A healthy dose of courtesy

“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.”  Sir Francis Bacon

I was raised to be polite. I was raised to say “please” and “thank you”, to say “you’re welcome”, to respect my elders and to open doors for people-especially when they have a baby on one arm and hot coffee in the other hand. Apparently, not everyone was raised to be polite.

Today, while exiting a Starbucks, two women who were so involved in their conversation waited for me to open a door I was struggling with, then took the opportunity to walk through it as I held it open for them, my son in my arms and my coffee in hand. They didn’t grab the door for us and they didn’t even say thank you when I held it for them to whisk right by. None the less, it didn’t stop me from calling to them and the many other patrons of Starbucks “YOU’RE WELCOME LADIES!”

Yes, I got some looks. They turned to look at me, one even blushed a little, but hardly missed a beat in their conversation. Sometimes, people need a bit of an etiquette lesson it seems.

It often happens to me. I’ve really noticed it since I’ve had my son, Liam. The first time I was made painfully aware of the courtesy oblivion came soon after I had him. I was out with my boy in the stroller, still getting used to the large bulky contraption, trying desperately not to bang my newborn around, and NO ONE would grab the door for me. At least 5 people went into the store in front of me. Finally someone did help us. It’s not isolated either. It happens more often than not that people walk by without offering a hand.

Then there is the complete opposite kind of discourtesy. We, as consumers, have become so accustomed to it that we tune it out for the most part. I know it’s a common complaint for a lot of people. Something that we tolerate silently, in discomfort. The invasion of personal space and privacy!

I went to have my eyes tested and it was a fairly quick bombardment of selling. There was no transition, no wooing, no lulling me into a pitch. I was not seduced into a sale. A small Chinese Woman offers me a wide smile as she finishes up with another customer. They are speaking another language. She sees that I am becoming anxious, having left my son stranded in his stroller with Jenny-he is a busy boy who likes to be on the move, either on foot, or by carriage, but sitting still is asking a lot. I am nervous for Jenny, who’s been left armed with juice, dehydrated corn snacks and cucumber (she’s a Saint this one), but I’m expecting a revolt anytime now.

“Yes?” she asks.

“I have a 4:45 appointment. Wendy.” I smile, grateful that she understood my body language.

“Wendy, you are on social assistance?” She asks. I’m slightly taken aback and embarrassed. There are 2 others within ear shot and I’m not proud of this fact.

“Uh, yes.” I reply meekly.

“Ok. Come this way.” She says plainly, her back already to me as she walks me to the back waiting area. She hands another clerk my information. There are people waiting in a make-shift lounge on the other side of the reception area. She repeats;

“She is on social assistance so you’ll have to get her information and case number.” The other clerk looks me up and down. I feel as if everyone in the room is doing the same.

The rest of the appointment goes fairly routinely, I find the office quite bare and tired. It needs a facelift and their equipment is showing its age, but the eye exam goes well and I am satisfied that we’ve found the source of some frequent headaches. My prescription has gone up again. But I’ll be able to see clearly again soon without squinting.

I return to the reception room to browse the selection of frames and am promptly met by the small Chinese woman who is eager to show me her selections. She doesn’t give me much chance to speak.

“How about these ones?” She hands me a pair to try on. I’ve said nothing about needing a new pair of glasses really. My intention was to take a peak at their choices. I oblige her. They’re nothing I would ever choose. Jenny feeling as awkward with this exchange as it continues as I am.

“I think maybe she just needs to look around herself a bit first.” Jenny says. This is why I brought her. She’s frank and honest but courteous to a fault.Did I mention that she is a Saint?

The woman completely ignores her. She continues to hand me glasses to try on. I try them all on in the hopes of appeasing her. It does not. Finally, I have to stop this.

“I’m just going to take a look at the frames myself I think. See if anything catches my eye.” I’ve still not looked them over myself. I smile, searching for acknowledgement. Nothing. The sales woman is still scanning the wall feverishly. I give up.

She brings me to sit down so we can look over the 2 maybes that we come up with. Looking down at the paper in front of her she mentions something about settling on a pair. She’s misunderstood my intention, though we’ve mentioned it to her plainly. In fact, she enlists the help of the other salesman to participate in the game of persistence. I humour it until he comments about my sons hue being quite yellow, and “is he jaundice”? When I explain defensively that the Pediatrician has said it’s simply because his liver doesn’t yet filter pigmentation from vegetables and that it’s a sign of good nutrition. He looks as if he is in disagreement.

“Really?” He tilts his head. This is enough. It’s the last bit of pushiness I’ll take.

“Can I have my prescription please. I think I’m going to try to find something some where else. There isn’t anything I’d like to buy at this time. Thanks for all your help.” I state, still minding my pleases and thank you’s. The sales woman is less than impressed. She hands me the prescription.

Thanks again.” I say as I take it from her.

“Uh huh.” she grunts, turning away from us already.

Jenny, Liam and I leave the store and take a deep breath out. Jenny and I trade looks, smiles and laugh a little about how forceful the woman was.

“I won’t be getting my glasses there.” I say, or something like it. “They had nothing I wanted.” I mean this both about the glasses and about the service.

I ended up going to another place today and I found 2 amazing frames with the help of a really polite and friendly young woman. She was kind, let me browse at my own pace and made suggestions after carefully listening to what I was looking for. I’m happy to give them my business. I’m not just buying the glasses, I’m buying the service too. Thank you Hakim Optical!

Pictures of my new eyes coming soon!

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2 thoughts on “A healthy dose of courtesy

  1. urg! people like the ones you’ve described make me so mad. How much extra time will it take you to hold a door open or give someone a hand with an arm load? It’s like those jerks who have to go 15 km over the speed limit to get to the red light before me.

    Of course, i happened to have an opposite experience today which was also kind of annoying (in a somewhat charming way)…i was out at one of our locations doing an audit and went for lunch with the two staff i was auditing. One of them (a new Canadian that clearly maintains his “old world” courtesies) opened every door for me, including the car door. He also waited until i was seated and then closed my door for me. he wouldn’t sit until i was seated and very much deferred to me. I actually made me a tiny bit uncomfortable. I recognize that there were two levels of thought impacting his behavior, but i think there were a couple of layers that impacted my reaction. I was uncomfortable because such courtesies are so uncommon in our reality. I would actually love if it was something that i just expected…

    I enjoy your blog. I have to say, though, that you might want to label NSFW when posting pics like the man in the garter belt 🙂

    • Should you be reading blogs while you’re at work??? LOL, jk! I will actually do that NOW hon. I’m adding it to the title. Thanks for the input and the comment! I couldn’t agree with you more about being unaccustomed to gentlemenly behavior. It shouldn’t be surprising and it shouldn’t be a gender focused thing either. Women and Men alike should be showing eachother some common respect. Life’s hard enough. Do we really need to crap all over eachother to add to it?

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