No Thank You
June 15, 2009 1 Comment
I like to think I’m a polite person. I’m not outwardly mean to strangers, I say “Please” and “Thank you”, and I keep my feet off the table when I’m eating. I’m no Emily Post, but I managed to make my way through dinner at a pretty fancy restaurant this past weekend without causing a riot.
And yet there are two commonly practiced acts of politeness that make absolutely zero sense to me, that seem more of an inconvenience to their subject than an actual benefit.
The first is holding a door open for someone. Now I can understand if you’re carrying three hundred pounds of cheese and both your hands are full. That’s a situation where you appreciate someone holding that door open for you. And I’ll maybe even give a pass if I’m a step or two behind you and you hold the door to keep it from hitting me in the face. Avoidance of physical injury is always welcome.
But if you turn around and I’m a good thirty or forty feet away, please don’t feel like you have to hold the door open simply because we’ve made eye contact and you feel the need to perform some act to acknowledge my presence. Trust me, I won’t think you rude if you continue on your way. In fact, you put all the pressure on me — now I feel like I have to hurry up and get to the door so you don’t have to keep holding it. Your act of kindness has now turned into an obligation for me to walk faster. Thanks.
And really, while you might be thinking, “I’ll be nice and hold this door open for that guy,” what I’m thinking is, “Oh, so you think I don’t have the strength and dexterity to navigate this particular obstacle on my own. Want to cut my food up for me too?”
Then there’s sneezing.
I’d like to think we’ve moved beyond believing that, unless some sort of offering to the gods is made, an evil spirit will jump into someone’s mouth when they sneeze. I’m pretty sure science would have picked up on this at some point if it was actually happening. There’d be helpful ads on TV and in magazines and stuff. But it doesn’t happen. So when I sneeze, I really don’t need any blessing. A Kleenex, the name of a good allergist maybe, but not the benevolence of your deity.
So then, of course, I have to acknowledge that you’ve given me something I didn’t want or ask for, usually at the same time another sneeze is coming, which forces you to once again offer up a benediction on my behalf, and round and round we go.
But really, why is the sneeze the one bodily function that gets singled out for recognition? No one shouts “Mazeltov!” when I hiccup. You don’t get a little cheer when you cough. And nobody jumps on a desk and sings “Nearer My God to Thee” when somebody farts. It’s embarrassing enough that we have these uncontrollable reactions to things, do we really need someone underlining one of them whether we want them to or not? Pretty soon we’ll have to sneak outside to do anything for fear someone might try to be unnecessarily polite to us about it.
Just don’t hold the door open for me when I go.