Etiquette nazi-we all know who they are. That one stuck-up person in a group who is obsessed with manners, politeness and pointless, overcomplicated laws. He or she will do whatever it takes to ensure the group adheres to the rigid guidelines, and will use any means (threat, nag, aggressive looks, cold shoulder etc) to get their point across. No one particularly like this person. But not to suffer the wrath of this nazi, most mild-mannered people in a group will do as they are told. But once in a blue moon, a rebel will appear on the scene. Question the unquestionable. All of a sudden there will be a shift in the power. Division in loyalties. In the end- a civil war.
What happens if the so-called nazi is a member of your writer’s group? GASP! Anyone who has attempted to find a decent, face-to-face, on-going writer’s group will know that finding one that suit your needs is a difficult task. There are various factors that can contribute to this- your geographical placement, your availability, the genre you focus, and above all, your ability to adapt. And after going through all the hoops, if you end up in a group and find an esteemed member of the group as an etiquette nazi- it can be quite disappointing.
Months back, when faced with such a scenario, I however decided to stick around. Simply because I didn’t have much choice. Living in down under has its disadvantages- access to writer’s group that cater to your needs is just one of them. So I bit the bullet and continued on, patiently listening to this one woman’s endless tirade about anything and everything that bothered her. There were moments when I wanted to roll my eyes so hard till they popped out of the sockets. Patience, as everyone knows, is a strong virtue, and mine got sorely tested everytime I met this one person.
There was this one day, when the co-ordinator delivered a presentation about traditional publishing. At the conclusion, she explained that there are still publishers around who expect the manuscript to be delivered as hardcopies. In such scenarios, the co-ordinator advised us to keep a SASE along with the material. Now, atleast a few of you would have figured out the SASE- SELF ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE. Me being a bit slow on the uptake, didn’t figure this one out quickly. To my eternal grief, I turned to the nazi sitting right beside me and asked ever so politely what on earth was a SASE?
Two things happened one after the other. The nazi burst into laughter. Not the amused, that’s-so-funny, hearty kind. But an all out insulting guffaw. Then she shot me this condescending look and said, “Are you seriously telling me that you don’t know what it means by a SASE?”
I shook my head, nearly hyperventilating now. The rest of the group was silently watching the show, with identical pitying looks on their faces. For a moment I wondered if I had somehow committed a serious writer’s offence by admitting my ignorance. Was there a dummy’s guide to SASE that I had failed to read? More to the point, what in the heaven’s name was a SASE?
“And you claim that you’re a published author.” Another disappointed headshake from her.
I don’t need to say that I was mortified. All this unwanted attention. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.
A few moments into the awkward silence, I saw a movement to my right. A guy, in his late sixties stood up. I looked at his long, salt and pepper hair, thin frame clad in oversized jeans and shirt and wondered what he was up to next. Maybe it was one of those “lets-bully-the-new-kid-on-the-block” day.
But he simply looked at me, then the nazi, and said, “Well, unlike you, this girl wasn’t born in the dinosaur age.” He turned to me, “SASE, my dear, is a self addressed envelope. You wouldn’t know about it, because you probably never had to use one. In the olden days, ” he gave the nazi another pointed look, “we used what was called a snail mail to send out our manuscripts to publishers. It’s not a biggie if you didn’t know about it. Besides,” he flashed the group with a smile. “One will never learn unless one ask. Am I right?”
The group responded with a nervous, collective nod.
And just like that, a rebel hero was born in our writer’s group.
I barely restrained myself from running up to him and giving him a hug for rescuing me from the dragon. In the end, I simply thanked him for his input and left it at that.
And I decided something that day- if that guy ever published a book, I will be the first one to buy one hundred copies to support him.