Monday, August 17, 2009

Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy

I believe my parents did a good job raising me, if we talk about manners. Not sure they agree when it comes to cultural preferences...

So I consider myself a fairly well-mannered guy, in some respects. I know how to be out among people without screaming and cursing or licking people's backpacks. I hold the door at the train station if you're right behind me. I offer my seat on the bus or train to the elderly.

Sure, I've been known to scare a child or two to tears, but that was never intentional, and I tend to run people over in conversations from time to time, but that's not intentional either. I know I can come off as arrogant until you get to know me, but then you find out that I'm nice and lovable and all that jazz. And well-mannered, in most situations.

When someone returns the favor, I smile inwardly. Like when someone holds a door for me or says thank you when I do the same. However, sometime acts of courtesy take me completely by surprise, and I find myself smiling openly. Often it's when something happens that feels completely inappropriate for the situation, in the best possible way.

On Friday I sat waiting for a bus to go work in our newly opened store (that day in the store is a whole other post just waiting to be written), reading, headphones on. It was around nine in the morning. A girl sat down a meter or so away on the bench. 16-ish, wearing those awful gray sweatpants that have no business being worn outside, under any circumstances unless you're going home from the gym and barely then. Suddenly she tapped me on the shoulder.

I removed my headphones, and she said: “I just wanted to tell you that the label is still on your jacket”. Lo and behold, it was. I thanked her, and she continued. “And do you mind if I smoke?” I just stared at her, completely flabbergasted that she would even ask. My experience is that a lot of people that smoke will just light up without even bothering to check if someone is downwind of them. And teenage girls aren't exactly in that group that is likely to ask.

Finally I shook my head and said “No problem”. She nodded, sat back and lit up. I pulled my headphones back on and went back to my book. Pattern Recognition. By William Gibson. Again. Stared at the page for a while, not reading, just trying to comprehend what had just happened. Then smiled. Read.


joye68 said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.

"Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here. Here.

beardonaut said...

Thanks! And who might you be then?

Warpedeye said...

Lovely story!

Hey, how about you smile outwardly when people offer common courtesy as well =)

beardonaut said...

Thanks. And maybe I should. I'll consider it.