Thursday, September 25, 2008

Common Sense and Plain Dealing

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that, “Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.” With all due respect to R. Waldo, I would have to argue that nothing astonishes men so much as basic manners and politeness. Then again, who knows; we live in a world devoid of common sense, plain dealing, manners and politeness—so maybe we’re both right?

The quote from R-Wal popped into my head today as I was leaving Dunkin Donuts—though to be fair, I’d attributed it to Mark Twain at the time. I was walking out right behind another man, an older man who held the door for me.

I befuddled him by saying something so amazingly rare, so agonizingly unusual that I believe I may have sent the poor old fella into a momentary shock. You know what it is don’t you? You’re right. I pulled out the big guns. I hit him with the big T-Y. I caused him to choke a little bit on his donut, to water a little in the eye, to pound his chest in hopes of inducing a heartbeat.

Yes, that’s right. I said, “thank you.”

That wasn’t the funny part though. You see, it was one of those double sets of doors with a little vestibule in between. And with the grace of goldfish in the microwave, he somehow staggered to the next door and experimentally held that one for me after he walked through it as well.

I’m going to be honest with you here. At this point, I was pretty much fucking with him. I’d already checked heart palpitations, choking and watery eyes off the list—I figured it couldn’t hurt to go for bug eyes, profuse sweating, nausea and the coup de grace of fuckery most heinous, the faint.

So when he held the second door for me and I caught it with my coffee cup-filled hand, I put the most charming smile on my face I could possibly muster, I gave him a wink (oh yes I did!) and I said something to him that he’s sure to be relaying over and again to his incredulous friends at McDonald’s later this afternoon over senior-priced coffee and cheeseburgers with extra pickles. I said, “Thank you sir, have a good one!”

I didn’t get the faint I was going for, or even the bug eyes—if I’m being completely honest, but I was gifted a look of confusion that rivaled what you might expect to find on the face of a proprietor when a Wookie walks into a barber shop.

That was good enough for me.

On one hand, I find it hard to believe that someone could be so completely and utterly incredulous over someone showing them simple courtesy, but maybe it’s just me who’s skewed of view. After all, I’m the guy who holds doors for people all the time—women, men, seniors and kids, and usually winds up saying a too-loud YOU’RE WELCEOME to them after they’ve passed through without so much as an acknowledgement to me. No nod. No tip of cap. No smile. No words of thanks.

It aggravates me. But it’s the norm now. I shock people by being polite and I’m shocked when they aren’t. Perhaps the world has passed me by. Maybe I’m the fool for holding on to something that’s so obviously and regretfully a part of our history and has no place in our present or our future. Maybe I’m the problem.

But if that’s the case, then shame on all of you.


Anonymous said...

I think this has to do with WHERE you are in the country. Where I live the majority of people always say "Thank you" when another opens or holds a door for them.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever get lonely up there on that soapbox? *evil grin* ... for the record, *I* always thank people, but then I'm British so it's bred into me.

Catharsis said...

k your writing style is completely intoxicating, but you already knew that didn't ya. and. i always say 'thank you' when ppl hold doors for me...and i also say 'you're welcome' loudly when they whisk thru the door i've held open for them. ha.

PenguinsWalkAmoungUs said...

Personally, I hope fools like you are NOT a dying breed. The world would be a better place if more people took five seconds to hold the door for a stranger and one second to say thank you when the act was done for them.

SimpleMind said...

Basic courtesy must be more common here than some areas. I generally holds doors, often have doors held for me, and exchange TYs and YWs.

One day I was coming back from lunch with a couple of coworkers. Coworker A held the first door. Coworker B held the second door. By this point we were in the lobby of the office building where we work. Not wanting to feel left out and return the couresy somehow, I stopped by the entrance to the staircase, holding open an imaginary door and announced, "Here, let me get the stairs for you."

khristina aka gorgeousnfilthy from you know where said...

I really agree with you...people are shocked by politeness...i always say thank you when someone does something nice and simple like opening a door for me. But then again to me it just makes sense and some people probably just expect it....or don't and think they don't need to acknowledge it

Me! said...

Funny, I was thinking about this yesterday when a woman walked through a door in front of me and let it slam in my face. At least she couldn't hear what I called her.

I always try to make a point of saying "thanks" when someone shows an inch of politeness -- maybe it'll spread and the world will be saved :-).