“Get out of my way. Can't you see, I'm more important than you!”
“I'm sure you don't mind. You don't have anything better to do than wait right?”
“It's OK if I take all these right? I was first anyway!”
It would be almost understandable if you heard a child say these things, but as adults we are held to a much higher standard of courtesy. I'm not sure whether some people understand how rude and inconsiderate they are being or if they just don’t care.
Two years ago I wrote about the greediness of the guests at the Catalpa Oaks Marshmallow Drop. I mean who needs 100 dirty marshmallows? I don't know! All I know is my daughter and several other children walked away with either one or none. What a disappointment on Easter.
I recently had a very upsetting experience with another selfish type of person, who ironically, thought the same of me. We attend a facility that provides customers with changing rooms. Sometimes the rooms fill up, no biggie. Soon rooms open up. But some families get dressed, then leave their things in the changing room to participate in the activity and come back to their room, rendering a perfectly good changing room unusable for the duration of the activity!
The situation has been ongoing for some time. Some weeks abandoned belongings occupy up to three changing rooms. It is incredibly frustrating for us and other families who have to wait longer because people lack a bit of courtesy. The business speaks to these families to discourage this, but it continues to happen every week.
So, with two little ones, I choose not to wait on empty rooms. I use "reserved” rooms. On several occasions, I have taken belongings out and set them on a nearby bench. However on one particular time, the belongings of the family in question were spread out in the room.
As I started to get my girls dressed, the family came back and explained that this was their room and asked if I could pass their belongings out. I explained that I was helping my daughter get dressed and they would have to wait until I was done. When I had a break, I held their bag over the top of the door. It was literally ripped out of my hand, pulling my shoulder … dang that hurt! I let out an “ouch”.
The couple demanded the rest of the belongings. I explained very calmly that it would have to wait, as I was getting my kids dressed and I didn't want to risk further injury. The man got very angry. He demanded his stuff and threatened to come in after the count of three if I didn't comply! I told him my girls were not dressed and that would be invading our privacy. That didn’t matter to him. He popped his head over the top of the door and began to yell at me.
I was in shock! He then began to call me names and swear at me, all while his child was waiting. He was behaving as if the world was going to end! He then took an item of ours that was on the floor and the girls started to cry. I explained it was no big deal, we would get the item back. (We did end up finding the item stuffed in a cubby. Maturity at its finest.)
The man then decided to stand on the bench in the stall next to us and taunt us (all the time watching my children get dressed) until we left.
The mom then tells me her child was waiting for the room. I told her, "I'm sorry, I didn't know if you’d be back soon or not. It’s written clearly on the door, ‘Please be courteous to our other guests and remove your belongings from the changing rooms when they are not in use.’ Next time, don't leave your stuff in the room." She replied, “You could’ve at least passed the things along.” I told her, “I did until I was hurt in the process, but it certainly isn't my responsibility to move your things.” “My son was waiting”, she said. “So were my girls. I don't understand how your son is more important than my girls” I replied.
All the while, I was cool, calm, collected. Never raised my voice. Never got angry, but literally was shaking inside. I even held the door open for said family on the way out.
The father said, “I'm sorry but you should have given us our stuff.” (Even kids are taught it’s not really an apology when you use the word "but"!)
“Next time, don't leave your stuff in the changing room”, I replied.
“My wife only stepped out for a minute.”
“Next time, I will just have to wait in the room then.”
“Sounds like a plan!”
So here we are back to “I am more important than you” ... right? Because you’re going to get your stuff in an empty room and save it until you are ready to use it, all while people wait. Even if it's only a couple of minutes … it's still the same concept: ME FIRST.
But the best and final parting words he said, "You should try going to church more often". My incredulous reply was, "Dude, it's Sunday, and you are here too."
At times I see that I have room for improvement in the area of courtesy. I sometimes get angry, or I’m in a hurry, get distracted and I find myself oblivious to what’s going on, fully immersed in a "Me First" moment. It happens to us all, right?
You have a choice to make every moment, every day. Do you take as much as life will give you without regard to the others around you? Does this build a strong community? Is this how you want to raise your children? Is this how you want to be treated? What kind of person do you strive to be?
We need to consciously think about our actions and how they affect those around us. Being courteous isn't a natural act: it’s something one has to think about. To form a habit, that habit must be practiced to be maintained. Courtesy lifts not only the person to whom it is extended, it raises the community and has the added bonus of lifting the person giving it.
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." - Aesop