– You are on an elevator; the elevator gets to your floor; the doors open and before you have a chance to take a step out of the elevator cab, someone storms in, essentially blocking your path.
– Your bus or subway car is overflowing with passengers and approaching your stop. You get up and make your way through the crowd to the door. Near the door, a passenger wearing headphones does not respond to your polite “excuse me”, so you gently tap them on the shoulder to indicate you’d like to get through, only to be met with the “death stare”.
– On a sidewalk or an escalator you find yourself behind a group of people who are side-by-side-by-side, blocking the entire width of the path and leaving no way to get around them.
When I was a kid, I vividly recall the “village” that raised me (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and babysitters) said things like a gentle “tasse-toi” (step aside), “laisse le monsieur passer” (let the man go by) and sometimes a quickly articulated “Woosh woosh” which was a catch-all that would mean the same as above in addition to “Go!”, “Do it!” and “Hurry up!”
They all spent a fair bit of time trying to reinforce the concept of spatial contextual awareness since I was sometimes deep in my own imaginary world. However, I would like to think that through lessons like this, they did a good job in helping me grow up to be a polite and courteous member of society. But what has happened to contextual awareness?
Just a few days ago, I was in a mall and upon spotting an elderly person who wasn’t steady on their feet approaching a narrow doorway, I stepped aside to give them as much room as possible and opened the door for them, only to have a young lady come from behind, barrel through my open door and practically knock over the elder.
Have courtesy, respect and contextual awareness gone out of fashion like bell bottoms, pet rocks and the Macarena? I hope not.
Back in the 1980’s, I remember my Mom pointing out how the ladies on the TV show Dallas had little flat clutch purses that were probably just big enough to hold a car key, a lipstick, a credit card and a few dollars for tip money. She always thought that those purses were a little unrealistic in terms of what a busy mother on the go would need.
True enough, in today’s world, just to get through the day, busy moms need pre-moistened towelettes, a generous supply of tissues, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, insect repellant, a three course snack including beverage, a Tide stick, chewing gum, a smart phone and/or tablet, and a collapsible umbrella. A flat clutch purse wouldn’t cut it.
But the point is this: have you seen the luggage that people carry around today? Backpacks the size of bookmobiles, humongous purses, lunch bags, laptop bags, gym bags, briefcases and sometimes little roll-away suitcases…. and that’s just on the morning commute! When did we become a society of turtles, carrying around all of our belongings?
What is unfortunate is the seeming lack of awareness with which people carry their luggage. I often see the ire on passengers’ faces after repeatedly getting bonked in the head by a swinging book bag every time the bus takes off or comes to a stop. Fortunately, most people seem to be good sports in gently pointing out if a purse or backpack is sticking in someone’s ribs, but to some, I am certain it is a huge irritant. If we insist on walking around with so much baggage, can we at least be vigilant in order to not become concussions-waiting-to-happen.
As mature adults, we shouldn’t need our parents around to tell us to step aside and let the lady through or to check to make sure our backpack is not making a fellow commuter miserable. The message is that we all have a path in life, and no single path is more important than another. Shouldn’t we be encouraging each other along our paths and helping each other get where we need to go?
With a little kindness, courtesy, respect and contextual awareness, we can all get to where we need to go in life comfortably, securely and in good spirits.