Friday, December 4, 2009

To All the Scrooges Out There...Bah Humbug!

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!)


  1. Oh Susan, I feel your pain.

    What has happened to communities pulling together, especially at Christmas. I live in the country outside a small town. There was a time when groups of children would go door to door caroling and receive cookies for their reward. Now, the youth from the church doesn't do it for the elder of the congregation.

    Oh, Bah Humbug. I want the Christmas spirit back..

  2. I always tell my kids that it takes a lot more energy to be negative than to be positive. Then, to prove my point, I make everyone smile. (And yes, they're sick of me and my pronouncements.) But the point is, we need to put positive energy into the world, not the negative stuff. Susan and I had a long exchange on Wednesday after both of us had been on the receiving end of someone's negativity, using each other to talk the other one down. It worked because we both decided that in spite of how other people behave, we can control how we behave and what we put into the world (that sums it up, right, Susan?). Anyway, great post and people, please be kind to one another even when forces of nature are conspiring against you to do the opposite. Maggie

  3. You "poo, poo"-ed perfectly -- and reminded me of a good lesson this morning. I'm going to focus on the joy and sense of community we need to create -- not just for the holidays, but year round. Thanks for the great blog!


  4. Mason, I totally agree! Bring back the spirit!

    Maggie, very true how we can only control our response to bad stuff. But it's so hard sometimes just to shrug it off. My hubby is much better at that than I am, but I will try harder. It is SO good to have someone to vent to when mean people have put a knot in your day. I think we should have regular Venting Parties, where we say "poo poo!" a lot and eat chocolate. ;-)

    Marian, I love this "poo poo" thing, btw. I am now incorporating it into my everyday life. :-)


  5. Way to go Susan, I agree with you all the way..I work in retail and I see it every day and my customers have commented to me on 'How do you always look cheerful and so pleasant while working" I feel it takes less to be cheerful than rude and why go to the level where so many are..I want to stand above the rudeness. I also refuse to say Happy Holidays I still say Merry Christmas and if this offends anyone just remember we do have freedom to express ourselves. We have to set role models for the younger generation and our work is cut out for us..that is for sure. Thanks for the article may it bring many good results..too bad it is sent to a nice needs to be put where the rude people can read it..not here where we are all nice already. Pass the word and Merry Christmas to all. susan L.

  6. When someone cuts me off or crowds in on a line I always say, "That must be a very important person," keeps me from saying any bad words.

    Also, when in a store or any public place, smile at someone and give them a compliment. Works every time. I love doing this to obvious gang-bangers (we have plenty in the town where I shop) and anyone with a sour look on their face.


  7. Susan L., I applaud you for keeping such a positive attitude working in retail. Staying cheerful while dealing with stinkers (particularly through the busy holidays) is probably way healthier than getting teed off. And I think Merry Christmas always works!

    Marilyn, I tend to smile a lot, too, and get puzzled looks sometimes (like people wonder what I'm up to!). But I'm going to work on swearing in my car, even if it's only my ears that hear it! (You've inspired me ;->).

    Ed's aunt Bonnie read this post and said her psychologist daughter always tells her, "You can't carpet the world. You can only put on your own slippers." That makes so much sense. If only it were so easy, though!


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  9. You've made me yearn for simpler time, Susan! Did we grow up in the same neighborhood(s)?! Those were the days.

  10. I agree, Misa...those were the days! Makes me yearn for my patchwork bell-bottom pants or the knickers my grandmother made me in grade school (okay, not). ;-)