Saturday, March 12, 2016

Teaching an Etiquette Lesson

"Ah, there he is, the man who floats like a lepidoptera and stings like a hymenoptera."

Niles (David Hyde Pierce)

We've all been there. Well, I presume we have. I certainly have.

We've all found ourselves at the mercy of rude and inconsiderate people. Haven't we? Well, most of us have.

And, if we're honest with ourselves, most of us also have been the sources of rude and inconsiderate behavior as well.

No one, it seems to me, is immune either way. That's human nature, isn't it? Aren't we all at least a bit self–centered? And isn't that mostly what is at the heart of rude and inconsiderate behavior — as well as the belief that one has been its victim?

That seemed to be what Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was discovering in the episode of Frasier"High Crane Drifter" — that first aired on this night in 1996.

As it usually was with Frasier — and, no doubt, is with many people — it was the accumulation of several events that finally made him go ballistic.

First, someone took his parking space, and he had to park several blocks from the radio station. He wanted to go back downstairs during a station break and leave an angry note on the motorist's windshield. Roz (Peri Gilpin) favored letting the air out of his tires, but Frasier refused to respond in kind. Thank God a cooler head prevailed.

Then he went to a video store in search of a classic movie, but he was repeatedly ignored by the clerks — and then someone else who overheard his conversation with a decidedly disinterested clerk snapped up the only copy of the movie that Frasier wanted. That cooler head was thawing.

Upon his return to his apartment, Frasier was annoyed even more by a new neighbor, a heavy metal musician named Freddie Chainsaw who had moved into the penthouse and insisted on playing his music loudly enough to rattle the paintings and other works of art Frasier had on display. Frasier tried calling him to complain, but it did no good.

He was getting steamed now.

The straw that broke the camel's back came in the cafe when Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Frasier tried to find a table on an extremely crowded day. They spotted one that was about to be vacated and politely stood and waited for the people who were sitting there to leave, but another patron slipped in and grabbed the table before Niles and Frasier could sit down.

Frasier scolded the customer, who obviously didn't care, so Frasier decided to give him "an etiquette lesson" and grabbed the patron and tossed him out of the cafe.

Frasier's revolutionary moment made the local papers — under the heading "The Crane Mutiny."

Frasier inspired Daphne (Jane Leeves), who had been tormented by a neighbor who kept removing her laundry from the washing machine and leaving it in a soggy pile on a counter in the laundry room. Daphne reported that she had taken off her new red panties and tossed them in with his whites.

Frasier was a bit uncomfortable with the praise he was receiving from the newspaper and his family, but then Freddie Chainsaw switched on his loud music and Frasier tried to call him again. All Frasier had to do was identify himself, and the music immediately went silent. It seems Freddie Chainsaw had read about "The Crane Mutiny" in the morning paper.

Frasier's radio listeners had read about it, too, and all the calls he received that day were about etiquette lessons that Frasier's listeners had been giving the inconsiderate people in their lives. Everyone was provoked about something, and many were retaliating in creative ways. One was annoyed by a leaf blower being used at 7 a.m. so he smashed the leaf blower against a tree. Another put some rotten shrimp in someone else's air conditioner. Still another sent a boxload of scorpions by FedEx. Still another set someone's lawn on fire.

Frasier scolded his listeners, one of whom accused him of having a double standard. He could respond when provoked, she said, but they could not.

And Frasier had to concede that his behavior, though not nearly as extreme, had been just as wrong. And he pledged to contact the man he had tossed from the cafe to apologize in person.

When they met at the cafe, though, the man had no intention of accepting Frasier's apology. He announced that he was suing him for assault.

But Niles got Frasier off the hook by provoking the man into pushing him, then made believe he had been knocked to the ground. When Frasier ran to see how he was, Niles whispered to him, "Countersuit."

Problem solved.

Frasier was impressed that Niles had made his tumble into a table seem so authentic and observed that Niles even gave the appearance of being in pain. "You have a tear in one of your eyes," Frasier said.

"I landed on a fork," Niles replied.