There is a kind of social inattention that I have always found humorous. I notice it most on the few occasions when I golf with friends. Golf is not something I take very seriously. If you ever saw me golf you would know why. The more pressure on me to make a good shot, the more people watching, the more performance anxiety I have and the worse I do. So when everyone stops talking and stands watching and a group has played up behind us and they are silently watching the chances of me getting off a decent drive are not good.
I will stand on the Tee and waggle my club-head and go through the little pre-shot routine that probably looks like the mating dance of some exotic bird. But no matter what contorted positions I force myself to assume I can’t get that shot to go strait. I will take a big cut and swack the ball and it will take off strait down the wrong fairway. Some times I whiff and pretend it was a practice swing. Sometimes I hit one of those frustrating worm-burners that doesn’t make the ladies tee. Once I shanked the ball and it just missed some people standing behind me. I could never count how many wicked slices arched out into the woods two or three fairways away. I can hit the ball a long, long, way. I just can’t seem to hit it straight.
What happens right after a bad shot is predictable. It is extremely rare for someone to say the obvious, something like; “Wow, you really shanked that baby didn’t you?” or “whoa, Ken, if I couldn’t hit it straighter than that by now I would give up the game.” Or “Ken, I hope you have your liability coverage paid up.” Or “You better put that thing away before you hurt someone.” Or, “The way you spray that thing around nobody here is safe.” It is rare for anyone to state the obvious at a time like that.
Instead I will look up from a bad shot and the same half-dozen people who were paying silent attention a few seconds before are all looking in opposite directions. Some are looking up in the air. Some turn away so you can’t see the expression on their face. Some cough and take off their cap and scratch their heads. Some scribble on their score card. Some rummage through their bag for a piece of golf equipment, but none of them act like they watched my errant shot.
That’s because I usually golf with decent people. They know that social inattention at a time like this is just a part of common civility. They know enough to look away when you make an embarrassing mistake. That’s the way decent people are. They don’t hold your feet to the fire of every embarrassing thing you have ever done or remind you of every mistake you have ever made. They look away. That’s what the proverb; “It is the glory of a man to overlook a transgression.” means.
Sometimes people need golf tips, advice, maybe even reproof, but usually the best thing to do is look away and act like you didn’t see it. It’s just common civility.
I would tell you about the time that we were bowling with friends and I was telling my friend what a natural athlete my wife was. We sat and watched her as she toed the line, took that cute little hop she takes that triggers her approach and scuttled toward the lane. Just as she released the ball her foot caught where someone had spilled a soft drink and she took a tumble. I didn’t see it. None of us did. And we never brought it up again. That’s because we are decent people.