Manners are pounded into us from the moment we can speak — when it suddenly becomes rude for a 1 year old to point.
In theory, being polite is great. Nothing is gained from being outright rude to strangers, or even friends, and it can be surprising how much an unexpected smile can do for your day. But some people cross the line by being overly polite to the point where they waste hours every week performing meaningless and often unnoticed formalities. Even worse is the unending stream of people I am forced to have passing interactions with who believe they are polite because they hold the door for me, but who then continue to walk next to their three friends, blocking the entire sidewalk.
If you want to continue with your inefficient, repetitive life — holding the door open for me when my hands are free and I’m still 20 feet away, sending me e-mails with only two words, “thank you,” when I’m sitting 5 feet away or, worst of all, saying you’re welcome to every reflex “thanks” — go ahead. But I will not allow your bad habits to affect my life any longer.
When you move aside, setting your feet to offset the weight of the first door into the Chemistry Building while I make my grand entrance, do not expect me to break my stride for the second door. I’ll give it a little extra swing for you to catch, but that’s it. If you want to sit in your car and wave me on at the crosswalk when I have made the clear effort to stop all my momentum, then fine. Never mind that it takes 10 more seconds for me to cross the street than it will take your car and that I am the one in 50 people who will stop for you. Go ahead and sit with that I’m-such-a-considerate-person smile on your face.
I’m not a mean person or a social outcast. I understand how society works. My problem with many niceties is they end up clogging our already hectic lives without any benefit. Further, many proponents of these formalities ignore common street sense. These are lose-lose situations. Whether you agree or not, allow me to propose a few new rules for us all to follow, either in replacement of or in addition to the classics, while we attempt to cohabitate in this city.
1. Get off the bus (or elevator). Are you on a crowded bus from North Campus, on your way to receiving another tardy? Another stop, another minute late. Or maybe not. If, instead of leaning over the poor soul seated in the aisle seat while the freshmen pile off at the Hill, you stepped off the bus and out of the way (and somehow convince the five other people blocking the door to do the same), you all might finally reach C.C. Little in a normal amount of time. Keep in mind that getting off the bus and out of the way means moving clear from the door. While we’re on buses, try putting your backpack between your feet, and you’ll witness that 15 more people can pile in for the adventure ride.
2. Don’t sit in the aisle seat in lecture without a good reason. Good reasons include no other available seats, crutches, a lefty desk, leaving early or you are 10 minutes late and want to sit down as soon as possible. This is especially important in a crowded classroom where you know someone will eventually be forced to climb over you.
3. Stay to the right on the sidewalk. See the bike speeding toward you? He can move more adroitly than you. Stick to the right, and he’ll swerve around. Are you approaching an intersection in the Diag? Maintain your speed, and she can easily maneuver around you. Slow down or dodge back and forth, and you are asking for a collision. Don’t see anything? Chances are someone is behind you, on foot or on wheels, too pissed off to ask you to move without hissing.
I have more proposals for situations in everyday life such as crossing the street and getting on and off an airplane. And there might be other ways, better ways, to improve our collective lives. But for now, I challenge you to explain why the methods I recommend wouldn’t. If only Aretha Franklin had sung about these rules, I’d get a little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T and make it to class on time.
Sarah Squire is an LSA senior. She is the Daily’s web development manager.