Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The etiquette challenge

Note: The ideas in the post are not wholly my own, as a number of them came up in a conversation with the ever-so-lovely Duke! Also inspired by John's noble attempt to stop over the shoulder privacy invading readers!

It becomes a little deflating when one realizes not only how much rudeness occurs in a big city, but the negative impact that other people's rudeness has upon you.
Maybe it is just the little bit of small town idealism that remains uncrushed within me, but I find myself sometimes becoming entirely angry and exhausted simply because of my experiences with people on a bus ride home or when getting groceries.

In isolation, these things are little, and each represent only a small act by one person.
Someone runs into you without saying sorry, or takes up an extra seat on the bus with their purse, or butts in line, or cuts you off in traffic.
Yet, these things build up to the point where some days they threaten to take you over.
In fact, one could argue these constant human discourtesies are part of what leads to so much hate in these cities. The frustration just builds to the point where people feel they have to direct it somewhere, anywhere.

The Duke had a good point in saying that perhaps stereotypical New Yorkers have it right. If you mess up in New York or do something rude, you will get called on it. And although the notion of having "fuck yous" sent your way for what may be an honest mistake may seem intimidating, at least being called on it, whether it is a lack of courtesy or an honest mistake will make you less likely to do it again.

In general, I am a bit of a passive person when it comes to interpersonal interactions with people I don't know. Some may even call me a doormat. I am super polite (again, it may be the small towner in me) and tend not to comment when someone does me some minor disservice.

However, after realizing the impacts these little things were having on me, I've been beginning to make conscious decisions to start calling people on these things. Not in major ways-- just baby steps.
For instance, in the past week, I held open the door for a woman leaving a coffee shop as I was coming in, rather than just barging in and making her wait. She just looked at me and didn't say a thing, so I shouted "You're welcome!" after her. Similarly, I deliberately walked straight into someone who was entering the train without letting me exit first (and then giggled about how I did it on purpose).

Very possibly.
Arguably so.
However, it was still a big step for me, and an important one at that. I don't want to simply become jaded with the lack of basic human kindness that the city can sometimes throw at you.

So, my challenge to you all?
Start standing up every once in a while to these minor rudenesses (yes, I made that word up) that manage to weigh down on you.


Dorky Dad said...

Eh ... I don't know if yelling at someone for something minor does any good. Cursing someone only makes the situation worse. I probably spend too much time fretting over small things as it is.

John said...

I've lost count on how many posts I've written like that. Especially holding the door open for someone. If they don't acknowledge it, I ALWAYS shout after them "No problem, you're welcome" in the vague hope that they'll learn that manners cost nothing but mean so much.

If everyone said please and thank you a little more, big towns wouldn't be such a headache to live in for all of us.

In fact, I now have the bit between my teeth and feel a "post" coming on...can't be blogging on your blog! That's just rude!!

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Okay. I will

iFreud said...

Sometimes the little things like acknowledging rudeness can feel empowering. I also try to spread around a little kindness too. For example, if someone let me in the lineup at Tim Hortons, I will buy their coffee. Take no prisoners but set an example is how I try to cope with the madness of crowding.

LMizzle said...

It's odd how many adults are guilty of this when really they are the ones who tried to teach us good manners.

I am a doormat for this as well, but I'm getting better too!

Common courtesy is a strange thing. Like, if you hold a door for someone and they just walk through, then you shout "YOU'RE WELCOME!!!" after them just to call them on it, isn't that just as bad as not holding the door at all? Doesn't that take the good out of the good thing you tried to do?
I'm not even sure myself. It's hard because people on the whole expect to be recognized I think. Take my experience with npros for instance. It's my job to thank people. You wouldn't believe the kind of outrageous things that people expect to be thanked for...but aren't we supposed to give out of kindness and not out of the expectancy that someone will thank you back?
I will say that it certainly puts a damper on a good act when you do something nice, or give in some way and no one notices. We may think that we are acting selflessly, but I find that a majority of people are acting out of the notion that they will be acknowledged or thanked in some way themselves. Some kind of affirmation that they are a good person and have done something right.
Though something like taking up an extra seat on the bus is just plain RUDE. I know people are germ phobes and crap, but you're on PUBLIC transit. PUBLIC!!!
I think that goes the same for people who budge as adults. What the hell is that about?!

Pie! said...

When we were driving back from our big road trip to California, we stopped in the Tim Hortons in Lethbridge -- our first stop since entering Canada.

And this kind man held the door open for us! We were shocked that we were so shocked by the simple act of kindness. Not that there was any specific rude event that I can point out while we were in the States, but we weren't used to it.

The most amount of rude that I've experience would be on the road with people cutting me off. I easily forgive if they can even muster a half-hearted wave. But if not, I usually pass them and cut them off...and maybe slow down a little...Not always, but sometimes.

And it's a kind of satisfying.

Princess Pointful said...

Dorky Dad- Fair enough- I certainly am not advocating cursing at anyone! I know the solution really is to try not to fret the small stuff, but that doesn't seem to be something I am very good at. I instead tend to let the small stuff eat away at me.

John- That's exactly what I mean-- Manners cost nothing but mean so much :)

Ultra- Cheers!

iFreud- The other side of it, that is, drawing attention to the little acts of kindness, is definitely the necessary flip side to all of this.

Lmizzle- I suppose there is a bit of wanting gratitude involved in my example. Even if you don't agree with that part (e.g., wanting recognition for the polite things you do), I still think you can call out people who are rude to others.
For instance, last weekend, the Duke and I got out of our bus seats to give them to a blind man who just got on the bus. We later found out that, being blind, the man hadn't seen our actions right away, and two middle aged women had taken the seats instead. Now that's something that should be called out!!
(they also broke the umbrella I accidentally left under their seat by stepping all over it. Double boo)

Pie- Amen! I was beginning to think that maybe I was a bad person... :)

eric1313 said...

All right!

Your posts rock. See you in March. Next time, though. This in and out internet thing is vexing me pretty bad.

It's good to stand up to people's rudeness, or at least remind them to be polite.

I didn't think this was passive aggressive. Sometimes, I think too many things get lumped into that category. A person can be upset, having a bad day, then snap at someone and get called passive aggressive. Save that title for the loathsome beings who deserve it. Definitely not for yourself.

Call yourself "sick of the shit" when you behave like you described. That's all it is.

Until tomorrow. Sweet dreams, Princess.

(of course I'd get back to February! It's good to spread your reading out, save some for later. There are still a few posts I can get back to, but I read most of them. It's obvious why your creative writing professor wanted to see you writing again.)

Deutlich said...

dude, I've been doing this more often as I've gotten older. I have a small-town mentality from growing up & going to college in East Bumblefuck , but love a city none the less.

I just can't get down with the rudeness. And I'm quick to say something.