Friday, March 25, 2011

Do Unto Others ... Everybody Else Does

My brother, Jack, claims I stuck a pair of scissors into the back of his leg when we were kids. He said I threw them from across the room. On one hand, I have no recollection of the incident and can’t believe I was that stupid and cruel. On the other, the idea that – as a child – I could fling a pair of scissors across a room and hit a moving target is impressive. Maybe I missed my calling. I could have been a Ninja.

Barring that and other childhood follies I’ve mentally blocked, I consider myself to be a reasonable, courteous human being. I return my shopping carts; park between the lines, not over them; hold doors open for people behind me (and I know they’re there because I check); almost always tip 20%; pick up after my dog on the beach; turn off lights when I leave a room; replace the roll when it’s empty; and buy Girl Scout cookies from everyone who asks. Not that I’m perfect (heaven help the asshole who tailgates me on the freeway) or feel in any way superior doing it, I just feel better being nice. [Sidenote: I’d hoped to pass along some of that sense to my children, but it turns out leading by example only works on people who value your opinion (what does “Mom” know?). Imagine all the wisdom I’ve wasted!]

I know others like me are out there – and I thank you – but there are days when I feel the extra effort is not only wasted but given the finger. I follow someone into a convenience store and catch the door inches before it hits me in the face. I gesture to a pedestrian that it’s safe to cross in front of me and wait as she and her trailing children walk diagonally to the last car in the row. Handicapped spaces are full of discarded shopping carts. Ashtrays – some atop garbage cans – are full of garbage. Public restrooms are … well, I suppose I don’t have to tell you about those.

Granted, if everyone was nice, ALL the time, we’d have fewer people to laugh at. News anchors and bar bouncers would be out of a job. I wouldn’t have anything to bitch about leaving Costco (or Home Depot or Ross or Walgreen’s or…). But it would be cool if just a FEW more of us, just a LITTLE more often, chose to be courteous instead of self-centered. Spent a few more minutes a day smiling instead of pouting and complaining about the things they can’t/don’t have (or pissed away). Offered a friendly, sincere smile that said “Welcome” instead of “Get your shit and get out.” Took the time to wipe off the seat.

It’s hard not to be disappointed with the human condition. I know some spectacular event will eventually come along to lift my spirits and change my mind – like a visit from my brother (in 8 days!) or a cruise to Mexico with Gretchen Wilson, Rev Run, Carlos Mencia, and Kid Rock (in 13 days!) – but today, like too many others, I’m questioning the Golden Rule. If I’m so rarely treated as I treat others, what’s the point? And why ARE so many people clueless to courtesy, or just plain shitty? Is there a benefit to it that I missed? Is it more satisfying to steal candy from a baby than help an old lady cross the street? Is there a rush? Does Progressive give a discount for that?

Just a few of the many questions I’ll be pondering throughout my life … as I wait for the toll operator to hang up his phone …


  1. I know my parents taught their three kids to have manners, because I still practice them. I taught my three children to have manners also. Yet my grandchildren seem to have no manners at all. The exception is my 2 yr old grandson that lives with me. He already says please, thank you and you are welcome. He says sorry if he bumps into someone and gives "magic kisses" if someone is hurt. Adults could learn from this child. Why did my children stop teaching their own children to not chew with their mouths opened, or snap gum in public, open doors for people, let older adults sit on chairs on a bus, or say please and thank you when asking for something? I drilled it into their thick skulls when they were growing up. Going out in public today it is obvious that today's parents are not teaching their kids any manners either. We cannot blame the kids if they are not taught the simple basics of good manners at home.

  2. "Damned kids ain't got no manners" has been the refrain of people after reaching a certain age for many, many generations. My parents said it, my grandparents said it, and now (gasp!), I say it. It seems like we can't help it.

    But what I don't understand is why more people don't hold doors open. When I look back before letting the door swing, and a tottering old lady is there, and she smiles that big smile and gives a heart-felt thank you, I don't think there's a bigger payoff for a few seconds work to be found. It feels good.