Common courtesy has become common obstacle for society

Latin, Michael “Kramer” Richard’s career and common courtesy – what do all three of these things have in common? That’s right, they’re dead.Just before finals last semester, I was headed over to Smith Hall for my poetry class. Noticing there was a female student walking behind me, I followed the universal “man law” of holding the door open for a lady. I swept the door open, moved off to the side and then looked up at her for the final step: acknowledgment.

Instead of a polite nod or the standard “thank you,” I was treated to a face full of confusion. She stared at me for a good five seconds as tumbleweeds rolled past and crickets chirped before I finally gave her the “Yes, I am holding the door open for you” head tilt. Could someone really be so surprised by a standard act of kindness? Has common courtesy really become that uncommon?

I wish I could say that’s the worst of it, but I’ve experienced some weird things in the realm of polite door opening. Besides being surprised to receive it, the gamut of emotions it can inspire is amazing. Among other things, I’ve been blown past without any expression of thanks whatsoever.

I’ve also received a few “hairy eyeballs.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the expression, it’s pretty much a cross between “I can open the door for myself you filthy man-pig” and “I’m going to stab you in the spleen while you sleep.”

Look, I wasn’t trying to set the Women’s Liberation Movement back 30 years; I was just trying to be nice. Sorry.

While some seem stunned or adverse to receiving acts of kindness, just as many people are too self-absorbed or oblivious to give them. I see people forget “please” and “thank you” in The Main all the time. Hard-working guys slave over the grills for hours every day making countless orders, and we can’t even muster a “thank you” to let them know their work is appreciated. Come on, people.

The open road is also a place where the rules of civility seem to fly out the window. Turning your blinker on seems to give people an open invitation to try and kill you. Instead of saying “please let me over,” the blinker serves as a de facto “speed up and pass me because I suck” signal for most modern drivers.

But why? Why would someone risk knocking a merging vehicle full of orphans or fluffy kittens into the great beyond? Is getting to Krispy Kreme three seconds faster really going to make the donuts taste better?

Apparently, even the quasi-philanthropic Foundation for a Better Life deems the lack of common courtesy a big problem nowadays. They even run a series of PSAs on the subject. One that comes to mind takes place in a rainy, crowded city.

A distinguished looking businessman who is obviously late for the token “important suit-and-tie meeting” hails a cab. Seeing a family stuck in the rain, he selflessly gives up his cab to them, even ushering them to the taxi under cover of his umbrella. Cheesy? Sort of. An example of how things should be? You bet.

Sure, we often get too wrapped up in our own lives to give everyone the respect and kindness that they deserve. However, if we do, we make the world a better place. In the words of the ancient Greek fable writer Aesop, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

David Hall is a freshman news-editorial journalism major from Kingwood. His column appears Wednesdays.