January 28, 2014
My weekly trips to Walmart are usually very educational. I have always enjoyed being a people watcher just to see quirks, funny moments, surprising moments, etc. – you guys know how this goes. For whatever reason though, Walmart to me seems to have become the place where you can see the worst of the worst all the way to the best of the best. Please don’t think I’m stereotyping here. I’m not talking about how people dress or the things that they have or purchase. I am talking about attitudes, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I’m not trying to be mean to Walmart in any way; it just seems that in my weekly grocery run through's, I seem to notice more.
There are times that I have been there shopping and have met some really interesting people. A few months ago, while hurrying through the store one Friday evening, I met a very nice little man who was riding one of those scooter type buggies. He was smiling pleasantly as he zipped around us regular buggy pushers. I scooted over out of his way in an aisle so he could get through, he smiled as he passed me, and said “Don’t worry, I won’t hit you! I’m a good driver!” The smile on his face was infectious so I smiled back and told him that I hoped he had a good day. Just as I was getting ready to come out of that aisle and go on to the next, the man came back and pulled his cart in behind me. He told me that he drove a submarine while he was in the Navy in World War II and that while he’d lost his hearing in one ear; he still had another one that he could hear good out of and that he’d lived a good, healthy life. He was such a nice, jovial, and positive man to talk to. We probably chatted there in that aisle for the better part of fifteen minutes or so. I would have loved to have sat down and talked with him longer. I can only imagine the stories that he could have told. I wanted to hug him as we went our own separate ways but I didn’t want to freak him out. Instead I shook his hand and thanked him for his service to our country. That visit with that gentleman made that trip to Walmart worth it.
Then, there are times of going into that store – like during the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” season – that makes me want to run far, far away and never step foot through those sliding doors again. The season that should bring joy and happiness to all seems to bring out the Mr. Hyde’s in so many people. Over the last several years, what with all of the commercialization of the season, I’ve come to expect this kind of attitude and behavior while in public from November through December. Especially considering that the last time my mom and I went shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, which was about ten years ago, we saw two older ladies almost get into a fight over the last of a certain kind of Care Bear.
Usually though, after the holiday season has passed things tend to level out and you see more niceness from people. Those simple acts of kindness like a smile in passing or an “excuse me” when you round a corner and almost collide with oncoming buggies. But lately, I’ve noticed, and in all honesty, this is happening everywhere, not just in Walmart or in a store of any kind, that people in general have lost that niceness or have lost their manners. That’s very sad when you think about it in the grand scheme of things. It’s not just one generation that is struggling with this loss of manners and niceness; it is all generations that are breathing and walking around now. Baby Boomers, Gen X’s, Gen Y’s, and now the Gen Z’s are all grossly affected by this loss. When did it become ok to be rude in public? When did it become socially acceptable to not speak when spoken to, to not utter an “excuse me” if you’ve done something that warrants it, to not utter a “please” when appropriate, to not say “Thank You” or “Have a nice day” to people. And why can’t we look at each other as all equals instead of looking down our noses at people as we pass them by just because they’re not “quite up to our “standards”?”
Some will blame this on the fact that “I just don’t like to talk to people,” or the fact that “I’m uncomfortable around people that I don’t know.” But frankly, I call that Bull Poop (trying to be nice here!)! Common courtesy doesn’t have to be only on a best friend basis. Common courtesy should be extended to EVERYONE you come into contact with in a day’s time. I mean really, how hard is it to smile, or even look pleasantly at someone you pass along the street or in a shopping aisle? That smile that you give to someone might be the only kindness that that particular person has received that day. Even on terrible days when I’d much rather be somewhere, anywhere else, other than in the grocery store, I still try to smile, even if it’s just a slight grin, at the people that I come into contact with. How hard is it to say “excuse me,” “thank you,” “please,” “no thank you,” or any of these niceties to others when we’re out in public?
To coin a line from one of my favorite movies, “I hate rude behavior in a man. I won’t tolerate it.” (Captain Woodrow F. Call from Lonesome Dove) Now I don’t expect us all to get a metal working tool and beat someone with it the way the character did in the movie, but really, we could all make as big a difference or impact on other’s lives as Captain Call did in that scene. All we’ve got to do is get out of our self-imposed “ME and ME ONLY” mentality and realize that we’re not alone on this planet and that we have to come into contact with others in a day’s time and most importantly, those people we come into contact with deserve the same respect from us that we expect to get from them. Try it sometime. Smile at someone as you pass them. Nine times out of ten, they’ll smile back at you. That’s the simplest form of kindness that we can each do in a day. Even if you’re having a bad day, that smile that you give and the one that you receive could quite possibly make the day so much better.
This isn’t rocket science folks! It’s just getting back to the basics that we as a society seem to have lost. As I finish this, I think back to a week that I spent taking some music classes in Nashville. I had to park in a parking garage a few blocks away from where the classes were being held and walk. I did this every day for a week. In that week of walking to classes and in walking around down town Nashville, I passed many, many people. The one thing that has stuck with me from that time is the fact that everyone you passed on the street would offer a smile and some sort of salutation; “Good Morning!” “Hi!” “How are you?” “Beautiful day!” “Evenin’!” And even the occasional “Howdy ma’am!” complete with tip of the hat. There were any number of greetings, but people were seemingly, genuinely kind to one another in passing and some mornings those greetings would just make my day. In the classes, we talked about how friendly people were in the area. One lady there was from Liverpool, England. She asked if people in America were always this friendly or if it was just a southern thing. One of the gentlemen that was helping with the class told her that he thought it was just a Nashville thing because you never knew who you were going to meet on the streets of down town and Music Row. You could be saying “Good Morning” to the next big recording artist or you could find your agent or manager out there. So even though we all don’t live in Nashville and we’re all not looking to find our agent or meet the next big recording artist, I don’t think it would hurt any of us to be nice when we’re dealing with others. To treat others the way that we want them to treat us. To remember that we’re all human and sometimes the beasts in us come out occasionally, but not to let that beast become our complete public persona. Be nice people! Practice some common courtesy out there! Just Be Nice Y’all!!!