We don’t get many like that


I had a doctor’s appointment this Friday that I wanted to reschedule.  I like to wait until mid-morning before I call professional offices to allow them time to get organized and started on the day.

The woman on the phone said the next nearest day was two weeks from now, which was fine with me.  She offered two available openings, one at 11:45 am and the other at 2:45 pm.  Having an abundance of time on my hands, I told her I would take the later one so as not to scrunch their lunch hour.

The woman let out a small exclamation of pleasure and said she really appreciated that.  I joked that there are still courteous patients out there and she replied that they don’t get many like that.

This, of course, got me to pondering, as I am wont to do.  It goes well with my abundance of time.

It would be extreme to say common courtesy is dead, but surely it lays injured somewhere and needs some assistance in regaining full vigor.

I understand that as our lives grow more cluttered, it’s often difficult to pause and consider the person on the receiving end of our discourteousness, but it’s a pause worth taking more often.

Perhaps my working past has made me more sensitive to the value of courtesy.  From my days as a bag boy in a grocery store to a clerk and manager in retail chains to a telemarketer of medical equipment, I have been on the receiving end of plenty of ill-considered abuse.

My parents emphasized manners and good behavior.  It was not viewed as punishment or work, but simply as the right and kind thing to do.  The effort to be courteous is actually far less than the stress of discourtesy.  Both linger on after the fact, but which would you rather be remembering?

I’ve taken special pains not to rant at the hapless person answering the support lines for whatever is driving me crazy (utilities, technical, automotive, etc.).  I try to get the names of the servers at each restaurant and refer to them by name as well as engage them in conversation.  If I can hold a door for someone (or sometimes many someones), I do.  If I can shift an appointment so a doctor’s staff might actually be able to go to lunch on time, where’s the great inconvenience?

The world doesn’t always help you be or stay courteous.  An odd occurrence happened the other night when I was out eating with a friend.  I was poring over the menu and neglected to get the server’s name.  My friend couldn’t recall it either, so I took the opportunity to ask her again when she brought our drinks.  She said she had not offered it before due to the restaurant rule against it, unless the customer specifically asked.  I was dumbfounded.  This struck me as incredibly impersonal and possibly insulting to the servers.  She thought the policy was meant to relieve the customers of the “obligation” of having to engage their servers in conversation.  In my mind, that meant the restaurant didn’t want these servers viewed as people.

Alas, other tales discussed with my friend during that meal took me off that train of thought and I whiffed on taking a moment to discuss the issue with the manager.  Still, I find this example of depersonalization to be offensive and alarming.  It takes only a second to read a nameplate of the cashier at the store and thank her by name.  I worry about a trend that suggests knowing someone’s name might be a “bother” to a customer.  Surely not!

I try not to be preachy about my views regarding courtesy.  I do hope to encourage by example, though.  It has always been my belief that those small moments of consideration can create a “ripple in the pond” effect.  Good moods can be contagious.

I mean, seriously, do you want to be served by a whatshername?

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