I’d like to think of myself as someone who has good manners, someone who has, as my mother likes to say, “home training.” It doesn’t take much to do the right thing when it comes to our daily interactions with people. If you’re entering or exiting a building and see someone close behind you, hold the door for them. If the roles are reversed and someone holds the door open for you, say “Thank you!” Or if an act of a Good Samaritan makes your life a little easier, pay it forward and do something nice for someone else.
I used to work for a real estate agent (what haven’t I done, right?), and this man said that whenever he and his wife were out having dinner, if he saw another diner that he could identify as being in the any branch of the military, he would automatically pay for that persons meal, no questions asked. Rick, the agent, said that picking up the check for someone who would fight for our rights and freedoms was the very least he could do. I have not ever found myself where I could take the steps that Rick took — I’m far less gregarious and usually running down wayward children to cast about for dining veterans, but the lesson shared was one that I haven’t forgotten.
It doesn’t hurt to be kind. In fact, it serves to bolster our self-esteem. In this day in age, who wouldn’t want a little inoculation against things that would rob us of joy? I try to hold doors open for people when I can. If I’m in the grocery store, I will let a shopper with fewer items scoot ahead of me. I have read the #ChiptoleProblems on Twitter, so I make sure I am not on my phone, always say “please” and “thank you” and make eye contact when I’m ordering my food. For that matter, as a former food service employee, I really try to be super courteous to wait staff. I’ve seen what goes on at the bus stations and in the kitchen (blerg!)
When I was at the RAD show, I went to use the ladies room. There were three stalls, two of which were occupied. As I made for the empty stall, one of the others open up and the woman said, “Oh no, no, no! Don’t go in there! Someone took a huge dump and didn’t flush it! Here; use this one.” I was surprised that 1) she forewarned me of what could have been a dry heave inducing experience and 2) she said “dump”. I appreciated that honesty, catching a break is probably more apt. After I had used the stall, I noticed that the toilet paper roll was getting dangerously low and there weren’t any spares within reach. When I came out, I told the line of women waiting that the deal was. Would most people have just washed their hands and rolled out? Probably. Would I have been one of those people had it not been for my previous ineteraction? Probably. Still, I’m trying to be better. I’m not necessarily living the golden rule, but I’m working towards it.
Today was a swim day, and I had been looking forward to getting in the pool. I don’t know if I’m a strong swimmer, but I’m confident in what I can do. Just as I was about to slip into the lane, a woman approached me and asked if she could share. The other lanes each had one swimmer in them, save the very far lane of the pool which was reserved for open swim. She explained that she asked before I got in because then she wouldn’t have to interrupt anyone and if she swam in the open swim lane, there was a chance that a class could come in and kick her out. Here was my face:
I know, I just got finished say that I ‘m trying to be better, but I haaaaaaate lane sharing. While I may be confident in what I can do, I’m not confident about what I can do when someone is swimming in tandem with me, less than 6 inches away. I’m on hyper alert. Am I drifting too far to center? Did we say circles or splits? Am I too close to the lane line? Can I backstroke or will I get in her way? Is she trying to race me? What was supposed to be a relatively stress-free workout has been now all twisted out of shape because I’m trying not to encroach on someone else’s workout. And I kind of doubt they’re worrying about me the way that I’m worry about them. That in turn leads me to these kinds of thoughts:
- I’ll just check the surrounding lanes after each lap
- I’ll just won’t do backstroke today.
- I’ll just stick with the crawl
- I’ll just slide over a lane if another lane opens up.
- Wait, why should I slide over a lane? I was here first. She asked me to share.
- Yeah, but I’m not enjoying sharing, so if something opens up, I should move.
- Well then, she’ll have won.
- Won what, dummy?
- She’ll have the lane to herself.
- I’ll have a lane to myself, if I move over.
- Yeah, but what if I move, then someone else comes and asks me to share and then I’ll be right back where I started.
And then I sheared off the top layer of skin from my forearm because I was so busy wrangling logistics with myself that I cozied up to the lane line without even realizing it. This went on for a good 20 minutes, and probably another 5 went by before I realized the woman had taken it upon herself to slide to an empty lane when the opportunity presented itself.
When I had finished my swim, I spent a few minutes stretching before I hopped out of the pool. The woman pulled up in the lane next to me, removing her fins and adjusting her goggles. I felt like I should apologize, but she didn’t know the inner monologue that I had been using to fuel my flip turns. So, I turned to her and said, “I’m sorry if I threw you off while I was doing the backstroke. I hope you were able to get your laps in.” She shook her head and said, “Oh no, it was fine. Thanks for sharing.”
She thanked me.
Yeah, I felt pretty small.
So, I’m going to toughen my resolve, make my mother proud, and make a conscious effort to go the extra mile for a stranger. I can hold a door open. I can wipe down a toilet seat (not that I’m a sprayer, but just as a courtesy). I can offer a smile. I can always say “Thank You”. I can put the phone down when I’m checking out at Target. I can just be a better version of me and in so doing, maybe make someone else feel good.
I can learn to lane share, and I can do it without giving the Chloe side-eye.
Maybe. . .baby steps, people. . .baby steps.