Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Few Words on Ettiquette

Whatever happened to manners?

I hate to sound like an old grouch, but it seems like people today - young and old - have completely lost sight of all social proprieties.  And to be clear, this is not some "can't we call just get along" whine fest.  I acknowledge that we're never going to see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues.  But we are stuck with each other, differing opinions and all, and we have two choices: kill each other or figure out a way to get along despite these differences.  We don't have to agree to be falsely sweet to each other.  We don't even have to like each other.  I can hate your guts and still carry myself with a little dignity.

So here are a few observations on social graces that we could all stand to revisit:

  1. "Please" and "Thank you" go a long way.  It was true when mom and dad told us years ago, and it's still true.  You'd be amazed how much you can accomplish when dealing with others if you pepper your speech with these magic words.  And please don't say them with dramatic sarcasm.
  2. Don't insist on going first.  You may be the most important person to yourself, but you can't expect the rest of the world to see it that way.  Yield the right of way in traffic once in a while.  Allow others to order first at restaurants.  Hold the door open for others.  When you're in a slow moving line, shut the hell up with the complaining.  This includes traffic jams.  Deal with it.
  3. Being loud doesn't make you right.  Save the shouting for concert.
  4. If someone disagrees with you on something, let it slide.  You're not going to change their mind any more than they're going to change yours.  Learn the art of saying "I respectfully disagree".
  5. You're not supposed to like your job.  That's why they pay you to do it.  So save your complaining for when you get home.  They don't care.  Just be glad you have a job.
  6. Address people formally (Mr. This and Ms. That) until you have been told specifically to do otherwise.  Disrespecting people doesn't make you cool, it makes you an ass.
  7. Unless someone tells you to "make yourself at home", don't.
  8. Acknowledge the fact that you may be wrong, even if you are 99.999% sure you're right.  Don't assume the other guy is wrong just because they see it differently.
  9. Avoid the following topics in general conversation (as they tend to bring out the worst in people): politics, religion and sports.  Simply put, we all root for our own teams.
  10. The world doesn't owe you a damn thing.  Act accordingly.
Can we all agree that these are pretty good rules to observe?  I promise to do my part.  Okay?  Okay.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas in the Poorhouse

This holiday season many of us find ourselves in a quandry.  How do we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever with all its gift giving while in the midst of a lousy economy?  I don't care what your politics are, or who you think is to blame.  That's irrelevant.  Right now Christmas et al is looming.  Gifts are expected.  And many of us are broke, and worse, unemployed.

I've given this some thought.  My first thought is: why should the retail behemoths necessarily have to cash in?  Christmas has been celebrated for years before there were such things as Wal-Mart, Target etc.  They see this time of year as one big cash pinata.  They herd us in on Black Friday weekend, queuing up at ungodly hours to save money.  And by save money, I mean of course spend money.  It's enough to make a person jaded.

So this year, I have a proposal.  Maybe it will catch on, maybe not.  I don't really care; it's my way of making the holidays special for the folks I love without going broke, or spending the rent money on someone else's "must have gift".  Here's what I plan to give: myself.

See, I'm good with a few things.  I can fix busted computers.  I can cook a little.  I can clean.  I can wash a car or mow a lawn (come spring of course).  I can split firewood.  I can carry heavy things, reach tall things, and be useful in general to those who need that sort of thing.  I can put together things that require assembly.  I know a little about carpentry, a little about electricity, and a little about a lot of things.  I'm no polymath, more like a jack of all trades. 

So this year, I am offering, in lieu of gifts I can't afford, to give you something you really do need: a little help.  Because you're my friend, because you can't do it all on your own, I am giving you the one thing I can afford.  I will offer each friend one full day of my time, to help them out in whatever I can.  There is no need to pay me, no need to even thank me.  Just let me know when and where, and I'll be there. 

And if it's true what they say, that time is money, I'm giving you something valuable indeed.

Merry Christmas.