I’m trying to say is that my parents taught us to always refer to adults as Mister or Missus, never by their first name. It was a sign of respect. Call Mrs. Vinopal by her first name? No way. Can’t do it. Still.
This was simply how a kid in my neighborhood was taught to address neighbors and teachers and his parents’ friends. And pretty much anyone over the age of 18. It was unheard of to refer to adults by their first name and I’m not sure when the rule expired, but I think it’s safe to say it was supposed to expire about the time you started having kids of your own. Still, Mrs. Vinopal will always be Mrs. Vinopal to me; Mr. Exeter, Mr. Exeter. Some things just get ingrained in your brain.
Treating adults with a modicum of respect—even an acknowledgement that an adult is an adult—is something that seems to be a foreign concept to the kids in my neighborhood. Maybe because parents behave younger than their own kids these days? Maybe they never learned? I have no idea.
So, yesterday I’m out in my front yard, watering a couple of cactus plants that I recently transplanted into some terracotta pots near my front door. A neighbor’s kid rides by on his bicycle. He’s probably about 12 years old. Cute kid. As usual, he’s got one of those trendy, gender-neutral names that sounds like prescription pain medication.
“Hey, Writer X,” he says to me. He waves.
“Hey, Coltin,” I say but then I stop. My mouth snaps shut.
Wait just a friggin’ minute…
Hey, Writer X?
I don’t think so.
So I yell after him, “That’s Mrs. Writer X to you, Coltin!” but he’s already down the street and doesn’t hear me. Or doesn’t want to hear me.
I suppose I should feel grateful that the kid said hello and didn’t, you know, steal my car or throw garbage in my yard or something. But are simple manners a thing of the past? I hope Phoenix is just an anomaly.