As the light we’d been sitting at turned green, the train of cars before us moved forward in the usual slinky-like fashion, gaining momentum, when, without warning, the car in front of us suddenly stopped. With Martin breaking hard to avoid ending up in her trunk, I lurched forward, seat belt locking up and me quickly checking the passenger side mirror to ensure we weren’t going to be rear-ended ourselves. Heart pounding, I turned my eyes forward in time to see the driver ushering an SUV out of a retail center driveway. After the SUV lumbered out of the driveway and sat across our lane for a moment waiting for traffic to clear in the direction that driver was headed, we finally crossed the intersection in time to miss another red light, leaving other drivers behind. I envisioned the driver in front of us thinking what a good samaritan she was, totally oblivious she had broken the rules of the road, nearly caused an accident and left drivers who otherwise would have made that green light sitting through another cycle. The upshot is that intersection is seldom so backed up the SUV would have been able to leave the driveway in short order without the good samaritan’s help.
I read recently how, thanks to my generation, civility in the US is at an all time low. Yes, we’re the boomers. The ones whose parents taught us to say please and thank you and mind our manners and be just plain nice. We were taught to be concerned with what others thought about us. The neighbors, friends, family, even complete strangers. But, somehow, we supposedly got really spoiled taking on yet another description as the me generation. Now, we’re just plain rude. And, we apparently raised our kids to have no social restraint so they are even worse than we are. Generally speaking, of course. Admittedly, I’ve had my share of me-me’s over the years. This blog is a sort of me-me as it’s written by me, about me and from my view point. Me-me. But, I also recognize a nation without civility is almost as bad as a nation without laws. Respect for others is the glue that binds us together. Caring and kindness make us stronger as it lifts us up. Goodwill toward others strengthens our community.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I get more out of giving than I think the recipient of my volunteer time or donation gets. For example, last Saturday morning, I volunteered at the Master Gardener Booth at our local farmers market. Despite the early hour, the thirty mile commute, I can’t wait to get there and get started. Answering questions from complete strangers about plants, garden pests and weeds provides a feel good moment I can’t explain. Sometimes, I believe, we are good samaritans because of the me feeling. We get something out of it just like the woman mentioned above probably felt good letting the SUV cut in front of everyone else.
With age comes wisdom or at least that’s what I’ve heard. So, in recent years, when someone does or says something I find rude I’m more inclined to give them a free pass, that is, as long as it’s not done continuously. While restraint is a good thing, being a pushover is a bad thing. Oh, yeah, I grouch about it for a moment or two or three, but I realize most of the time, a tactless remark is just that…a tactless remark. Or, a thoughtless action is just a thoughtless action. Admittedly, I’ve made thoughtless, tactless, inconsiderate remarks, not meaning any harm, not meaning to be rude. At one time or another, we all find our foot in our mouth. Sometimes, what I consider an O.K. remark, someone else may find rude or vice versa. What we find offensive is often a product of the context of our lives. So, with age, I try not to take it personally.
However, maybe as a result of a heightened awareness of our supposed national malaise of incivility, it seems every time I turn around, I’m reading or hearing about someone being just plain rude. While there are times when I believe we need to ante up and return to a more polite society, there are also times I believe we are witnessing the ridiculous. The ridiculous was brought front and center for me several years ago when I actually had someone at work tell me my language was rude. As my mind raced wildly about sorting out my occasional use of damn or hell, the complainer explained how they thought my use of “big words” was rude when other people didn’t understand their meaning. They were affronted by my expanded vocabulary!?! Really? You don’t like me using words you don’t understand? Instead of picking up a dictionary (this was pre-web Googling), looking up the definition and incorporating a new word into your vocabulary, you want me to dumb it down for you? And how am I supposed to know which ones you understand and which ones you don’t? See, ridiculous. Ahhh…No, I won’t be simplifying my vocabulary just because you’re too lazy to look up a new word. Oh, sorry, that statement was probably offensive. On the contrary, you probably didn’t consider your telling me to use “smaller words” is rude, tactless, thoughtless, inconsiderate of my feelings. Fortunately, I exercised restraint, not saying any of the aforementioned but thinking it as I smiled and suggested she take this as an opportunity to expand her vocabulary. To that, she said, I was just plain rude. Yeah, O.K., there’s no help for me. I’m a boomer.
But, back to our driver. Was she a good samaritan? Or, someone who was really being just plain rude to the drivers behind her? Or, someone who was thoughtlessly endangering other drivers and herself by not obeying traffic laws? Or, was she someone doing a good deed just to get her own endorphins going for the day? Or, all of the above? After all, as the road opened up to a four lane highway and we passed her, I looked over to see a boomer aged driver behind the wheel.