all things considered, i probably got off light.
and she definitely did.

I've been crushing on a bar owner for a while now. She lives in another town, so I see her only once in a great while and progress has been irritatingly slow. In January, she asked me if I could build rebuild her web site. "What's wrong with the one you've got?" I asked. So then she showed me. It was indeed primitive WordPress crap. I sipped my drink and wondered if I was being played.

"Of course, I'd pay you," she said. Man, she's good.

"You can't afford me."

"Then I'll give you free drinks for the rest of your life," she said.

"You really can't afford that."

But the deal was struck, and I spent some 50 hours building her what she asked for. Vastly more than she asked for, actually. I crushed it. It's elegant. I so eclipsed the web site that she held up as her model, I could not wait to show it to her.

"I've got something to show you when you have a moment," I texted her.

Five weeks passed.

Did she simply not see the text? Possible. Did she see it and forget about it? Also possible but trending toward unforgivable. Did she change her mind about redoing the website? Possible and definitely unforgivable. Did she hear about all the women I went out with the last time I was in town? Eep. That would be bad.

So last week, I went into her bar to find out if this was an innocent mistake, rudeness, or the eep. My money was on rudeness. I arrived before she did, and I sat at the bar and nursed a drink. Suddenly I was enveloped in a warm back-hug. Eep: ruled out.

She immediately showed me wireframes (rough sketches) of the new website she was working on with someone else. I was flabbergasted.

I asked her if she'd gotten my text. "Text?" She ran to her phone and found it. "I'm really bad with that," she said in lieu of apologizing.

I showed her what I'd built. She spent 15 seconds looking at it—0.3 seconds for every hour I spent working on it. "The other guy will be here later tonight. You can talk about combining your efforts," she said instead of expressing any opinion or gratitude whatsoever. And then she got up and went behind the bar.

I came expecting rudeness, but not all-time Olympic record rudeness. It was a rare time in my life where I really didn't know what to say. I thought about all the rude people to whom I've explained their own rudeness. My success rate is exactly 0%. My success rate in being vilified for presuming to hold up a mirror, however, is damned near perfect.

I watched my former crush slice lemons. If she were capable of seeing herself objectively, then she wouldn't be so thoughtless. I slid $20 under my glass and walked out.

• • •

Question for the readership: have you ever gotten anywhere by explaining to rude people that they're rude? Have you actually managed to sow seeds of empathy?