Common Courtesy

Sunday, November 19, 2006
or the post otherwise known as "I'm Too Damn Polite for my Own Good".

As many of you know, my Sunday morning routine consists of eating breakfast and doing laundry while getting my weekly infusion of Coronation Street (poor Eileen told Ed to leave because he couldn't get over the fact that Emily couldn't forgive him for the murder of her husband Ernest not everyone's name on the Street begins with an E). I had a moment this morning that really burned my ass.

Moving my clothes from the washing machine to the dryer, I pulled out the lint trap just to make sure it's clear because I know all the cat hair on my stuff will clog it up. Sure enough, the person before me couldn't be bothered to spend the 15 seconds it took to clean it out and put it back in the dryer. I realize that this is a minor thing but it's the small things in life that can often be the most infuriating. FYI: I ALWAYS clean out the lint trap so the person after me doesn't have to.

Why is it that no one in the world seems to care about common courtesy for their fellow man?* How difficult is it to hold a door for someone (man or woman, old or young, able bodied or not), or to say thank you when someone does something as small as holding the door open, or using the word please, or allowing someone with two items to sneak in ahead of you in line at the grocery store, or letting a car in ahead of you when traffic is bad, or stopping to let a pedestrian cross the street, or cleaning the lint trap, or picking up a piece of garbage that's not yours, or pouring a cup of coffee for a coworker when you're getting yourself one. You get the idea. All of these things take little or no effort whatsoever and yet they make other people feel really good. I guess it's one of those "pay it forward" sort of situations. By doing something nice for someone else, whether their a long time friend, family member or complete stranger, they stand a better chance of doing something nice for someone else based on your actions.

Now I'm Canadian and proud of the fact that we're notorious for being "nice". We're so nice that we often say sorry when it's not our fault. Sorry about that. Ooops. Sorry... damn did it again. But I've begun to notice that many of the people I encounter on a daily basis are starting to forget how nice we're supposed to be. I'm far from being perfect in this sense. Just yesterday, a man asked me for change to buy a coffee. I didn't have any on me and told him so. However, I was standing in line to use an ATM so that I could go for lunch with a friend. As I stood there waiting and he tried to find someone else to ask, I contemplated buying him a coffee/muffin once I got finished with the ATM. However, when I finally made the decision and figured I'd say something to him, the man had walked off in search of help somewhere else. I am polite, I'm just indecisive.

Perhaps it's because I'm old fashioned. Yes, in this day and age of equality between the sexes (ha ha), women's liberation, and all of that, I miss some aspects of "the good ole days". I enjoy it when a man opens the door for me, allows me to enter a doorway first, places his hand on my back as I walk through it, or pushes my chair in for me. Sure I could do all those things for myself but it makes me feel special when someone else does it for me. ** Perhaps that's why I do these things for other people. I know what it feels like and want others to feel good too. Sure emptying the lint trap in the dryer is not going to change anyone's lives but if I can bring a few brief seconds of happiness into their day, why can't someone else do that for me?

* I just missed receiving perfect mark on a paper I wrote in university because I chose to use the term "man" or "mankind" rather than "human" or "humankind". Frankly being politically correct is very tiring when you try to do it all the time. And even though I'm a woman, I don't understand why people get upset about the use of mankind. Shouldn't these same people get upset by the use of wo-man and hu-man as they too include the word "man". Sheesh.

** Ok you caught me, I'm a softy, a hopeless romantic. While I know there'll never be some knight in armour riding a big white horse to whisk me away in his arms to live happily ever after, it's still a nice dream to have.


Heather said...

Yesterday, some old gal left her wallet behind in the coffeeshop. I went running after her with it and caught her just before she got to the parking lot, and she was all 'oh, thank you so much for your honesty!' like it was a huge surprise that somebody would return her wallet.

It's frankly sad that any kind of courtesy is greeted with such suprise. Doesn't speak well for the progression of our so-called civil society.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

The newspaper here has a section where people can write in about acts of kindness they have received or witnessed, and while it may seem a little hackneyed, I think it is actually quite heartening to read and hopefully helps serve as a reminder that simple courtesy can make all our lives so much better.
That shit spreads, man!

Wandering Coyote said...

Not only is leaving your lint in the lint trap not courteous, it's a fire hazard. Everyone should be in the habit of emptying it out, courtesy or no!

When I lived in res and there were like 60 people sharing 5 washers and dryers, it was common practice that if someone didn't empty their dry clothes out of the dryer and you wanted to put yours in, you took their clothes out and folded them neatly on the top for them, then put your laundry in. I do this still when I share machines. It's just a nice gesture.

I still like a man to hold the door for me, but I don't expect him to. I hold the door just as much. My dad is very old-fashioned; he still makes me walk on the inside of the sidewalk no matter where we are - a custom that started back in the days when people chucked their slop buckets out the windows and into the gutters. I used to get annoyed but I just go along with it now because I realize he's being gentelmanly.

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