Here’s a short story for ya…

I am not a fan of going to the dentist. 

My mom works for a dentist. That was her chosen career path. So that meant my brother and sister and myself went to the dentist every six months. I cried 9 out of 10 visits. Nothing horrible  ever happened, I just didn’t like the dentist. 

A few years ago, I went for a visit to get my teeth cleaned and my mom asked me to write the hygienist, her friend, a thank you note. I sulked, “why? I hate everything the dentist does, why should I have to write a thank you note for something I dislike so much.” 

Then I started laughing.

“Okay, I’ll write a thank you note.”

The following story is what I wrote in reply. Of course I gave it to the hygienist. Probably a good thing she was a close friend of the family and understood my sense of humor. I was taking a very exaggerated view of the situation. 

Enjoy!Saying Thank You by Nicole Sharp

Miss Manners was popular when my mother was growing up. The age of the internet brought about hordes of bloggers to take the place of Dear Abby and Miss Manners. Still, Miss Manners Sunday column still ran in the papers. A last bastion of a different time.

But I had a question, and couldn’t find any articles or advice that really helped, so I decided I’d do this the old fashioned way and write to whatever intern was pretending to be Miss Manners these days. A simple idea, isn’t it? Who would have thought writing one little letter would cause me to end up in jail for one month with a slight ten thousand dollar fine and a restraining order.

Dear Miss Manners:

First let me start out by stating that I love your column and have been a faithful reader for years. Here is my question. How do you thank someone for something, (for example a teeth cleaning) when you’d rather have someone hit you repeatedly with a car at full speed? I have several phobias when visiting the dentist. Now, I’m not saying the phobias are any one person’s fault; and I’m not saying that it’s my fault I am angry and hysterical and accidentally take out my fears on the hygienists. But I don’t understand someone who chooses a career that involves sticking your fingers in a stranger’s mouth. That has always seemed more fetish than something a person builds a career on.

I digress.

My dilemma is this: I have been brought up to always send a Thank You note for services rendered. So just how the hell am I supposed to thank someone for doing their job when I despise everything their job stands for?

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely…

Well written and signed with a flourish, I sent the letter, (rather liking the idea of using such an antiquated systems). The only thing to do now was wait.

And I waited.

For three weeks I waited. Running to the computer every morning to check the online paper. Would today be the day my question was answered? The needs of this lost soul, would be in bold type, preceded with a capitalized ‘Q’ before it, and below it, almost illuminated would be the best advice I could possibly receive on the subject. But that morning never came, no giant ‘Q’, no answer.

So I wrote again, doing what any normal red-blooded person would. I needed advice in the most desperate of ways. And I wasn’t sure I liked how Miss Manners seemed to be ignoring me. Personally, it wasn’t very good manners at all.

I decided to reformat the question, just slightly, being more direct that I normally tended to be. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m a kind person. Soft spoken, adopter of four kittens, two dogs, one turtle, five gold fish, and an abandoned ant farm. I’m kind to elderly people; go out of my way to tip waitresses, and give freely of my change to the Salvation Army at Christmas time. But sometimes, you have to be firm. So I wrote another letter and again, waited.

Dear Miss Manners,

I am writing to you in regards to a letter that might have escaped your attention. I realize you are probably busy with your article every day, the numerous books you publish, and your own thank you cards you must be trying to get out. So I won’t take up too much of your time, but I do beg you that you give some attention to my problem. In summation: I need to thank my Hygienist for cleaning my teeth, yet I am fearful of the dentist, and am not certain what protocol is required for thanking someone for doing a job that you yourself abhor. Any advice in this manner, either in your daily column or personally mailed back to the enclosed address would be ever so helpful. And rather soon if you don’t mind. As my appointment was one month ago and I need to get a thank you note in the mail soon. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely…

Again, I waited. This time, I waited by my mailbox as well as rushing each morning to the computer. I even sat in traffic on the way to work and did difficult math problems in my head. I factored in the time it would take for a letter to leave my own hands and arrive at its intended destination: 4 days. Added a few days for staff to read the mail: 2 days. Time it would take to address the matter and answer the question: 2 days. With print time, editing, and the newspaper deciding in which issue to place the column: 7 days. With 2 days added for buffer time. Subtract 5 day if a personal response was mailed. The final total I surmised was 17 days, (12 if the reply was personal).

So when I hit day 18, I flipped on my computer and decided that Miss Manners was rather lazy in her own correspondence. I’m a busy person myself, yet I have time to send out cards for family birthdays, baby showers, St. Patrick’s day and I make time to bake a cake for every colleague’s birthday.

Miss Manners:

I am rather taken aback by your lack of attention to my personal issues which I have repeatedly queried you. This is now the third letter I have drafted, and I am a bit leery of sending this as I fear you will ignore it, just as you have the others. Did I mention there were two others? Probably sitting in an inbox that someone forgot about, right? So, I’ll try to understand.

I have a problem. I am not certain how to say thank you to my Hygienist for cleaning my teeth. I’m sure it can’t be easy for her, as I have a rather abnormal phobia of the dentist, and she has to deal with me. So how do I thank her? You don’t even have to print this question in your daily article. If you could just respond personally I would appreciate it.

Sincerely…

A kind letter. Written in haste, sure. But not mean or vengeful. I just had a question about good manners and no one to answer it but her. I mean, the woman actually had the title Miss Manners. Again, I waited. Not rushing to the computer this time, but waiting until after dinner. Then carefully, I would sift through my mail and read her articles.

Finally, one day, it arrived. Fresh and new. Shining at me, a large white envelope with Miss Manners return address. I tore the envelope open. And there, staring back at me, was an autographed picture of a crusty old lady holding a cup of tea. A woman that was supposed to be filled with manners. I was shocked. What the hell was I looking at? I turned the picture over; nothing was written on the back. I shook the envelope, looked in it again and again in disbelief. There was no hand written advice on a pink piece of scented paper. There wasn’t even a kind reply typed out on quality resume paper.

TO: Miss Manners

RE: Name Change

This is my fourth letter. I no longer wish to ask you advice, instead, I wanted to give you some. Perhaps you should change your name. If one was to assume you had ‘manners’, well then, one would also assume you would have kindly replied to their first, even second letter. Instead, you read my plea for advice wrong and now all I have is a 3-½ month old thank you letter I need to send out and a pathetic autographed picture of you. Just so you know, I purchased a dart game for my nephew and had your picture decoupage on it. I smile with glee every time my nephew hits your beady little eyes…Bull’s Eye!

As far as a name change, what do you think about ‘Miss Could Give A Rat’s Ass?’

I didn’t sign this letter. No sincerely, no thank you, no respectfully. Just my name, typed out. No handwritten signature. Let Miss NO Manners think what she would.

Life went on, I started the Thank You note, made a dozen attempts. Hating each card, I would hastily rip it up and throw it away. This went on for another four weeks, and I no longer awaited the arrival of the mail or read the paper.

Then, one day, it came. Another envelope with a familiar return address. It was the typed letter from Miss Manners, or rather, her staff. They kindly told me that my letter seemed threatening and rude. They asked that I stop writing before measures were taken. How dare they! I wanted advice and here they were threatening me?

Miss Manners and Staff:

You are rude bunch of hypocrites. Your threats don’t mean anything to me. You can wave your paper with your fancy letterhead at me all you like. I wrote to Miss Manners (which, looking at her picture, don’t you think you should begin to call the old bag “Really Old Lady Manners?”

And as a side note, that picture, the one on the dart board, I burned it today in effigy while my nephew screamed and ran around the bonfire waving his plastic tomahawk around in the air. It was a beautiful sight, one that filled me with pride and joy.

I digress, I wrote to that old bag NO manners four times, and all I got was a crappy autographed picture. You can take your threats, and your little paper, and your stupid articles and shove them where the sun don’t shine.

I’m thinking of making a decoupage voodoo doll out of Miss Manners articles and filling it with the ashes of that stupid picture I burned and some wax. Then I’ll let my lovely nephew go to town with a package of one thousand stick pins. His face lights up when he’s allowed to be destructive.

You are all a miserable lot and I wish you ill!

I printed the letter out on a stained and crumpled piece of paper, sealed it, didn’t spell check it and mailed it.

I didn’t really mean what I said, it was the heat of the moment. I didn’t agree with the way I was being treated. 12 weeks had gone by and I had yet to send a thank you note. In essence, I played with the idea of not sending one at all. My Hygienist had other patients than me. She wouldn’t be bothered by it. She would be okay. She had probably been fine without my thank you note so far. What was it if she didn’t get one? Would either of us really care?

Still, I couldn’t shake the need to send her a note, in the back of my mind was my mother’s voice. Send a thank you card. (It was the one lesson beat into our little heads as children, the one proper thing we were told to do, no matter what.) You’ll set yourself apart form the rest of the world if you sand a thank you card. It’s the right thing to do. So how could I not listen to my conscience?

It’s amazing how quickly the old broad and her staff of lawyers worked when they felt threatened. Not even two weeks after I sent the angry letter, I received a restraining order along with a notice that I was being sued for threatening the life of Miss Manners.

Well! Sure I threatened, but not the woman’s life, not her actual being. And now I had a restraining order against someone that not only had no manners, but whom I had never planned on physically coming in contact with in the first place.

Dear Valerie,

Hello! I do hope this letter finds you in good health. I just wanted to write you a quick note and tell you that I do indeed thank you for cleaning my teeth. My appointment was over five months ago, and I admit that I have procrastinated in sending this note. I know it can’t be easy for you to work on someone who has so many phobias when it comes to dentistry like myself, so truly, thank you.

As you may have heard, I have been having an interesting time of things of late. First let me start out by saying, yes, that was me you saw on Entertainment Tonight and all over the National Enquirer. I had a run in with Miss Manners, or actually the company. Did you know that Miss Manners isn’t one woman? I mean, she was at one time, but when she quit the business, a board of directors decided to keep her advice and columns going in the newspapers.

I didn’t mean to set that building on fire, it was a strange event really. I was just going to protest. I had my placard ready and was going to march up and down in front of the building, when all of the sudden, this man stopped on the steps, poured gasoline all over himself and lit a match. Well, he meant to burn himself to death. While he bathed in gasoline, I caught bits and pieces of what he was muttering to himself, something about one of the women in the building breaking his heart. Well, when he ignited, I did the only thing a woman of action and kindness would, I took my placard and began to beat him with it, in hopes of putting out the flames. When that didn’t work, (and the placard was on fire) I accidentally threw it into the can of gasoline that was left, which was kind of close to the entrance of the building and a few large, and very dry, trees. You see, I was trying to put out the man on fire. My hands are still blistered from the whole ordeal, but I managed to save that poor man’s life, and not one person has thanked me for that yet. Luckily, all it took to put him out was a few quick steps and a push into the fountain that sits in front of the building in which the Miss Manner’s corporation is located.

I didn’t threaten anyone. You really cannot trust what these papers write. I merely yelled that someone needed to call the fire department because the flammable material didn’t seem as if it was going to be quickly put out. There must have been a misunderstanding of what I had said, because the next thing I know, the rent a cop that watches the building is wrestling me to the ground, alarms are going off, fire had caught the whole first floor on fire, and people are rushing out of the building.

And can you believe it, the Miss Manner’s corporation is suing ME? Declaring that I was a threat, and in violation of the restraining order because I apparently came within 500 feet of the company. It really is all a big mix-up, the retraining order was for me getting with in 500 feet of Miss Manners, and as she doesn’t exist, my lawyer says I have a good chance of getting off.

Yes, I am in jail now, not maximum security or anything, just a local one. I am trying to keep my spirits up, and don’t think I would be able to do it without the help of the rather wonderful new friends I’ve made. I’ve met some very colorful women, and luckily, I met a woman who was able to instruct me as to how to write a thank you letter, a proper one.

The trial is in two weeks, my lawyer said that I’ll probably get fined, unfortunately, my pets were all taken to a shelter by my neighbor, my nephew is not allowed to talk to me, my car was repossessed, and when I called to check my message machine, my house was in foreclosure by the state. But, we all have our bad days, right?

So, once again, thank you. And I am afraid I am going to have to cancel my appointment next month. It looks as if I’m going to be a little held up. I’ll reschedule once I’m out.

Respectfully,

Nicole Sharp

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