I’d like to believe the best about the human race, but every single time I travel, I’m reminded what a bunch of savages we remain. I’m of two minds whether courtesy for others is a social construct or an evolved state of affairs to keep us from killing each other. Regardless of the rationale, I will never understand why common courtesy escapes the most intelligent of individuals.
I’ve written on this topic before when I traveled to Seattle for the Gnomedex conference. This time, my hopes were shot yet again during my travels to BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Las Vegas. The actual behavior of certain attendees/speakers has been covered by others (an interesting situation); however, my aggravation stems from the people I passed in my journey to the airport.
First, upon checking out of the hotel, I used my “nice words” to politely request a receipt for my stay. Apparently this request isn’t standard based on the clerk’s barely disguised unhappiness. Before printing my receipt, he did three other things, including initiating a phone call, then randomly shoving paper in my direction that proved to be my receipt, and continuing with his phone call. I didn’t realize a printing a receipt was so taxing.
The second, and probably most unexplainable one, wasn’t something that happened to me, but rather to the nice gentleman who drove the shuttle between the rental car drop off and the airport terminal. A guy standing behind me in line got on the bus with a suitcase and a golf bag case. After placing his bags on the rack, he stood at the front of the bus. As everyone else took a seat (plenty were available), the driver politely asked the guy to take a seat. His response of, “I prefer to stand,” tripped the driver up a bit, but he shrugged and continued loading luggage.
After everyone was loaded, and with several seats still available, the driver again asked this guy to take a seat. The passenger flat-out ignored him, even though he was standing directly in front him. With a final, “Please sir, take a seat,” from the driver, the guy cast a jaundiced eye towards the rest of us unwashed masses and ungraciously plopped down across from me without saying anything to the shuttle driver.
With the terminal in sight, the guy promptly stood up, crowded up towards the bags and dived for the door as soon as we pulled to the curb. He was also kind enough leave behind his trash on the seat. What a putz. Travel is difficult enough without other people making it harder on others. I appreciate that life happens, and we all get frustrated, but when you go out of your way to be difficult, especially with the people who are just trying to do their jobs, then that behavior becomes a choice.
Maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe Honore de Balzac had it right. He said that, “Courtesy is only a thin veneer on the general selfishness.” (link) Perhaps our human makeup doesn’t automatically default to courtesy or consideration and we’re fighting our natural inclinations every time we say please and thank you. In spite of my cynicism about my fellow man, I want to believe that we’re more than that. The cost of saying “please” and “thank you” is nothing, but the potential return could be extraordinary.
Don’t confuse my desire for consideration with asking people to be wimps. I’d only suggest that basic manners aren’t old fashioned regardless of our modern, high-tech world. I guess that means I shouldn’t hope the airline lost the gentleman’s golf clubs either, though it might make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside of they did. Sigh. I guess I’m still human.
Update: The story I mentioned earlier about a BlogWorld has been responded to by the individuals involved, Mike Arrington and Om Malik. As I said, it’s an interesting story. I’ll be curious to see how it shakes out on all sides.