Let’s Talk Turkey

The bounty of Thanksgiving is upon us.

The skies, roadways and railways are full of people journeying to be with loved ones. Many of us get to indulge in a four day weekend. Families gather, and kitchens spillover with familiar scents and sounds… pies  (yes, dessert is always first with me), stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, a bird… and ‘da Birds‘, if you’re an Eagles fan. Love and laughter and leftovers abound.

pink yellow thin line

It’s the time of year most people stop and take inventory of all the blessings in their lives. I was reflecting on how appreciative and thankful I am. As evidenced by my prior posts, I have much to be grateful for. I also thought about manners in general, and I’d like share an observation:  Common courtesy isn’t so common anymore.

I don’t exactly like being circled fitfully and swooped upon like a vulture does its’ prey, but a little eye contact or a smile can go a long way.

Have you ever held a door for someone, only to have them breeze right through like it was your job to forge pathways in their world? As Ellen would say: “Next time I’ll sprinkle rose petals, your majesty”. You don’t have to know or even like a person to produce a simple ‘Thank You’.  “Please” works wonders too. To be fair though, we have no idea what other people are going through at any given moment. They could be in a deep state of mental confusion, emotional upset, or physical pain. It’s also possible you are finally meeting a member of that family your mother often referred to… you know, the ones that were ‘raised in a barn’ (where a grunt or head burrowing really does signal gratitude). While acknowledging a stranger’s thoughtfulness is nice, lack of it doesn’t indicate malice.

It’s a whole different story when personal interaction is on your resume. Any more it’s the exception not the norm to get good service. Rude is the new black. Retail therapy has become retail abuse. God forbid you actually expect basic manners. I love it when I approach a sales associate, only to get the stink eye. How dare I intrude on their personal space. Clearly, the friend they’re texting or talking to is their employer’s bread & butter. I should stop being a slacker and learn their stock and policies myself. If I’m brave enough to slink up to the counter and check out, my patronage is finally rewarded; they are actually happy to see me go!

I’m not speaking theoretically. I worked in retail.  Back in the day…

Sidebar:  It’s official. I’m middle-aged. I just checked the welcome packet, and sure enough, that phrase is right there on the first page. Also included:  ‘When I was your age‘, and ‘Someday you’ll understand‘. Well, at least I can easily locate the packet, and absorb it on my own (alright, damn you, I do need an assist from my reading glasses). Which leads into the next membership catch-phrase: ‘Why the hell is everything in such small print?’

As I was saying, back in the day, we were actually polite to customers. Even the bitchy ones. Sure, they pissed us off, and yes, we ragged on them, but not until after they left, purchases in hand. We didn’t act like waiting on them was doing them a favor; we knew it was the exact reason we were there and didn’t try to shirk our responsibilities.

Speaking of favors, if someone does one for you, is payback required? I believe a favor is a donation from the heart, given without expectation, whether it was asked for or freely offered. It shouldn’t entitle the bearer to put a hash mark under the recipients column, meaning they ‘owe you one’. If there has to be a one-to-one correlation, then it’s more like a business transaction. Sorry, but I don’t want that debt hanging over my head. I want to know when I do a kindness back, it’s because I wanted to please that person, not because payment was due. Any kind deed should be acknowledged and appreciated, and if you care about someone, you most assuredly will give back. But doing someone a solid should never be bound by obligation.

Moving on to borrowing. Seems reasonable, in theory. However, too may people misuse or abuse it. Knowing how to do a gainer dive and executing one gracefully are two different things.
May I borrow a tampon?” = misuse  (unless you’re all kinds of nasty)
May I have a tampon? I’ll replace it.” = couth  (unless you don’t = mooch —or— repeat this routine monthly = abuse)
Can I borrow this DVD?” <shrink-wrapped> or “Can I wear this dress?” <pricetag attached> = obtuse
C’mon, the person obviously hasn’t even partaken of this themselves. I know watching or wearing first doesn’t consume the product, but it’s just not right to ask to break the seal on someone else’s stuff. If you’re that covetous of an item, buy/rent your own. Or express an interest; be happy if an offer to lend is made, and pleasant if it isn’t. Even a new jar of peanut butter has owner privileges.

Sidebar II:  Did anybody else place a premium on being the first to dip into a freshly-opened Jif? I can remember numerous occasions when we tussled over it. There is something oddly satisfying about delving into that untouched surface with a smooth knife. And we really did have to wait for it. My ever-efficient, non-wasteful mother (bless her heart), could make two sandwiches long after most people would have considered the jar empty and chucked it. “There’s plenty in here, girls!”, as her arms shook with effort, the squeak of metal scraping glass escalating with our grumbling tummies. In our house, a container wasn’t empty until it looked like it had been steam-cleaned.

Let’s hit the road. Sometimes it feels like every driver on the highway is unstable or one row of letters away from legally blind. I had a professor in college who noted the common definition of yield is: nose it on in as fast as you can.Nothing worse than patiently waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, while some asswipe uses the shoulder as his personal conveyor belt, and scoots past everyone to get to the front of the line. (I also get slightly perturbed with the car that lets this turd merge.) Look, Jerk Waddington, we have places to be, too. Another delight: the person who almost causes an accident due to their own negligence, then shoots you a “WTF?” look, like you were the clueless bastard in this scenario.

It is ludicrous to imagine sharing living quarters with all of the strangers (and even friends) we encounter daily. Yet we are expected to share many common areas with them in a peaceful co-existence. Pretty tough when you consider how many different rulebooks are circulating out there. Our society is not what it used to be.  With all the potential child molesters, rapists, thieves, and other criminals seeking to do us harm (even though they are a small percentage), we are leery of ‘being nice to strangers’. Most of us have taught our children from early on not to trust someone they don’t know.  And if you are mistrustful by nature, you’re not as likely to interact with the population at large. Safety is our number one concern, and deservedly so, but unfortunately the days of exchanging pleasantries with any Tom, Dick, or Harry are a casualty.

Sidebar III:  Where are all the Toms & Harrys, anyway? Seems like I’m always running into Dicks.

pink yellow thin line

Not everyone practices good manners. Some people are incognizant; some are ignoramuses. You can’t control others, but you have complete control over how you react to them. Better to look through rose-colored glasses than see red.

“Courtesy is a silver lining around the dark clouds of civilization; it is the best part of refinement, an art of heroic beauty in the vast gallery of man’s cruelty and baseness.” ~ Bryant H. McGill

Impassioned by the pen,
Platinum Pink

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