Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Being courteous will get you far in life, or at least that's what we're told from about age 3 and on. And you need not look further than the "License and Registration, Please" series from a few months back to see how we value etiquette and a heads-up attitude around these parts. But much like people often take the simple act of saying "thank you" to an unwelcome extent, there are certain elements of courteous behavior that are just flat-out superfluous.
Scene #1: you're walking into work around normal time on a typical morning, so that means there will likely be several other people walking into the building at about the same time as you. Now that you've got the mental picture, how easy is it to envision this: 2-3 people walk in about 50 feet ahead of you, one of whom holds the door for the other(s). That's all fine, it's common courtesy to keep the door open for someone walking in right behind you. But then this overly nice guy or girl continues to hold the door for you even though you're still a good 15 yards away. The mental reflex is for you to feel indebted to this person for maintaining the gigantic 12-kg force (yes I Googled it) necessary to hold the door open. And what happens next? Without even thinking, you break into that embarrassing "half-running-half-walking" stride so you look like you're making an effort to get to the door as quickly as possible and spare this Samaritan a second or two of exhausting door-holding duty. I've grown to detest this awkward power-walking gait so much that now I intentionally slow down when walking into work just so not to be caught in that door-holding gray area.
I'm an able bodied person, who is neither visibly injured nor carrying a ton of shit that would necessitate someone holding the door for me. And don't worry, I won't be mad if you simply allow the door to close when I'm any farther than 5 feet away. Opening the door for myself won't exactly ruin my morning. And on the other side of the coin, I'm not going to feel eternal gratitude to you if you stand there like a bellhop holding the door for me while I practically still have one foot in my car. So for everyone's sake, just walk in and get on with your business. Oh, and another note: going out of your way to hold the door for that good-looking chick who works on the third floor is not going to make her want to hook up with you, so just stop.
Scene #2: you're at the gym and it's fairly uncrowded. As you're in the middle of a set, Mr. Excessive Manners ambles over to you and asks "hey, are you working on that machine/bench/cable station over there?" Normally this would be no problem - in fact, I applaud such a level of gym etiquette - but in this case it's abundantly clear that there's no way in hell you're actually using the apparatus this dude wants to use. No sir, you see, I'm in the middle of a set of squats, what do you think the chances are that I'm also using the dip stand on the other side of the room? There are these things called muscle groups, and most people do not dip and squat on the same day, let alone super-set them. So relax Richard Simmons, you're not being presumptuous if you hop on the dip stand without asking me first, you're just using (gasp!) a bit of deductive reasoning and common sense.
What do we pin all this unnecessary courtesy to? It could just be that some people are so scared to ever make anyone mad, especially in a public setting, that they'll constantly try to appease others to avoid ever being thought of as rude or inconsiderate. But I think the bigger cause of this annoying behavior pattern is that too many people just aren't that observant. You can't live your life on autopilot. Keep the head on a swivel and have a sense of your surroundings, because even those seemingly ironclad rules of "being nice" that we're taught as kids have exceptions.