I don’t spend a whole lot of time out in the general public. I am either at home working or on campus. For some, the thought of this much solitary time is frightening. For me, it is a blessing I am so thankful for. There are days I question my lifestyle but ten minutes out among the general public I am reminded why I am happy with my life just the way it is. Back-in-the-day we used to have these things called “common courtesies”, which are apparently becoming more and more uncommon these days. Now, I’m not going to go off on a rant about how technology is destroying our humanity (although I feel that’s partially true) I am going to go off on a rant about being a decent human being, something we should all be capable of doing regardless of whether or not we have a smartphone glued to our hand:
Hold the door. Seriously. Hold the damn door. When I am walking through a door in a public place I always glance over my shoulder to check if someone is behind me. If there is, I will hold the door for them. I don’t care if it’s a man or woman, someone old or young or my mortal enemy, I will hold the door. I can’t tell you how many times I have had doors slam in my face because people are either too lazy or too rude to make the minimal effort to turn their head 45 degrees to see if anyone is behind them. Restore my faith in humanity and just hold the door.
Make eye contact. I don’t understand this habit, maybe it’s a Midwest thing but if I’m out walking people will avert their eyes as our paths cross. Why? Are you afraid I am going to steal your soul if you make eye contact with me? Eye contact is a way to make your presence known to the person you’re passing and gives you the opportunity to exchange a pleasant “hello” or a smile. It’s a simple way to have a friendly encounter in our all too angry world.
Watch where you’re going. Yes, smartphones are awesome. I spend a lot of time on mine and I can see that you do, too. However, when I am walking or driving you know where my phone is? Put the fuck away. There’s good reason for that, too. I like to see where I’m going. I can’t tell you how many near accidents I have had to dodge because some douchebag couldn’t wait to update their Facebook status and swerves into my lane. And I’m telling you right now, the next person who runs into me or cuts me off on the sidewalk because they have their nose in their phone is going to be at risk of me tripping them.
Let those departing off first. This drives me crazy. Whether I’m getting off an elevator, train or bus, let me off first. Don’t bum rush the door and race in. It takes a whole three seconds for me to get out of your way so just chill out.
Use your indoor voice. This should go without saying but you would be surprised how many adults forget this childhood lesson. And yes, people who insist on talking on their phone when they are shopping at Target, I’m talking to you. You’re the worst. No, I take that back, people talking loudly on their phone in the bookstore are the worst. Either way, I don’t need nor want to hear about your friend’s lazy husband or the best places to score heroin (seriously, I overheard that conversation last week). So do us all a favor and take it down a notch.
Help people who look like they need it. There are all different types of situations where this applies but here I am speaking specifically about being courteous. If you see a mother struggling to get her stroller down the stairs, help. If you notice an elderly person having trouble putting their grocery bags in the car, help. If you see someone climbing a shelf at the store to reach something at the top and you just happen to be taller, help. If you see someone whose car is stuck in the snow, help. These are easy things we can do that aren’t going to throw a huge wrench into our days timeline. So help.
Let someone else go first. This is something we also seem to struggle with in the Midwest, or maybe this happens everywhere. Either way, we have this incessant need to be first. But sometimes it just makes sense to let someone else go before you. If you are at the checkout line with a cart full of stuff and the person behind you has a candy bar and a magazine, let them go first. It’s the right thing to do. Oh, and in this same vein, if you are standing in line and a new checkout lane opens up and there is someone in front of you who is also waiting, they are considered “the next person in line”, not you.
Say ‘thank you’ to service people. Bus drivers, bathroom attendants, janitors, cab drivers, etc. work thank-less jobs where they are essentially invisible. But if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to dry our hands with those newly stocked paper towels and would have to trudge through garbage on our way through the mall. Say thank you to them when you get a chance. I extend a “thank you” to the bus driver each and every time I get off the bus. He is so used to not hearing it, it took him a few weeks to start responding to my appreciation. I’ll bet there are plenty of people like him out there and they all deserve a “thank you”.
Life if busy. Sometimes we are in a rush. I get it. But let’s not forget we are human beings existing in this world together. Most, if not all of the things I listed above do not require you to stop what you’re doing, they merely require your awareness. Don’t rush through the world like a rude asshole. We should all work to once again make these common courtesies just that, common.