Tag Archives: courtesy

The Benefits of Courtesy

kindness, courtesy, politeness, good feelings

Creative Commons: Nicole Ellis, Sunshine's Reflections http://sunshinereflections.wordpress.com

It’s amazing how self-centered we’ve become, worrying about our finances, getting the kids here or there, keeping our jobs, getting a better job, finding time for fun, rushing to or from the supermarket, the game, the meeting, the mall, the party. It goes on so that we’re caught up in a whirlwind of activity and sometimes barely notice the world around us.

That world isn’t all strife, war and trauma as the news likes to focus upon but also full of beauty, ingenuity and intelligence. We get so caught up at times that we forget that there are thinking and caring humans all around us. Their lives are as important as your or mine. And some days, we just have bad days.

So would it hurt any of us to try to be a bit nicer, to try some courtesy? I have found that often this can go farther than being grouchy and boy, do I have my cranky pants days. I’ve taken to telling random strangers that I like their hair, or dress or shoes if I do. It doesn’t hurt me to say it and makes their day a bit shiny. I know when some stranger has paid me a compliment that it gives me a bit of a glow.

I try to think about others when I’m shopping so I don’t stop with my cart in the middle of the aisle but pull it over so it’s out of the way. I don’t stand in front of the mushrooms blocking it for all others to reaching in but try to stand a bit to one side so that others can share. I say thank you when someone holds a door open for me and likewise hold doors for others. I wave when someone lets me change lanes while driving and try to let people in. It’s especially hard while driving to stay in a good mood because people feel they’re losing a race if they let anyone in. But there is someone always ahead of us.

Don’t get me wrong. I have pretty big crankypants and get really irate when I think people aren’t being fair. But I try to reciprocate kindness with kindness. Sometimes I’ve been in line with groceries with two items and someone will let me in, in front of them. Suddenly we’ll chat a bit and become human to each other, not just another stranger whose in our way. It makes that waiting in line pass faster and you get to know something about another person.

Just imagine how pleasant we could all be if we did a small kindness for someone else, said something nice? Giving a gift of courtesy could be the biggest reward and put some sunshine in everyone’s day. Here’s hoping we can all just be nicer to each other and find the world transformed without us trying to transform others or ignore them.

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Social Media Has Killed Sociability

Creative Commons: by Matt Hamm

A little over one hundred and fifty years ago if you wanted to invite someone over you went to their door, or ran into them at the market. If you were upper class, you sent the servant over with a note saying “Your presence is requested at Miss Abernathy’s for tea tomorrow afternoon.” You might have sent a homing pigeon.

About a hundred years ago, you could get on the party line, or write a letter to invite someone, or use any of the aforementioned tools. This evolved into individual phone lines for everyone and became the preferred way to communicate with people, or to mail an invitation if you didn’t see them in person. About twenty-five to thirty years ago the internet came along. While it made instant chatting available to those people far and wide; relatives, lost loves, old friends, it didn’t work so well for close to home.

You’re probably thinking I’m nuts, but as the internet evolved our social skills devolved. Sure we could talk to someone in outer Timbuktu and more often, but when it came to the friend across the street or in easy access of the phone, we started to resort to email. I’ve always said email is a cross between a phone call and a letter. You can write out more but you don’t get as much interaction with the other person and it can take far longer to explain or describe something by writing than by having a conversation (remember those?). Case in point; I’ve tried with friends to set a date to get together. I email and say, when are you free. In the next week I can do any date but Wednesday. Two weeks later they get back to me and say okay we’ve got this weekend coming up. I get back to them and say I can’t do this weekend. What about this one? They get back to me and say can’t do that. Another flurry of emails, some long delays and six months have passed without getting together. The second time this began I picked up the phone and called them. Matter solved in a few minutes and a date set.

After the internet, we got Facebook and all its ancestors before that. As well we got text messaging. So what’s the best way to interact? Inane daily events are often recorded on Facebook but it’s not real conversation. And while Facebook is great for letting people know of plays, concerts, dances and other large social gatherings it’s not so great for parties and intimate gatherings. I lose the invitations from friends amongst the invitations to every event in the city. And people don’t respond so it might look like three people are coming to your party when thirty-three actually come. People have foregone the courtesy of yesteryear of responding to an invitation.

How bad is this? Recently I wanted to go see a show where one extra night was added, the rest having sold out. I knew the tickets were selling fast and I thought some of my friends would like it so I emailed eight people and said let me know ASAP because these won’t last. The next day, no response from anyone. I was very puzzled and sent the email again with several test messages to people because I thought my email wasn’t working. But not one person bothered to say yes or no, and because I waited I lost out on getting a ticket myself.

What was I to think:

  1. I’ve pissed off 8 people from different walks of my life all a once.
  2. No one likes me or respects me enough to bother responding.
  3. The internet wasn’t working. (I’m beginning to suspect the internet was OTL last week.)
  4. I happened to luck into 8 diverse people who were sick, working late, had a broken computer, didn’t check their email, didn’t see the email, didn’t care, all at once.
  5. Aliens ate my friends.
  6. Friends A, B, & C prefer to be called. Friends D & E prefer text messages. Friends F & H prefer Facebook and Friend G was jumping off a bridge.
  7. Other.

So, what is the solution if email isn’t the best way to contact 8 people? I know I don’t get on Facebook every day and I’ve had the same response there. I don’t have unlimited texting and not everyone has texting.  What happens if I have a party and want to invite 50 people? I can’t text or call them all. Do I go back to sending old fashioned paper invitations where no one will call because we don’t use our phones for calling much anymore and if a person has to go from paper to email or text they’re likely to forget? Do I send my servant to their door? Wait, what servant? Do I post on Facebook knowing five people will respond and 20 people will look and go oh no one’s going so I won’t?

What’s the answer? Social media really has wrecked personal parties. It’s okay if you want to go to a club but don’t count on your buddies going.  But I think we’ve lost a fundamental aspect of courtesy that is not better in many ways. I think the polite think to do is still to respond when it’s an invitation, when it says RSVP. But I’ve decided to not bother with the party I was going to throw in the next month because chances are, no one will respond. Perhaps the telepathic implants will work better once we get them.

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Pedestrians and Cars: A Two-Way Street

I cannot imagine what our ancestors of long ago would have thought of our casual disregard for motor vehicles. Tons of metal hurtle towards us and we will blithely walk in front of them with presumptions of our safety. And we, as drivers, hold these leviathans at our fingertips, feeling invincible as we do so.

But the truth is that hundreds of people are injured and killed everyday, the world over, because of cars, trucks, buses. Here in Vancouver, and most of Canada, pedestrians have the right of way. That’s most to protect the flesh and bone as they’re more vulnerable that people in cars. However, should a person run into traffic or jaywalk I believe they still have the right of way, even if they are breaking the law. But it’s great way to get yourself made into road pizza.

In Vancouver, the areas that have a lot of shops tend to be the ones that will bring out the jaywalking. I will never ever jaywalk if a car is coming because I don’t believe in inconveniencing people who truly have the right of way, just because I want to skip an extra minute by walking to the corner. I have watched people and been in my car having people step out into the middle of traffic or saunter across, or end up stopping the flow because in laziness they can’t wait.

This gets back to my pet peeve of the me-me-me world where everyone only thinks of themselves. The selfish pedestrians inconvenience the drivers and other folks because they pretend they own the world. Conversely, the selfishness of drivers can be even more deadly than the accidents that law-disregarding pedestrians cause.

Too many people pay no attention but to the road in front of them. A good driver and a law-abiding one is supposed to be reading signs and watching what goes on around. Without reading you won’t know if you’re in a construction zone, if the speed limit changes, or if there is a merge lane. And without observing what’s going on around you (in a non-rubbernecking way) you won’t know that traffic flow will change, that a person is crossing a street or someone has signalled and is backing up to parallel park.

It is every driver’s responsibility to pay attention and observe. That doesn’t mean pulling out into oncoming traffic just because your signal is on (if it’s on) but do so when it’s safe. The same goes for changing lanes. And should you see someone standing at a crosswalk, you are supposed to stop and let them cross, not zoom through because they can cross after. I have almost been smeared because I was more than halfway through the crosswalk when someone decided to just keep going. People get clipped when cars turn corners.

Of course car manufacturers can be blamed for some of this. My Saturn has a huge blind spot and when I’m turning a corner I have to look behind and in front of this blind spot. However, I almost hit someone when turning one night, not because I wasn’t looking but because it was dark and raining and this guy decided to run across the street. I only saw legs flashing by as I hit the brake. It behooves every person to keep a healthy ounce of self-preservation and realize that it is sometimes hard for drivers to see in rain, fog, snow and dark.

And yesterday I almost hit a bicyclist. I signalled, stopped and looked both ways, then pulled out to turn from an alley. But this guy sailed in front of me at a fast speed and there had been a parked van to my left. Every person on the street, whether driver, bicyclist, pedestrian (and god forbid, skateboarders) needs to consider what their actions will cause, and think about if a driver/pedestrian can see them. Crossing the street that has no lighting and wearing all black at night makes you hard to see. Consider that and make sure the driver has seen you before you step in front of them.

Pedestrians, use the corners and crosswalks and don’t dash in front of cars. Drivers, consider the road, the signs and the people along the walks. Follow the rules and laws of the road and consider that you’re not the only one on it. If more people just did this; pay more attention, be aware and conduct themselves safely, we could probably cut down on accidents by 30%.

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Driving Me Crazy: Driver Etiquette

I really think that there are way too many people on the road these days who shouldn’t be there, who don’t know how to drive or who have forgotten or who have become just plain dangerous. What’s the solution? Have them do a driver’s test every year? Well, that would raise the cost of our licenses and everyone would study up (which would help) but it doesn’t mean they would drive better the rest of the time. So, I’m not sure what the solution is. Spy drivers? Increase fines for when you’re caught? But fines, like death, are something that people think will never happen to them.

Our cities are too congested, our roadways inadequate for the commuting, our public transit inefficient or too expensive for many commuters, our homes too expensive and so people buy further and further out. This all leads to people going long distances, speeding, feeling pressured, working too much and getting angry. Governments need to take a far ranging approach but also every person has to take responsibility for their own actions.

Here are some of the purely insane or stupid things I’ve seen drivers do. If you’re reading this, I hope you won’t/don’t do these or will consider not continuing to do them.

  • Changing lanes into a turning lane and then signal. Duh, it’s obvious once you’re in the turning lane that you’re going to turn. Let’s look at the word “signal.” What does it mean? If you signal someone or something you are attracting attention and letting someone know you’re going to do something. A turning signal lets people know you’re going to turn or change lanes. You use it before you move into another lane, not after. And as the bumper stickers say, it is not an option. It’s the law. If you signal that you’re changing lanes it lets the drivers around you know that you may be changing speed and merging. The signal should blink at least three times (not a half-blip) before you do any lane change or turn, giving everyone enough time to react properly. It’s done for safety and to avoid accidents. 
  • Speeding up to not let people in. I watched a guy in rush-hour traffic yesterday as all of us crept along. He would leave a big space in front of his car, but when a car signalled properly that it was going to change lanes and then merged into the empty spot, the guy sped up and honked his horn at the car, then of course veered into the HOV lane without signalling (and a single driver). Remember this, folks. No one is ever first on the road. It’s a long asphalt snake with no beginning and no ending (more or less) and there is always someone ahead of you and behind you. Try some courtesy and it might be returned. It’s give and take; if someone signals and gives enough time, let them in, and if you are the one signalling don’t cut off a car coming up quickly. Oh, and if someone does let you in, do signal them with a wave of thanks. It’s the polite thing to do.
  • Sideswiping and crowding. I’ve been nearly pushed into the retaining wall on the highway when I was already on the exit ramp and a truck came over from the next lane into me. I honked and he just kept coming, pushing me onto the shoulder. I’ve had some insane woman nearly crush me because I was coming from a merging lane, signalling, and she wouldn’t let me in, willing to risk damage. Another guy one night, when the highway was empty, came into my lane and pushed me toward the retaining wall. Why? I don’t get this at all. Where do you think people should go? We can’t disapparate.
  • Insane road rage. But perhaps the above is just another sign of road rage. Like the time I was in the curb lane with cars parked beside me. A car stopped in front of me, a taxi I think, to let someone out. The car behind me blared his horn. Then after the car in front of me turned off, that car followed me with his lights on high. I’m still not sure how I was supposed to do anything else.
  • Street racing: we can blame car companies partly for the increase in this. Ads always declare the cars fast and sexy. And yeah, young guys have to prove they’re cool by racing but it’s absolutely unsafe and enough people have already been killed in Vancouver because of it. Drag racing was the old style problem and again could be an issue for safety of other drivers and pedesterians. But the amount of souped up and super fast cars makes this even more of an issue. Speeds of 150 km in the city are not acceptable and you certainly can’t react fast enough at that speed.

Sideswiping, speeding, tailgating, rudeness, all are extremely dangerous and do lead to accidents and death. It is the worst type of bullying, and criminal. I still think of those poor guys, on the way to the airport, who were first pushed off the road and then the guy came back, insane with anger, and ran over one young man, killing him.  Why? Did they do something first? Who knows but this sort of escalation is completely crazy. Driving isn’t a game or a competition. Not on our city streets. It’s thousands of people, each one unique and important in their way, and they all have a myriad things going on. They’re busy, sick, preoccupied, worried, happy, rushed, relaxing, whatever. It’s about people getting safely from one destination to the next. You, the driver cannot possibly know why someone does something. People sometimes make stupid mistakes. But if we try to be kinder, calmer, not presume the worst and be more aware, perhaps we can save just a few more lives, or a lot more, on the roads.

And I have to watch it when these drivers drive me crazy. Therein lies the path to road rage. Right now I shoot them with my finger gun and leave at that, grateful that we do have gun laws. Maybe counselling should be added to every driver’s licence exam. Counselling before you get the license and every couple of years.

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Sidewalk and Stairway Etiquette

This will probably not be read because it doesn’t deal with sex or violence (unless I get really really aggravated), and really, you’d think that it wouldn’t need to be said, but some people are rude, some self-centered and some just stupid. And hey, it’s my blog; I can whine if I want to.

I am really getting tired of the me-me-me attitude that permeates not just the roadways, where drivers without passengers feel entitled to use the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, drive slow in the fast lane with no intention of pulling over, and tailgate everyone who doesn’t want to go 120 km in a 80 km zone. I have complained about this before and how, even in supermarkets, people push and park their buggies the same way that they drive.

It all comes down to a massive lack of consideration, where the only person that matters is that one person and maybe the family members they have with them. Too many people out there think that only they are important or have places to be. Guess what, folks, you don’t own the world, the mall or the highway, so share it with everyone and share nicely. Didn’t your mothers teach you how to share? If not, now is the time to learn.

So sidewalks: remember, as you’re walking along that you don’t have eyes or mirrors in the back of your head. You don’t know who is behind you or what they’re doing. Try not to meander left and right like a demented drunk. Stay to one side of the walk and be aware, if you’re walking down the middle, that someone else may be walking at another pace and would like to pass you. (I mailed a letter yesterday at the street postal box. I turned to move into the flow of the busy sidewalk. I was still not moving and this woman was coming right at me. I had a car beside me and the post box behind me, and people to the right. She almost ran into me. I could only laugh since maybe she thought I was going to levitate.)

If you happen to be walking with several people, then more than two abreast tends to take up the width of most sidewalks. It means that one or more of you will need to walk behind or move over since people use both directions on sidewalks. You’d think it was common sense and courtesy. But many people must believe they own the sidewalk. The more in a pack they are the more likely that they’ll walk at a real slooooooow pace and no one can get by. This goes for people with dogs or strollers as well. You can’t take up the whole sidewalk even in one direction. Be aware, be polite and move over if someone wants past unless you want them to walk on your heels.

And stopping suddenly when you’ve been going at a good pace is a very bad idea, equivalent to braking suddenly on the freeway. Even moreso, people don’t have to worry about giving a car’s length on the sidewalk. If you’ve seen something  or realized you forgot something and have to turn back, slow down gradually, moving to one side of the sidewalk and then turn. That way, anyone behind you will be aware that you’re changing your pace or direction and will be less likely to run into you. This goes for malls too.

Stairwells and escalators work somewhat differently. On an escalator, which goes only in one direction, in North America, it is common to stand on the right and walk on the left. If you’re in a hurry, you walk up the escalator and no one is blocking you. If you’re at a leisure pace, you stay to the right, just like car lanes but people are actually better on escalators than they are on the road. It used to be you would see signs on store escalators explaining this system but I haven’t seen signs for a while now.

For stairs, a person coming down them is more likely to need the hand railing or could possibly trip and fall than if they are going up them. So what does that mean? If you’re walking up the stairs, move away from the railing and let people use it to descend. If you’re old or incapacitated, then yes you might need to pull yourself up the stairs. And if there is a wall that people must walk around, really really try not to hug that corner  in either direction because you’re likely to meet someone nose to nose.

Addendum: I’ve changed my mind about this as I was walking up the middle of the stairs to give room for the people coming down. There were so many and again they were in a cattle like state that I was nearly knocked backwards down the stairs. Now I walk up on the right.

Do I need to even mention how gross and disgusting, uncouth, uncivilized and downright unsexy gobbing and spitting on sidewalks and stairs is? You are not cool and not attractive and not tough. You’re just a pig. Try having some tissue on hand or seeing a doctor if it’s congenital.

Yes, in my perfect world, people would be polite and considerate. They would say sorry if they bumped into you, allow you to pass them on the sidewalk, not hog the whole thing and yes, they would drive politely. The last time I saw multitudes of polite drivers it was in Saskatchewan; not Alberta, not BC, not Washington nor Oregon. Just think, we could have contests to see if people excel in politeness and courtesy. I can dream, can’t I?

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Internet: Rudiments of Courtesy and Respect

I have been on the internet since it was DOS, a big black screen with glowing green text. The early chat rooms and newsgroups were full of pedantic people trying to prove themselves in one way or another, from the spelling nazis to the socially insecure showing their scintillating intelligence and argumentative nature. In the new newsgroups, there are often rules against correcting someone’s typos but you can still get the know-it-alls. You also get the people who have to air their grievances against another for one and all to suffer through.

We live in a modern age of computers and instant messages. Before those came along there were phones and letters. Before that era, there were letters and pigeons. Before that, and during, there were riders on horses. Communications could always fall into the wrong hands, or not get through, or your courier be killed…if it was really important and political.

Some of our view of courtesy comes from the Victorian era but even before that, through much of the middle ages there were such things as courtly behaviour. Nobles and the higher echelon, even the peasantry, showed respect. Sure, rumours existed but they were and have always been perpetuated by people talking about the subject behind the subject’s back and never addressing the issue directly. Should one noble to the other have something particularly vicious to say, probably couched in witty ways, it was usually done face to face, because the fewer witnesses the better to deny it ever happened.

To call one out, especially one of any noble lineage was tantamount to a duel or a war, or maybe an assassination. Words had power, have always had power. Words can slander, can give respect, can color one’s view. But even as much as words reflect on the subject, they also reflect on the speaker.

No matter how wronged a person is, or how justified they may be in speaking of the scurrilous things people have done to them, when even the injured get on the soapbox it most often is not pretty. Be careful who you paint with that brush for the paint can spatter on you. I have seen this over and over, and used it as a good lesson. When the wronged one starts pointing a finger back
and getting to name calling, that person too loses credence. Sometimes turning the other cheek is the best policy.

To air one’s laundry, whether yours or the pilfered goods of the “other”, it is still airing your laundry in public. It is a tactic that holds the public hostage to a viewing whether they want it or not. It is a tactic that one does to shame the other. It is a tactic that shows the one who airs as callous, mean, little and low class. It is a tactic meant to anger and to justify one’s own behavior. And it is always lowly done and not of the noblest of intentions.

Here are a few rules by which I judge if there is courtesy and respect. I try to use these. Discussing is one thing but belittling or berating others is not acceptable.

1. If you have nothing nice to say, shut up.
2. If you hate someone, tell them personally. We don’t want to know.
3. If you want to be Machiavellian and stir the pot, well then you really think
you’re so witty that no one is catching on as you sit back and lick your paws.
You’ll believe yourself superior, but it’s not very noble either.
4. If you have to show off your intelligence and superior knowledge in a
pedantic manner, then you’re not very secure and it shows.
5. If you have to whine about how much you did and that no one ever notices or
wants you, then no matter your position you’re not doing this for noble means and
maybe there’s another reason no one wants you.
6. If you make yourself a martyr and make sure everyone knows, then expect to
be used that way and not to get sainthood at the end.
7. If you’re getting so out of hand in your vitriol that someone has to smack
your hand, well then maybe it’s time to go to mommy until you grow up.
8. If you can’t be constructive, or don’t know the facts, shut up.

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It’s an All About Me World

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be living at the height of the 40s when people doffed their hats, everyone said please and thank you and called people by their last names, and politeness was just a way of life. Over the decades things have changed. Morals and moires have loosened up, there is more freedom in speech and thought and dress and we live in a very affluent society in North America.

With that, has come consumption at a phenomenal rate. Products are over-packaged, packaged and packaged again to make them splashier, bigger, brighter and harder to rip off. Fashions for everything from clothing, to cars to home furnishings are advertised everywhere, on billboards, in magazines, on TV. Even the poor have TVs and cell phones and wearing the latest cool rock or movie star inspired trend is what matters.

We toss out usable TVs, computers, clothing, furniture because we’re tired of them, they don’t fit the new decor, whatever. Once upon a time in a world only a hundred years old people kept and used items until they were used up. Except perhaps for the rich. But now we have a much richer society compared to a lot of the world’s population.

And what does it seem to have made us? Selfish, self-centered, rude, righteous and arrogant. How often do we drive, turning every other driver into a nonentity or someone to race past, curse out or otherwise denigrate to prove we’re superior, faster, more entitled to use that HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane to switch in and out of traffic than all those people who follow the rules? How often do we shop in a store or walk down the sidewalk, not considering that other people are using it too and trying to get past but making everyone move at our pace?

Do you bump into someone and don’t even bother to say, “Sorry,” presuming that they just expect it to happen? Do you throw your litter on the ground because you don’t care, it doesn’t matter, everyone does it, or any other way that you justify it being fine for you to do what you want? Do you push in front of someone in line, whether on the road, or at an event? Do you stand in the middle of a walkway, chatting with your friends and blocking the way for everyone? Do you say thank you if someone serves you, lets you in, holds a door for you (no matter the gender)?

We’ve become such a selfish me-me-me society that it really saddens me. I too fall into this at times, because I’m in a rush, I’m grumpy, I was cut off by that jerk. I’m not perfect but I try to consider others around me and not make it that the world was designed only for me and serves me first.

It takes effort to be polite, courteous, kind, but it can really make one feel a lot better if someone says thanks. I once needed change for parking, four quarters for a dollar. I tried to ask a man walking by and he veered around me like I was a leper. We’re turned into a very uncaring and callous society. If we all just try a bit harder we can make our rich, affluent world a pleasant one. Try just being considerate to one person more than you’re considerate to today. Consider a stranger and how your actions may affect them. Think about the world around you and try and imprint it with kindness. The 40s seem quaint now but they had their value.

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