What is courtesy? Why do we engage in it?
Or do we engage in it? How often do you bother to thank someone for a minor courtesy? How often do you take a little extra time to hold a door open for someone you don't know?
Courtesy is more than that, of course. It's more than thanking a waiter for pouring you a second (or third or fourth) cup of coffee. It's more than holding that door open for a friend or stranger. It's how we are connected in any society.
I was reading an article in the Boston Globe recently. It was about the use of the phrase "No problem" and whether the phrase was discourteous in itself. The idea was that it is replacing "you're welcome". The author seemed to lament that "you're welcome" was being supplanted for the more casual phrase.
I think the lack of even a "thank you" is much more indicative of indifference and rudeness than a "no problem" response. Yet I know I do not thank people often enough. I try to acknowledge actions that are not expected more often than ones that are. That is, a waiter refilling your cup is merely doing his or her job. Why thank them? Aren't they being paid to do it? Isn't that acknowledgment enough? I do thank them if I have asked them to refill it, to acknowledge that it was a request I made. And I often thank them as a way of saying when to stop pouring.
The interesting thing in the article, and a few commenters caught it, was the fact that the author was writing about the response of someone taking your money at a cash register. It was a response to the customer's "thank you" that was at issue. Isn't that backwards? Shouldn't the counter-person be thanking the customer? Perhaps that's the more important issue.
I see a real lack of courtesy these days. Maybe I am just becoming a grumpier old codger but I see it all around me. Especially on the roads. Our main thoroughfare is a US highway. It has six lanes, three in each direction (in case you were wondering), along with the occasional turn lane to the left or right. The speed limit along most of it is 55. That speed is rarely attainable, especially in the winter months with the extra traffic, at most times of the day. Traffic lights impede you, of course. But the most common reason is a lack of courtesy by drivers.
Florida has a standard rule that says slower traffic should keep to the right. This is routinely ignored. People drive slowly in the left most lane a lot of the time. Some do it because someone in the next several miles they may wish to turn left but they aren't in a hurry to get to that point. Some because it happened to be empty. Some because they do not like the right lane since it seems slowest due to drivers turning on to it from side streets or off of it onto side streets and the middle lane makes them feel "boxed in". All of these are selfish reasons.
Few care about the cars coming up behind them. In fact, they seem oblivious to them. The driver's concern is only about themselves. But here's what can hppen...
Aggressive Driving Kills Young Mother
Florida law enforcement and the Florida DMV spend a lot of time and resources talking about the dangers of road rage. While many drivers have heeded the warning and taken a calmer approach to driving some have not and as a result Florida drivers have been killed.
On Nov 13, 2005 a 24 year old woman entered Hodges Boulevard in Jacksonville and got into the left lane. The vehicle she got in front of had to slow down and apparently was upset by this. According to witnesses the second vehicle then tried to pass the woman could not and then started tailgating. Tailgating is a dangerous aggressive driving behavior that is all too common.
Next the aggressive driver managed to pass the 24 year old woman and got in front of her. To show his disapproval the driver tapped his brakes. This caused the woman to swerve off the road where she was killed. The woman killed was Kierra Shore - she was the 24 year old mother of twins.
Don't Assume It's Intentional
In this case the aggressive driver was not charged with a crime. Let's hope the knowledge that he caused the death of a young woman because maybe she was not a great driver will change his behavior. This is not an uncommon situation so think about it the next time you feel you've been cut off, slowed down or otherwise bothered by another driver. If you can assume it was an accident and just calmly go on your way everyone can drive home safely.
The tragic thing is that both drivers were rude. The woman could have moved out of the way of the approaching driver. She could have avoided the confrontation that led to her death. I am not blaming her, the aggressive driver over-reacted and made a conscious effort to be rude and obnoxious. He was more selfish, you might say. But she's still dead.
And that is the problem. We tend to think more about ourselves, our wants and desires, than about others and theirs. When we were youngsters, our parents (most of them anyway) taught us that "please" and "thank you" were the Magic Words. They were trying to teach us more than that. They were trying to teach us courtesy. To be aware of those around us.
An awful lot of us forgot those lessons. I am just as guilty as the next person.
It's just an extension of the Golden Rule. Which, ironically, uses a bit of selfishness to induce behavior considered selfless.
You don't think so? Think about an important part of the rule... "as you have others do unto you." The implication is clear... perhaps if I am kind and courteous to others, perhaps they will be kind and courteous to me.
And we all like to believe that what goes around, comes around."
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago