by Susan McBride
You'd think that with the world in such turmoil people would start being nicer to each other, but it seems just the opposite. I don't know why civility seems such a rarity these days, but it is (had a nice rant with Maggie on Wednesday about this!). Is it because technology has made it unnecessary to deal with people face to face? Is it that profit has taken such precedence over people that "customer service" has become as extinct as "Made in the U.S.A."? Is it because rudeness has become so commonplace that it's pretty much acceptable? What the heck's going on, and how can we fix it?
During hard times, people are supposed to band together, aren't they? Instead of sounds of cooperation, all I hear is political sniping. I am so sick of seeing grown-ups on TV, lying and arguing and acting like misbehaving children (paging SuperNanny!). How can we expect our kids to act polite if there aren't any role models of politeness to follow?
I'm feeling strangely nostaglic for my growing-up years. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but every new neighborhood we landed in had a similar sense of community. You knew all the families on your street and probably several more streets around you. Neighbors looked out for neighbors, and any families with kids became close friends. We shared dinners, played kickball or softball or Red Rover, and raced our bikes up and down the streets. I had a cute older boy once offer me a cigarette while hiding behind a bush during flashlight tag, and I realized after one puff that I never wanted a cigarette to touch my lips again! When I fell off the slide and landed on my head during recess (brilliantly trying to go down standing up in tennis shoes), my mom couldn't be reached. So Mrs. Butler next-door picked me up and let me lay on her couch and watch TV, eating Charleston Chews, until my mom got home hours later. It was awesome.
As I grew up and moved around a few times as an adult, I felt more of a sense of isolation in my neighborhoods. There's more distance between people, and everyone's so wary (perhaps, rightly so, considering the headlines on the evening news). Could be that all this fear and distance has made people less practiced in common courtesies. I'm rather stunned when someone opens a door for me these days (and it's usually an older man). I actually try to open doors for people whenever I can, just to freak them out.
And the uncivility doesn't stop with pedestrians. It's almost worse when people get in their cars. I dread having to go anywhere as no one seems to obey traffic rules anymore. Red lights don't mean "stop" for most. In St. Louis, if you have any sense, you wait about three beats for cars to keep going through a red light at an intersection before you can go on the green. Say the guy in the far left lane decides he needs to be in the far right lane. No problem. He just cuts across three lanes of traffic to make his exit. It's ridiculous. I don't say the f-word in public and only in private when I'm very frustrated; but somehow when I'm out running errands, it pops out of my mouth a lot. Were drivers always this bad? Or is it more of the rudeness thing? The "I don't give a s**t about anyone else but myself" attitude that seems so prevalent?
I know, I know. It's the holiday season. Everything should be all pretty lights and bows, but I can't seem to stop stumbling over Scrooges everywhere I go. Now that I've ranted, I'm going to say "poo poo to mean people" (did I do that right, Marian?). I am going to stick a smile on my face even if I'm pinned against the Wii display during crowded shopping days. I plan to say, "Happy Holidays," open doors, and be as pleasant as can be no matter how many Scrooges I encounter. If I'm nice then maybe it'll make someone else feel nicer, too, and so on and so on, like that old shampoo commercial. Pretty soon it'll catch on like the swine flu and become an epidemic! (And, no, I haven't been dipping into the loaded eggnog--yet--but that does sound mighty, um, nice!)