Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekly Whine: Polite

I've written on here before about the fact that I'm very polite, sometimes to a fault. But sometimes even people like me slip up.

Recently I was struggling in the freezing cold with both kids. One was slipping out of my arms and the other was whining that I was hurting her hand by holding it. I was also carrying a huge bag. As I reached a door, there was a guy holding it and as I shepharded the kids through the door, I guess I failed to say thank you.

So the guy said, "YOU'RE WELCOME!"

And of course, I was really embarrassed and I mumbled thank you, but felt kind of annoyed by the interaction the whole day. I mean, do we only do good deeds in order to be verbally thanked? Is it not enough to just feel good that you helped someone without being an asshole who demands to be acknowledged for it?

(Remember that Seinfeld where he lets someone ahead of him in traffic and they don't give him a wave? "It would have been nice to get a wave." That's why I always give a wave.)

I had an experience in college that still resonates with me. I was at a bank and I failed to hold the door for a woman with a cane. I'm not sure why I didn't hold the door aside from the fact that I was 18 and my mind was on another planet. In any case, the woman started YELLING at me for not holding the door for her, telling me how rude I was.

And all I could think was, "Wow, I am so glad I slammed the door in your face, you bitch."


  1. The woman with the cane story? Happened to me when I was 22. I came to the office to do work on a Saturday, and as I was leaving failed to hold the door for a pregnant woman who was coming in for a doctor's appointment, who honestly was 30-40 feet from the door coming the other way when I went through it myself. She screamed at me for failing to hold the door for a pregnant woman, but somehow NOT any of the other people I was walking with. I think some people have a visceral negative reaction to women who look younger than they are almost regardless of how the younger woman acts.

    End of story: I told the woman I was sorry for not holding the door, but that she looked fat, not pregnant. I still feel completely justified for saying that, but I guess I'm not nearly as polite as you are.


  2. When I was on crutches for 3 months I discovered that almost nobody holds doors. Though I didn't take upon myself to yell at people who didn't it really started to rub me the wrong way. However, its interesting that some people want politeness in holding doors but then will scream at people which is definitely the opposite of polite!

  3. Once while in college I was holding a door for another student and she said "Thank you. I never would have gotten in without you" while she was holding a tray a food. I'm not sure what that was about.

  4. you can't control anyone elses responses, only your own. Maybe he was having a pissed off day?

  5. I've been struggling with a baby carriage many times and not had doors held for me. I'd never have the nerve to yell at someone over it.

    In college, we used to need a passcard for the door to our dorm, which resulted in what I felt was excessive door-holding. It got to the point where I'd have to constantly sprint over to my dorm because someone was holding the door for me and I didn't want to be rude. I'd rather have not run and just opened the door myself.

  6. Politeness is definitely at an all-time low. I recently went to an opera, sitting on the balcony, and after the performance, as I was putting my coat on, the man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said "just so you know, when you lean forward, you block the view of the people behind you. I couldn't see anything in the whole last scene."

    If he had told me at intermission, I would have apologized and sat back in my seat instead of leaning forward to see better. But after the opera was over, there was no purpose in telling me except to let me know that he was displeased and petty since I couldn't go back in time and not lean.

  7. For me personally, it is usually enough to just feel good knowing that I helped someone. Other times it's incredibly annoying to feel that you went out of your way and the person you helped doesn't appreciate it.