Monday, October 27, 2014

Courtesy can grease the recalcitrant wheels of living

With courtesy, everything can work out
Aug. 31
Age before beauty.
The first one there, or the car on your right.
Women and children first.
Those are the answers. Do you know the questions?
Q. What’s a polite, even flattering, way to suggest that it’s polite for young whippersnappers to yield to their elders?
Q. Who has the right-of-way at a four-way stop?
Q. Who, by marine tradition, should have first crack at lifeboats on a sinking ship?
Rights-of-ways and issues of deference may seem a trivial concern during a summer in which much of the world is rapidly zipping to hell in a handbasket (or via heavily armored vehicles, under heavy barrages of IEDs, rockets or tear gas and bullets in Midwestern regions).
But something tells me that it all starts with simple human consideration for one another: the choice between peace on earth, goodwill to all, or war, riots and endless angst and civil unrest.
If the current state of world affairs is any indication, it seems we haven’t evolved much beyond our poodles when it comes to turf rights. In fact, our smarter pooches may be far above us in sense and survival skills.
Most of the world’s conflicts could be resolved with manners and common sense, grounded in basic ideas of human decency and respect.
Or it’s easier to think so, living in an unusually polite place like Las Cruces.
That may come as a surprise to you, if you’re lucky enough to have lived here all or life and haven’t had a need to get outside the territory often.
After many decades here, I’m still not inclined to take it for granted. And if I start to, a reminder pops up, like a couple who recently told me they have never been sir-ed and ma’am-ed so much in their lives.
I was a little unnerved by that, when I first moved to New Mexico in my 30s, and found that contemporaries my age and younger routinely used respectful, rather formal terms of address, sometimes even after we became good friends and we were on a mostly first-name basis. Now, I think it’s rather lovely, and I do it, too, sometimes. (As aging memory fog rolls in, it’s also a handy, sweet way to show respect when the name of someone you know and care about doesn’t immediately spring to mind.)
Showing deference and yielding rights-of-way cheerfully can also do a lot to foster goodwill and defuse strife and tense situations, whatever the law, Miss Manners or political or royal protocol have to say about it all.
And the proof can be in as simple as passing through a door, it occurred to me the other day when I was leaving my health club. Who has the right of way of you both get to the door at the same time? I always thought that the person leaving should go before the person coming in. (If there’s a fire or a mad bomber, that could be the very best escape-and-warning, win-win, survive-survice solution for both parties.)
But in everyday situations, does it really matter? Usually, there’s a split second when it’s obvious or natural that one person should hold the door for the other. I’m a dedicated feminist, but I’ve always been pleased, rather than offended, when a gentleman offers me that courtesy. And I’m happy to return the favor when it seems appropriate.
I’ve also been touched at some odd-couple resolutions: a elderly woman with a walker holding a door to help a mom with a squirming toddler in her arms and a baby in a stroller, a small boy proudly playing doorman for his own family and all the uniformed members of a very healthy looking soccer team.
Somehow, if your heart’s in the right place, it all works out.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

No comments: