Monday, October 24, 2011

The lost art of opening doors

As the bus rolled into downtown this morning, one of the riders noticed that it had started raining. This set off a flurry of bag-searching, moaning and wailing as people that forgot to check the weather forecast realized they didn't have an umbrella to hand.

One of these was a lady sitting across from me, a casual stranger that I frequently see on the bus. We both work in the same building, and used to see each other on smoke breaks occasionally. She remarked that at least she didn't have far to run, because our stop was only 1/2 block from our building.

As I stepped off the bus at our stop, I shook out my umbrella and opened it. I then stood there waiting for her to debark, and held it up for her to stand under. She just stopped and looked at me like I was crazy, and then said "You don't have to do that." We walked the half-block to our building, and as I was putting away my umbrella she thanked me profusely.

What has the world come to when a gesture of common courtesy is no longer common place but instead has become as rare as hen's teeth? I am one of the few that I've seen at our office building that will hold doors, or help someone carry a package, or pick up a stray piece of trash. I think it is a sad commentary on our society that actions like this are treated as suspect. You are a misogynist, or have an ulterior motive, or a persecution complex, or something. It can't be that you're just being nice.

And we wonder why political discourse has devolved to the extent it has. There is no longer a middle ground; everything is black and white. You are for us or against us, and even if you agree with 99% of The Agenda®, that 1% where you differ will cause you to be ostracized.

Our system is broken. Or, better, the people that run the system are broken.

And I wonder if it's all because nobody holds open a door.

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