The person at the table next to me at the restaurant is dishing to her best friend about her thirsty Thursday escapades. That guy in the back row of the movie theater forgot to turn his cell phone off, so every five minutes the theme to Rocky plays.
My neighbor waltzes through the lobby door of my apartment building without so much as a nod when I hold it for her. These things happen every day. Most annoying things that people do are lifelong habits that cannot be broken. The question is not how to get rid of these idiosyncrasies, but rather, why do people have them in the first place?
When it comes to those loud-talkers who don’t know the difference between public and private conversations, there isn’t much reason for it except obliviousness. The only cure for that is blatant acknowledgement of the problem. The next time all eyes are on my friend while she’s ranting about her latest breakup, I’m going to tell her to keep it down. Remember, friends don’t let friends talk loud.
However, not every eccentricity can be explained. When it comes to cell phone etiquette, some people get it and some don’t. When you can see all the blue lights from people shutting off their phones in the movie theater, that should be a hint that you should do it too. But, inevitably, there is always someone who “forgets,” and of course, the person who does is Mr. Important who gets a call every five minutes and has to climb over everyone to take his call.
There are only two conclusions one can draw from that kind of experience: either the guy is an idiot and didn’t get the hint, or he flat out refused to acknowledge the hint. People need to come to terms with the fact that 24/7 access to their cell phones isn’t feasible or socially acceptable.
Let’s not get the wrong idea though. Sure, society has produced a few – OK, a lot of -people who can’t quite grasp the idea of politeness, but not everyone is rude. I always come across people who refuse to touch doors. When I open a door and check behind me to see if there is someone close enough, I’ll wait and pass the door to that person. This usually produces the same result: a thanks, followed by the person actually taking the door to do the same for the next person. But there is always someone who walks right through. I feel like saying, ‘Hello, I’m not a doorman,’ and asking for tip.
Why not hold a door? After experiencing this so many times, I began to analyze the situation. We’re all living amongst hundreds of germaphobic people who cringe at the thought of all the bacteria on the door handle. That’s understandable, but whatever happened to the words “thank you?” Remember them? It’s what people used to say after someone did something nice for them. We can tell ourselves until we’re blue in the face that germaphobia is much more common than doctors suspected, but the fact is that being polite isn’t as important to society as it once was. Whether people are carrying a load or don’t want to touch a previously sneezed-on door, there is no reason not to express appreciation for the gesture. Of all the non-door holders that I’ve encountered, none have ever acknowledged that little act of kindness.
People of the world need to take a step back and examine their daily habits. It’s apparent that society as a whole has become more reliant on technology, making people forget their pre-cell phone ways, causing a snowball effect of overall self-involvement. If people were more aware of their actions, there would be far less people in the world wasting their time holding doors. Or at the very least, society would rediscover the words “thank you.”
Shannon McDonald can be reached at Shannon.firstname.lastname@example.org.