Monday, 10 April 2006

bruises that won't heal...

We live in a rude and ignorant world.

Man’s ongoing inhumanity to man is most obviously demonstrated in the needless deaths from war, poverty and disease, but you can also catch glimpses of it in almost every interaction we have with each other. Every day is a death by a thousand cuts; a missed ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ here, a gesticulation there. It all adds up.

After I get into the office every day, my first stop – before I’ve even taken off my coat or booted up my laptop – is to buy a proper cup of coffee. The ladies who work behind the counter are a friendly bunch, and it’s quite nice to say hello to them and have a little bit of banter as they prepare my tall americano. They always ask how I am and if I had a good weekend and so on, and I always join in. It’s only small talk, but there’s no harm in that. This morning there was someone in the queue in front of me. When they reached the counter they waved a paper bag at the lady behind the till and barked “BAGEL” at them. They paid and left without another word.

Is it irrational that this has annoyed me? I’ve always believed that good manners don’t cost you anything. No matter how much of a hurry you might be in to get back to your desk, no matter how tired you are or how much of a headache you’ve got, I cannot believe that you are incapable of a quick smile and a quick ‘thank you’. It costs you nothing. It doesn’t take more than a second or two. It’s not hard, is it? Apart from anything else I think it is important to acknowledge the person you are addressing as a human being and not as a piece of shit.

It’s for similar reasons that I say ‘thank you’ to the cleaner who empties my bin when I’m working at my desk, why I hold doors open for people (of both sexes), why I let buses pull out…that kind of thing. I’m not expecting gratitude, and I know I’m not perfect; I’m just trying to show a bit of consideration.

Little by little, day-by-day, we are being dehumanised by the casual rudeness of the ignorant and inconsiderate masses, and I for one am not going to take it anymore. It’s time to strike back, and I call on you all to join me in a “coalition of the willing” to kick back against this insidious trend.

Here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to smile more.

Let me explain:

Have you ever had a stranger flash you a really warm, genuine smile? Feels great, doesn’t it? Puts a real spring in your step. Well that’s what we should do. We should smile at people. Not so much that you scare everyone, but if you make eye contact with someone in the course of your day, flash them a smile and move on. Maybe that way we can put a bit of positive energy back into the mixer.

Who’s with me?

***update***

I've just remembered that one of the reasons I started thinking about this in the first place was that I was called a "faggot" on Saturday afternoon. It happened whilst I was walking in the town centre with my girlfriend, and the abuse came from two scruffy looking blokes sheltering from the rain in a doorway. I think it came because I was wearing a light blue scarf. Clearly a smile there wasn't going to achieve very much, but it annoyed me that they felt they had the right to toss out abuse at the people walking past instead of keeping their thoughts to themselves. It's made me determined to do something that might just brighten someone's day a little instead of dragging them down just a bit further into the mire.

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