11/10/16 Can we make America polite again? PLEASE? Another campaign is underway. Not THAT kind of campaign. (You can thank me later for avoiding that OTHER campaign here. You’re welcome.) This campaign involves no pollsters, badges, billboards, bumper stickers, debates or bashing. This one’ been on the DL* (*cool-speak for under the radar). The term, study or project, may be more accurate. The project occurs Monday to Friday at my workplace, grocery; even traveling. I’m referring to “basic greetings”. It’s just one sliver of our overall manners set, but it’s a biggy. My desk position is key here, seeing as it’s the first desk on the right, when entering State Street Bank’s main lobby. We strive for friendliness. Staff also acknowledges lobby visitors as a security procedure. (I.e. we see you!)
Many humanoids have a tendency to look to the right, my way, upon entering. They used to look left, but that was because she was blonder, younger and prettier than I was. I digress. When people enter, we say certain words. You know these: hello, welcome, good morning, hey, how are you, Hi, Ho, hi-ho, the Derry oh… When people leave, there’s a similar greeting. You know them: good-bye, see ya, see you later, thanks for coming in, have a good __________ (afternoon, evening, week-end, and holiday), bye-bye-bye. Honestly, we sound a lot like the Wal-Mart greeters of the banking world…or *NSYNC.
Frankly, I’m amazed at the people who don’t return the greeting. They give me nothing. Not even a grunt. Oh, they heard it; some even make eye contact. Then…….silence, but not one word. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I get three words, “Where’s the bathroom.” Not kidding. Non-response is awkward and seems to happen more often. Maybe they’re deaf? Could be. Didn’t see me? Doubtful. Rude? Ding-ding-ding.
At the grocery or airport concourse, I sample data encountered in public spaces. I even like to smile at people abroad. Not AT broads, abroad, as in Paris. It’s not as acceptable there. As I anticipated visiting my daughter, she cautioned me against smiling. It’s cultural. That was tough, because I realized that even when I squint in the sun, I appear to be smiling. My apologies for looking pleasant. As impolite as the French seem, I find similar behavior from downtown Des Moines to DFW to Midway airports. People won’t smile back. I recently spent some time in the Carolinas. Now, THOSE people smile. And they greet. It’s lovely, really, quite polite.
Back to France, y’all. In spite of the smile deficit, the French have one encouraging custom. Every shopkeeper or market vendor says, “Bonjour!” (Hello) and “Merci, Au Revoir!” (Thank you… goodbye) ALWAYS. It may not be smiled when said, but it’s guaranteed.
This week, try greetings as you come move about: home, school, work, shopping. And when passing my desk. Please? Thank-you! (More on please/thank-you another time.) If I’m with a customer, in person or by phone, I’ll give a wave, wink or that quick head jerk-nod thing that cool dudes give exchange. All I ask is that you do the same. And in my next life, I’d hope to return as a Southern Belle, y’all. Bye-bye, now!