Normalize This.

I guess one of the benefits (?) of having more free time is the clearing of my brain. On the positive side, without the constant pull to be accessible to co-workers, I have cut my screen time significantly – even misplacing my phone for hours at a time on occasion. I’m even debating ditching my Apple Watch in lieu of a Swatch.

This is not positive for the people trying to reach me, but I’ll get back to you eventually.

On the negative side, I am much more present. No, I know, is that really a negative? Mostly not. Except that my people-watching hobby has skyrocketed and, dear lort, can we please just get it together a little bit? While I’m not specifically talking to the woman at Target last week in pajamas and hair-rollers … well, wrong store friend.

In the spirit of my advancement in not strolling around in public while keeping an ear (or eye) to my phone, I’d like to propose some minor tweaks to how we behave in society. 

And yes, these are solely based on my own pettiness. 

Let’s start small: Holding Doors:

  • Can we normalize holding doors again? The pandemic is over. Germs will never be. Being polite? Also will never be over. Neither will being unaware aware of the people sharing the spaces around you. We no longer have the excuse of masks for “seeing” people. Give courtesy a shot.

We do not need to record everything:

  • For the love of Jimmy Buffet, put your phone away when at public events. You are never going to watch that concert and none of your friends is ever going to ask if you have any footage of fireworks. Hi. It’s me. I’m the problem it’s me. I say this knowing that just a few weeks ago I did record the fireworks above the Disney Wish. All my pictures included other people’s phones.
  • There is nothing wrong with recording important events unless you are ruining the event for the rest of us. Hi. It’s us. The people behind you. Just last week, I was forced to watch most of a concert through a tiny screen. I would have loved to actually see the stage, but the tall person between me and that stage was holding his phone above his head in order to record the entire show. Because of the glory of stadium seating, his superhuman arms landed his phone directly in my line of sight (no really, how the hell did he hold his arms up that long without losing feeling?). 
  • In summary, try experiencing such events with your actual eyeballs. As I had hoped to. 

Read before you wait: 

  • Do people really get into long lines without knowing why? Is it required to take your position at the end by asking if the line is for the bathroom or to check out or to order a drink or to give your name to the hostess? 
  • Ladies, you do not need to affirm yourselves every time you enter a restroom (or join the lengthy line stemming from its door) by asking “Are you waiting for the bathroom?” Yes. You know this. If there is an organized though awkward gaggle of girls within twenty feet of a toilet, they are waiting for the bathroom. 
  • Women line up with purpose and that purpose is often noted on the sign just ahead of us, whether it be “Women,” “Returns,” “Checkout,” “Customer Service,” “Order Here,” or “Check-In.” There is always a reason and that reason is because we are waiting for the thing right in front of us. 
  • I’m do apologize for excluding men. I have no experience with your restroom lines because they mostly don’t exist and my husband would rather keep an item for all eternity than face a returns counter.

No, I don’t have to smile: 

  • For the love of Peter, Paul, and Mary herself, there is no need to tell complete strangers to smile. I’m talking to you, guy at Subway. I’m also talking to every man who has ever felt compelled to tell a passing woman to smile. Have you ever felt compelled to tell a passing man to smile? No? Why? Because it’s weird, that’s why. 
  • But for clarification, sometimes women just have on their actual, standard, everyday face. Sometimes that happens when everything is perfectly fine. Sometimes it happens when everything is not fine but maybe she doesn’t want to tell you that because you are a complete stranger who just felt compelled to tell her to smile so she smiles though she really wants to smack you in the head with her purse.

Treat, well, everywhere like your home:

  • I do understand it. Arriving in the ice cream aisle and realizing you no longer want the asparagus in your buggy? Oh, yes. Get the ice cream. Get the ice cream as a reward for taking the dang asparagus back to the produce section. Do not leave the asparagus in the frozen goods section (or in the bread section or near the eggs). Just put it away.
  • In 2023, are we really still throwing trash out our car windows? Yes. If you live in Virginia, the answer is yes. I can’t even go on as I do not understand the level of laze or thoughtlessness.
  • Dear guy peeing next to 295 yesterday: There is an exit about every ten feet on 295. Also, you didn’t even try to hide yourself.

Eye Contact, it matches every outfit. 

  • Can we go back to making eye contact when communicating? Or even when we are not communicating and are just being?  
  • Yes, I’m old and still believe that being able to look someone in the eye indicates levels of confidence, trust, respect, etc… 
  • If not us, then perhaps we can teach our children? 
  • I recommitted to this soapbox after watching 75% of the adults and children in the Caribbean with me miss the most amazing sunsets in lieu of walking the docks with eyes on phones.  
  • Guess what. It is possible for children to walk through a store, sit at a restaurant table, or wait in line without a device to help pass the time. I know this because I lived it. It is also possible for adults. 
  • I know, I know. I’ve sung this song before. Let’s sing it again. In person. And eye to eye.

But what if … it didn’t happen for a reason?:

  • What if bad things just happen? What if bad things aren’t the will of a higher power or the result of someone not praying enough? What if we stopped trying to make people feel better with empty words that are really just meant to make ourselves feel better? 
  • It happened for a reason” is a terrible word volley to someone else’s bad news. Here are some alternatives:
    • Oh shit, that sucks.
    • Do you want to talk? Hug? Scream?
    • I’m going to bring you a casserole/cookies/wine and you don’t even have to answer the door.
  • It must have been Flying Spaghetti Monster’s plan” Disagree. FSM is kind and loving, much like whichever higher being is part of your life. Nobody needs to hear that a loved one passed because heaven needed them or that twenty-seven rounds of chemo were simply part of Buddha’s Character Building program. Here are some alternatives:
    • Oh shit, that sucks.
    • Do you want to talk? Hug? Scream?
    • I’m going to bring you a casserole/cookies/wine and you don’t even have to answer the door.

Free passes are so 2020:

  • Lots of chatter flying around about how none of us know what someone else is going through and that we should all be aware of one another’s struggles. Yes, that is one-thousand percent true. 
  • What is not okay is the ramp up of excuses for poor behavior attributed to those struggles. “Oh, I’ve just got a lot going on” is no reason to be blatantly rude (obnoxious, mean, etc.). We all have a lot going on. Most of us are able to check ourselves because we know that we don’t get to act like assholes because that’s not how adulting works. 
  • The ability to give future apologies is not a talent. It’s annoying and stale. 
  • Channeling emotions is a talent though I do give a pass for those under the age of 12. 

Agree to Disagree:

  • What if we go back to a time where not being on the same page didn’t mean throwing out the entire book?
  • We all don’t have to live on the same page. That’s actually quite boring and lame. Exhibit A: Handmaid’s Tale. 
  • Are we really satisfied with the “If you’re not with me then you are my sworn and mortal enemy to be hated forever” approach? It’s ugly. It destroys relationships.
  • When did we vote on placing “being right” at a higher level of importance than “being a decent human?” Maybe I should have asked if that was the line I was standing in …

I suppose most of these really just come back down to the commons: sense and courtesy. Two of my favorites but two of the easiest to dismiss. As we all learned in church camp – it only takes a spark to get a fire going. Will your fire be for warmth or to torch those around you? I vote for warmth.

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