minding my manners
minding my manners
I realized at some point during yesterday's experiment that it isn't a stretch for me to be polite. Despite rumors to the contrary, I am generally a courteous, nice person. It's only when confronted by the rudeness and self-righteousness of others that my mild-mannered temperament goes into meltdown.
My observation that rudeness begets rudeness and my attempt to change that came into glaring play twice yesterday.
First, the pediatrician's office. It was crowded and stuffy and I had to sit on the floor next to Natalie. Across from me, on a cushioned bench, was a woman and her two daughters. I guessed the girls were about 10 and 13. They were sprawled out on the bench, taking up space that could have been used by mothers who were standing up, holding sick infants in their arms. Their mother never asked them to get up and make room. As a matter of fact, at one point she stretched her legs out over her daughter's lap and laid down.
On the wall in the waiting room is a very large frame containing holiday pictures of a good portion of the patients of this pediatrician. The rude girls stood in front of this frame for a while, pointing to various pictures and laughing out loud. They were making fun of almost every child in those pictures. At one point, they called the mother over. They were snorting they were laughing so hard. Oh my god, that girl is hideous! And then, Eww, look at the face on this one, she looks retarded! And then the mother: How embarrassing, I would never send my kids picture in if they looked like this!
Normally in this situation I would have said something like Are there no mirrors in your house? I would have then pointed to the younger girl and said your fat is sticking out of your shirt, you know. Or maybe I would have pointed to the older girl and said have you heard of Oxy-5? Or maybe I would have just punched the mother in the face.
Instead I said nothing. Which really defeated the purpose of my experiment. I wanted to confront rudeness with kindness, but I could think of nothing to say in this situation. I just silently wished that whatever the girls were in the doctor's office for would turn out to be something that would cause their face to disfigure. So even though I didn't match their behavior with rude comments of my own, I still lost.
Next was on the parkway, on the way to the orthopedist. The speed limit is 55. Do people understand that there is a minimum speed also? That it is as illegal to drive too slow on the parkway as it is to drive too fast?
We were in the right lane as our exit was approaching. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Two cars ahead of me was a station wagon that was traveling at about 20 miles per hour. People were beeping and cursing and tailgating. He would not go any faster. Finally, I was able to get around him. I wasn't going to give him the finger or curse at him or anything. I just wanted to get a look at what kind of person drove that slow on the parkway. When I turned my head, I saw the gray hair of an older man in the driver's seat. I couldn't see the rest of his face because the driver was holding up a cardboard sign that read Get off my back, you prick!. Apparently he drives this slow all the time. And he thinks it is his right to do so. I resisted the urge to swerve into his lane and kill him. I resisted the urge to roll down my window and throw a water bottle at him. Instead, as I passed him by, I smiled and waved to him. I don't know what his reaction was, as I had left him in the dust, but I do know I felt a little better than I would have had I spent fifteen seconds screaming at a person who didn't care if he got yelled at.
The rest of the day went pretty much the same. I smiled at rude cashiers. I gave thumbs up to people who cut me off. I was pleasant to a telemarketer. I answered my mother's snide remarks with charm and sweetness. Not one outburst. Not one rude comment uttered from my mouth the entire day. In the end, was it worth it? Not one person smiled back at me or met my kindness with their own. On the other hand, I didn't get into any arguments or experience any road rage or waste time arguing with someone who wasn't really listening to me. I didn't add to the rudeness quotient of the world. In the huge negative energy cloud that hangs over this earth, none of that black energy was mine yesterday. So in that event, perhaps it was worth it. The fact that my kids saw me reacting in a positive manner to negative situations was also a bonus, if not totally confusing for them.
I went to bed at 9:00 last night. Being nice is exhausting.