The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My pleasure, ma'am or sir

Thank you
You're welcome
May I help you in any way?
Let me carry that for you.
Excuse me.
Here, let me get that door.

All phrases of courtesy and politeness. We use them every day, most of us. Or try to. I think of this each time I pass someone and they say "Good morning" or "good afternoon", or just nod at me. I don't know them but I politely respond in the same way. A reaction, one instilled by training during childhood. It is something we learned from our parents who undoubtedly learned it from their parents who undoubtedly learned it from their parents who... well, you get the picture. But there's more to it, isn't there, than just nodding or murmuring polite phrases at complete strangers? I am sure there is.

Are we polite because we want to be or because it is really difficult to fight that early childhood brainwashing?

I rejected just about everything my parents had taught me as a child when I became a teenager. I became impolite, surly, unruly, troublesome, and a whole lot of other adjectives that fully describe the average teen. I got into trouble more than most so maybe I wasn't exactly average. I wasn't quite the complete juvenile delinquent though I committed a few felonies along the way (don't worry, statute of limitations and all). But I made my parents miserable at times what with the all too often trips to retrieve me from the police station late at night. I sassed, I derided, I laughed at society and just about all adults.

I think it was envy.

All the time, that social conditioning was buried in the muddled gelatinous mass that passes for a teenager's brain. It didn't come out much. It made its appearance when protocol required; meeting a girl's parents, for example. Or interviewing for a job. Or when it seemed to be a way to make someone think I wasn't what I was. A mask of civility is how I thought of it. A disguise.

Somewhere in my mid-twenties I began to see it as more than a tool. I began to see it as how humans should be. I began to be sincere in my use of civility.

I adopted the Golden Rule.

You see, it really does matter that we are polite to one another. On a selfish level, there are many rewards. You will stand out in an ever increasingly impolite society. People will like you if you are polite. You will make that good first impression. If you are single, the polite guy will more likely get that first date than the guy who opens with a few rude comments about a woman's body. It can also get you a second date.

When I was about 17, a beautiful young lady related a story of her first and only date with a guy she thought was cute.

He took me to a movie. When he parked the car, he got out and began walking toward the theater. He was almost to the ticket window when he realized I was not there with him. He turned, puzzled, and saw me sitting in the car waiting for him to open my door. We never went out again.

At the time, I thought she was being demanding. She was certainly pretty enough to warrant great care in treatment but waiting for her door to be opened? What was up with that? I never asked her out because I didn't see myself doing any better than this other guy. And I probably wouldn't have.

It was many years later that I began to realize there are other reasons to be polite than to get to first base. I admit, they are still selfish reasons.

You feel good when you are polite. Especially when a kindness gets a pleasant response. You replenish your self-esteem whenever you hear "Thank you" or "You're welcome." You feel significant. You have been noticed and not for causing trouble.

I would like to see more of it on the roadways. I have made it a point in my driving to not only be aware of the dangers on the road but to the need for courtesy. How many times have you sat and waited for a break in the traffic so you could pull out of a driveway or enter traffic from a side street? The drivers seem to ignore you willfully, eyes straight ahead, no acknowledgment of you or your predicament. How about the ones who slow down as they approach a red light, one that is two blocks ahead? They seem oblivious to you in that car behind them wanting to get into the left turn lane in time to catch the turn left signal. And they are.

I have been caught enough in situations like that so that I now pay attention to those behind me as much as I pay attention to those along side or in front. I long ago became uncomfortable riding next to another car or in his/her blind spot. A few years of riding a motorcycle took care of that. But that was self-preservation. Courteous driving is more than that. It is a recognition that other cars are not simply objects and obstructions but vehicles with people inside.

All courtesy really is is the acknowledgment that others exist and have value. And isn't that enough reason to be polite?

1 comment:

justsomethoughts... said...

well thought out
well written
and yes. it is.