There are people who live with their heads in the clouds then there are the folks in these stories. These bystanders share the most shamelessly pretentious thing they’ve seen a stranger do in public.
“You Would Have Done Better Keeping The Ring!”
“One summer, when I was in college, I worked at a country club, in the ladies locker room. We had a bit of a crisis once when soap had not been ordered for our locker room so we grabbed some of the pine-scented ‘manly’ soap from the men’s and I went about replacing soap in the showers, where I found a large diamond ring in the soap dish. I turned it into the manager and didn’t think much about it after that.
When I returned to work the next time, the manager handed me an envelope which contained a $20 thank-you from the woman who had lost the ring, and he mentioned who she was, told me how much it was worth (which sort of identified the diamond as being of the large-but-lousy-quality-variety) and that she wanted to thank me personally. I recognized the name. I knew her. She could be kind of unpleasant, and I knew she had a son who was attending the same university I was.
She came by and thanked me for finding the ring. I told her I was glad she had it back and thanked her for the $20. She then said ‘you would have done better keeping the ring!’ I thought it was a little weird that she was calling me stupid for having been honest in a way that benefited her, but in an attempt to be cordial, joked ‘Well, I did see tuition floating before my eyes, but I figured the person who lost it would be missing it.’
She replied, ‘That ring would have paid for several years of tuition!’ Well, at that point, I was done being nice. I was attending a selective private university, the same one her son was at, and I knew it had never occurred to her that the towel girls might have more going on in their lives than thrilling summers in the locker room. And I had been told what the ring was worth. I smiled, shrugged and said ‘Not at Northwestern!’ and took more pleasure than I probably should have in watching her go pale.”
“It happened at the wedding of my co-worker Simone. She spent months bragging about her upcoming wedding, from the fancy country club where the reception was being held to the designer dress she would wear.
The dress was corset style and at least a size too small. Simone passed out during the ceremony because it was so tight. She had to be revived and have the bodice loosened.
The wedding was at a beautiful country club, but I left the reception early after I was charged for the soda I ordered. Yes, only water was included and all other beverages were charged to the guests. I heard later that the night ended rather early.
A couple of weeks later I went to the wedding of a childhood friend. She didn’t have much money, so her wedding was at the local community center. She had delicious food and a friend played bartender, serving drinks all night long. She wore a simple dress that fit her perfectly and she was a beautiful bride and generous host. With what little she had, my friend created a beautiful wedding that everyone enjoyed.
Pretty much the opposite of Simone.”
“Diamonds Are Not Always A Girl’s Best Friend”
“My husband and I had gone to the jewelers together to choose the ring. I chose a pretty heart-shaped diamond. It was fairly small at just under a 3/4 carat, but it was crystal-clear and of fine quality. My fellow was not a cheapskate. I preferred something comfortable with which I could play my piano and violin while wearing, and which wouldn’t dominate my tiny hand. He insisted it is of the finest quality, although that wasn’t very important to me.
I couldn’t have cared less.
However, in our culture, it is expected that a man should nearly go into debt in order to afford his future bride a sizable diamond when he asks for her hand in marriage. I never understood that pretentious tradition.
I prefer to wear jewelry I create myself, of hand-blown glass, and semi-precious stones I spend time chopping out of the earth on an outdoor adventure.
This diamond, however, wasn’t so ostentatious that it overwhelmed my dainty hand.
I would have rather had an opal, which is my birthstone, but the jeweler informed me that opals were fragile for everyday wear, and so we left the shop that day with a pretty little diamond perched upon my ring finger.
It looked so pretty, shining in its yellow gold setting. I couldn’t help but stare in wonder as the sunlight struck its facets and a prism of rainbows mobilized around the car as we drove away.
It is the first (and only) precious stone I will ever own, the single diamond in my collection. I’ve never, and will never, acquire another, for I never desire to wear any other. They simply aren’t to my taste. This particular diamond is precious- a symbol of my marriage. This diamond, worn with pride for over twenty years. It means something to me that no other over-the-counter bauble will. It is a symbol of my devotion, my pledge, and loyalty to the one I love.
The rest of my jewelry is of custom artisans; quail feathers, hand-blown beads, and carved pendants. Wire-wrapped trinkets and dangling earrings with sapphires and rough fossils from the earth, carved bare (by me) on adventures precious, with filigree clasps created by creative minds, customized, cameo lockets with tiny, precious portraits inside, one-of-a-kind pieces, oftentimes inexpensive, and unique unto me.
The jewelry I wear is something you’ll never see on anyone else, because I make most of it, myself. It isn’t very fancy. The jewelry I choose to accompany me on my daily jaunts are a testament to my own journeys through life. A timeline. I collect beads on my travels and string them together at the end of every trip. I’m a simple girl with earthy tastes.
Puppies and kittens, tea with milk, garnets and lapis, amethyst crystals, feathers and tiny fern fronds preserved in amber; diamonds are not always a girl’s best friend.
However, that day, walking proudly and tall, fresh from the jewelers and joining in the festivities of our best friend’s house party (it was a holiday), I felt almost triumphant; I had finally become officially engaged. My engagement was finally cemented and I’d been officially ‘betrothed’ after having previously spent a year ‘living in sin’ with my guy.
Daddy could no longer consider me a ‘fallen woman’!
While circulating, and speaking to different people at the party, I tried not to gesture too much with my newly bedazzled hand. I couldn’t help myself, though. The ring was so pretty! I was doing a very poor job of keeping my hands still; I was gesturing and gesticulating, looking like a fool, and the vulture ladies, none too impressed with the tiny rock on my finger, flocked around me and mocked me.
My fiancé, mentioning my freshly bedecked appendage, so that I could save myself the embarrassment as to why I was talking with my hands so much, grabbed my hand and stilled it for the ladies to take a closer look. As they craned their bird necks in towards my hand, exaggerating the need for such close proximity in order to see it, I was simply happy to have someone finally notice, even though they were clearly poking fun at me.
I explained the fact that wearing a diamond was a new experience for me, and my heart was soaring with a newfound happiness I’d never known before. It was also my first and only engagement, which seemed like a more interesting topic to them, as most of those birds were already on their second and third marriages.
‘Oh, you just got engaged, and THAT’S your ring?’ they chirped. This lighthearted ribbing seemed to encourage one awful woman in the group, who ran with the joke. She made one cruel comment after another.
‘Will somebody please bring me a magnifying glass so that I can see this thing?’ she said, ‘Hmm. It’s pretty. Where’s the rest of it?’
The woman squawked at her own joke, the other women parroted her laughter, then she held her hand up next to my own, and compared her much larger diamond to my smaller one.
She told me how ‘cute’ mine was as she wrinkled her beak in disgust.
She wasn’t finished tormenting me, and continued her humiliation: ‘It’s so SMALL, you poor thing. You know, I made sure MY husband knew I wouldn’t marry him unless he gave me at least two carats. What is this one? Less than a carat? Maybe a half-carat? It’s so tiny! Here’s what you need to do, honey…Ask him to take it to get it cleaned. That’s what I did. After complaining for a year. Guess what!? He made sure to come back with a ring twice the size than what he left with! Don’t marry your guy until he comes back with something much bigger.’
I couldn’t figure out why someone wouldn’t marry the love of their life if he couldn’t produce a huge diamond for her. I must have looked confused, for she laughed, patted me on the head as if I were a child, and sucked her teeth in pity for me as she rose to leave me with that thought.
She said this to me in such a condescending, pretentious manner, and with such glee, that I could almost visualize the cruelty in her words, dripping forth in a green, frothy ooze from her vile mouth.
My heart collapsed inside, as the flock of ladies stood and waddled over to peck at the buffet, leaving me sitting on the step staring at my pretty, tiny ring.
I let it sparkle in the sunshine, catching the rainbows, and smiled, knowing that most of those pretentious peacocks would be divorced within the better part of five years, and secure within my heart that I would still be wearing the same, tiny, precious gem for the rest of my life.”
“Unwittingly Helping One Of The Most Pretentious People I’ve Ever Come Across” Part One
“I worked for our county’s library system for a decade, from 1991–2001. While I know that libraries are largely considered to be staid places, they really aren’t that way. Some of the craziest things I’ve ever seen happened in the confines of those serious, quiet places.
For a long time, I worked a four-hour shift on Wednesday mornings. We had a regular patron who came during my shift for what seemed like forever. She was…different. While clearly not stupid, she was flaky as can be. I am also unable to separate my impressions of her physical presentation from her personality—she was always a person with sleepy seeds in the corners of her eyes, food in the corners of her mouth, stains on her clothing, and wild messy spots in her hair which would stand on end as she wore it short. After we noticed that she would often wear mismatched shoes, we all started checking out her feet when she came in. It’s just who she was.
One day, she came in, approached those of us at the circulation (check-in/check-out) desk, and asked, ‘Who is the best-read person in this branch?’ (It was the main branch of the system, so I guess it was a fair question…sort of.) One of my co-workers referred her to the librarians at the information desk. They referred her back to me and told her that I had a reputation in the system for reading widely in a variety of areas and that since she had a collection of reading lists, I was probably her best bet. She came to me and asked if we could work together for about an hour on Wednesday mornings, going over her lists and planning what to add to her shelves. I apologized, told her I had other duties and sent her back to the branch manager. The manager walked her back over after what appeared to be some negotiating and said to me, ‘She and I have agreed you will work with her for about 30 minutes on Wednesdays—I will tell your supervisor to expect it.’
What this lady wanted was a really good and in her words, ‘well-rounded,’ home library. She made it clear to me that she wanted the books available for her five children, who she hoped would all attend college, and for her own personal edification. This was before the approach of the turn of the century when a gazillion publications published their own, ‘Best of…’ lists, but she had still managed to find a good number of reading lists in a variety of areas, both fiction and non-fiction. I worked with her over the course of about four months, helping her build her collection. A lot of it involved silly stuff like telling her, ‘If you only read one book by Thomas Hardy, I suggest this one as opposed to that one. My suggestion is based on the following…’ Other things we discussed in that period included what I considered to be essential reference books in a home library, my preferred method for organizing my own shelves, the relative merits of the different bindings of books, how to care for books in general so they are not damaged, where to find good used books at a fair price, and even technical stuff like how to repair minor damage, or how to carefully remove the clear protective cover that people put over a dust jacket for a hardbound book. I taught her what I knew, and if she had a question I couldn’t answer, I found the answer for her as promptly as possible.
Every week, our time together involved me looking over her receipts from purchases during the previous week. I remember looking at a single receipt in the neighborhood of $600, all for Cliff’s Notes on various titles. ‘Jeez, Linda, did you just go buy everything Barnes & Noble had in their display?’ ‘No,’ she answered, ‘I just bought the Notes for every book I’ve actually purchased—they’ll help my kids if they don’t quite understand a book, or find later that they need to review for a test.’
While a lot of it was interesting to do, I didn’t really like Linda a lot, so it was a bit of a challenge for me to work one-on-one with her every week. She had this funny question she’d ask me: ‘If you walked in and browsed my bookshelves, which of these titles would impress you the most?’ I lost my patience with her once and said, ‘Look, I didn’t read Freud or Marx and Engels to impress anyone. I don’t really care what people think of what’s on my bookshelves. I read what I read because I’m curious about it, or want to read the original sources on a given subject. If you want to be someone with a library built to impress others, you’re talking to the wrong girl.’ She assured me that she felt she was actually talking to the right girl, and that was the end of it.
If I didn’t like Linda, then it would be accurate to say I pretty much despised her husband. I found him to be a pompous windbag who liked to brag about how much he read without actually reading much of anything. He was good at reading the back or the flap of a book, and he was good at reading prefaces and afterwords. I finally realized he didn’t really read much more than that. He skimmed a lot. He might read a chapter here or a chapter there, and I do believe he’d read the first few chapters of a book, where you find out who the players are, and that’s going on, but then he’d largely skip to the last chapters and find out the resolution, missing all the stuff in the middle which I consider to be the heart of a book. He would come in and make ‘deep’ pronouncements about a piece of literary fiction, and I would laugh. When you work in a library, if it is of interest to you, you know what the critics have said about a book. You know how it’s summed up in something like Cliff’s Notes, because you’ve helped someone with it before. And yes, you recognize exact quotations lifted from a similar source and spoken to you as if the idea were the speaker’s own, and not borrowed. He was also a regular, just at a different time from his wife. I hated the fact that I always seemed to be at the check-in desk when he brought books back, and had to listen to his ‘wisdom’ about what he’d read. There was no wisdom, only hollow repetition.
At that time, the library and the area it was located in was one of many unincorporated areas in Salt Lake County. There was a lot of discussion in the area about residents wanting to incorporate and become their own city instead of being just another part of the county. It was a general movement in the Salt Lake Valley at the time—many unincorporated areas wanted to become their own cities so they could have better control of their tax dollars, their zoning, and the laws they were subject to. Salt Lake Valley is a very large area, and I didn’t blame them. There had been a lot of growth, and I could see how what might work in one area of the county would be nearly useless in another. Additionally, the unincorporated areas were served by the County Sheriff’s Department and the County Fire Department. That hampered response times, and that was certainly a major problem. I had no stake in it—I lived in an area that had been its own city for more than 100 years. I did, however, watch the movements toward incorporating with interest.
The last day I had to work with Linda was what I think of as her ‘victory lap’ day. She’d spent four months and thousands and thousands of dollars building a good home library, and she brought in photos to show me the results. She asked my opinion about things. Did everything look good? Was it organized well enough that someone could find something? Was there a little bit of everything to help her kids? And again, that weird question: Was it impressive? I’ll just say the truth. It was great. I envied the fact that she had essentially built my dream personal library in her home—I would never have the financial resources to do what she had done. I assured her it was great. And while I could not speak for others, it most certainly was pleasing to me. What was less pleasing was the true goal behind Linda’s personal library.”
“Unwittingly Helping One Of The Most Pretentious People I’ve Ever Come Across” Part One
“About three months later, it was announced that that area would, indeed, incorporate and become its own city. The first order of business would be elections to elect a mayor, city council, and various other administrative positions like the city attorney and city zoning commission. The only positions not to be filled immediately were the police department and fire department—they would sign a lease for those services from the county. That was pretty standard until a city could get enough money in its coffers to build its own. Wealthy businessmen in that area put up their own money to be loaned to the city—it would provide healthy salaries for all elected officials until the city was up and running and collecting taxes.
Three men immediately announced that they would run for mayor of the new city. Care to guess who one of the men was? If you guessed Linda’s pompous husband, you get a cookie. He announced his candidacy from his home office, and the local news outlets covered it, both on TV and in print. He and Linda had had professional makeovers and no longer looked unkempt—they looked polished and sophisticated. Their kids, who were equally messy, but overall nice kids, looked more like a perfect family from central casting. Even the older vehicles they’d driven had been replaced—her minivan became a new Range Rover, and his super old Japanese import became a nice, late model BMW sedan. They’d even remodeled their home and re-furnished it from top to bottom.
She and her husband had planned very well—I found out later from a good source that like many people in that area, house values had increased so much that their equity was much greater than the balance on their mortgage. They’d used that to secure a huge second mortgage that financed all of the new stuff, from books to the Beemer.
Her husband liked to talk to the press from his home office. He billed himself as the ‘Well-educated, well-rounded Republican.’ If there’s anything that weighs more heavily in your favor in Utah than being a Republican, it’s being a very well-educated one. If you are apt to talk about what you read in hopes of impressing someone, silly stuff like, ‘When I read Mein Kampf…’ will definitely do it, even if your own impression is more along the lines of, ‘I suffered through a thick book of excuses in an effort to understand the ideology of a disgustingly destructive political movement and its leader.’
I was still in college when I discovered something. What others may think about you being well-read means exactly nothing, and that’s especially true with anything other than fiction. If you ever get to the point where you say, ‘I am well-read,’ you’re full of trash. What reading a lot really teaches you is just how little you know; every book you read shows you five or ten others you need to read if you want to really understand the subject. And so, it was with equal amounts of despair, disgust, and hilarity that I read an in-depth piece a local newspaper had run on Linda’s husband as part of their ‘Meet the Candidates’ series. Someone taped a copy of it to my locker, and then also cut it out of the paper when it was time to toss the paper. As usual, the interview took place in his office. It’s what he said in the course of the interview that got me (I’m recreating it from memory—I don’t feel like going to dig through old papers to find the article in which he said it—I do know for a fact that I’m getting the important stuff—it’s stayed with me for more than 20 years):
As you can see from standing with me in my library, I have spent my life among books, seeking knowledge on everything. What you see here is a fair representation of who I am as a man, and what I value in life. These books have been my companions and teachers at every stage of my personal development. I think if you browse, you will find I am eminently prepared to lead our city in the office of mayor.
Folks fell for it. He got three terms, for a total of 12 years, and helped shape both the good and bad about that particular city. When he was finally voted out, and new blood came in, there was so much dysfunction in their city government that the first thing the new mayor requested were audits and investigations by both the county and the state so they could figure out what they needed to fix first.
Thank you for reading about my adventures in unwittingly helping one of the most pretentious people I’ve ever come across.”
“Do You Work Here?”
“So, I was in the dressing room at Nordstrom’s and I heard an obviously wealthy woman berating the poor salesperson.
She entered the dressing room next to me. She started to talk, on her phone, to someone.
‘You would just not believe what shabby, incompetent people they hire here. They are just the worst. A bunch of dolts. No class at all. So base. So common. Well, I guess there is only so much that minimum wage gets you.’
I felt horrible for the poor saleswoman. I know she could hear this snotty woman.
When I left the dressing room, I saw the woman standing with her back to me and the saleswoman.
Winking at the tearful saleswoman, I tapped the rude woman on the shoulder.
‘Excuse me. Do you work here?’
She appeared quite taken aback. Her mouth fell open.
I thrust the blouse, I was holding, at her.
‘Here. I need this in a size 6.’
‘I don’t work here.’
‘Oh, sorry. You look like an employee.’
She glared at me icily and stalked off.”
So That’s Why They Broke Up?
She was absolutely beautiful, in an effortless way, with blue-gray eyes, dark hair, porcelain skin and a gorgeous smile. She was humble, friendly and we all thought she was ‘the one’ when Aaron*, never married and in his 30s, brought her home to meet the family. We all loved her.
A few weeks later, they had broken up.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
‘It was her family.’
‘They didn’t like you?’ I half-joked.
‘Oh, they LOVED me. But, I have nothing in common with them.’ He continued, ‘No one in her family went to college, a few didn’t even graduate from high school, and all they talked about was graveyard shifts, hourly wages, and Bingo. I couldn’t relate to any of it.’
‘Really? Just because her family isn’t as educated as you are, you broke up with her?’ I was confused.
‘Yes, of course. I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life visiting one of their double wides every time she wanted to go home.’ He seemed inconvenienced rather than broken-hearted.
‘But, I thought you guys were in love. Why were you together for so long?’ (almost a year was a long relationship for Aaron).
‘I liked being out with a girl who turned heads like she did.'”
Not A Care In The World When You’re Filthy Rich
“I use to work in the Marina District in San Francisco. For those of you who don’t know, the Marina district is one of San Francisco’s most expensive neighborhoods and is where most of the ‘tech bros’ like to congregate.
One day a guy drives up to the Apple store, double-parks his McLaren and walks in asking for a Genius Bar appointment IMMEDIATELY because his phone stopped working and he had important things to get back to.
We added him to the queue and told him he had time to go park his car but he nonchalantly said he didn’t care about getting a ticket because he could afford it.
A few moments later the SFPD actually pulled up and the officer first peered into the store asking the owner to move before he wrote a ticket. We flagged down the owner and told him they were about to ticket his car but he just turned around, looked at his car, and said ‘I don’t care.’”