Monday, November 8, 2010

That's why.

On Friday afternoons, I volunteer at the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Project, an organization that represents people who have been denied unemployment benefits. I was sitting in the office recording notes and absent-mindedly overhearing a fellow student's phone conversation with his client.

I was not alone in my eavesdropping. (It's hard to be alone in anything at MUIP; we are asses to ankles in that office.)

¨Have you ever in your life called anyone ma'am or sir?¨ the other eavesdropping student asked me. I hadn't noticed, but the student on the phone was using the address.

¨Sure,¨ I said. ¨Though recently I've been getting complaints from people who don't want to be called 'ma'am' by another adult.¨

¨I've never in my life called anyone ma'am or sir,¨ said the other eavesdropping student, shaking her head bewilderedly.

¨Did you grow up in the Midwest?¨ I asked.

She shook her head. ¨Northwest. Washington state.¨

¨That's why.¨

My partner volunteer, a first-year student from Kansas, nodded enthusiastically in agreement.

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