Civility

I first moved to Washington Heights (AKA “Upstate Manhattan”) in 1996. I have been using the same subway entrance/exit since then.  Why do I care about your subway stop, you ask?  Well, because it’s changed.

We have three elevators, as this is one of the deepest stations, and when I moved north, at least two would be manned daily. The operators took pride in their elevators, it seemed to me,  as they were clean and smelled good, and one operator in particular went all-out on seasonal decorations and music.  When using the elevators, almost everyone greeted the operators on boarding and thanked them on leaving.   People smiled at them and at each other.

Then the MTA (or so we were told) got complaints about the decorations and the music, and they disappeared. We went to one manned elevator, with no back-up if the operator needed to step away.  The elevators got dirtier and smellier and people didn’t smile at the operator or each other.  I’m often the lone voice saying “hello” on entering and “thank you” on exiting.  And I’m not really very nice.

More recently, a post showed up on Facebook about someone asking for help. The details aren’t actually important, as those who thought asking for help/expecting it was inappropriate were not swayed by any information or real-life examples offered.

As I said, I’m not basically a pleasant person. My natural expression is the epitome of resting bitch face, especially since the corners of my mouth turn down unless I am actively smiling.  Add to that that I can be pretty adamant about right and wrong, at least in public behavior, and the current loss of civility I see around me is setting me up for disaster.

What happened to “excuse me” when you bump into someone? Do we not recall that stairs are made for both up and down, and sidewalks are for walking – in both directions – and that as in driving (at least in the United States), it is courteous to stay to the right?  If you see someone approaching a door you are entering or exiting, should you not hold it for them?  Why do we stare down at our laps to ensure we don’t see that pregnant/lame/overburdened person enter the subway, in case we might be tempted  to offer a seat?

I am not per71176_321645363993_49793_nfect on any of these, or many others, by any stretch. And it’s easy to say the negativity surrounding last year’s election has emboldened people’s worst natures.  But honestly, I started seeing this “decline” as far back as I can remember, and it makes me sad.

 

So, just to be sure I hit all the high points:

Hello.

Good morning/afternoon/evening.

Please.

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Have a lovely day.

Peace.

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