Sunday, December 27, 2009

Be Nice and Say Cheese

Manners: They are rare and elusive like a good doctor or a unicorn. While I would like to think I am a patient and loving person, I constantly find myself bemoaning the lack of manners and politeness in society.

For instance, I get all silently bitchy if I hold open the door for somebody and don't receive a thank you.

"You're welcome" I'll mutter extremely sarcastically to myself like a cranky old woman before storming off, all the while complaining about the deteriorating quality of the human race.

Now I know I can be a bit extreme about some things but I don't think I'm alone on this one. If you are looking for a conversation starter just mention how somebody was rude to you recently and you will light one hell of a fuse. The funny thing is those people who love to talk about their personal indignation were probably the same people who didn't say thank you when somebody else held open a door for them.

Bastards.

But I digress.

Now I think big cities get an unnecessarily bad rap, especially New York. Something about the hustle and bustle and the constant motion can be a little off-putting to people who are not used to it. Eight million people in a hurry to get where they need to go can come off as rude.

And aside from the staff at Trader Joe's (the people there are so dang friendly) I rarely walk out of a clothing or grocery store and think to myself, "Wow, the friendliness and eye contact of the sales staff in there was incredible!"

And I love living in New York. The energy, the opportunities, all of it is fantastic. But as I have detailed several dozen times in this blog, sometimes even this native New Yorker can lose his cool living there.

It usually happens on the subway when I'm in a pissy mood because I burnt my Ego or something. I'll be standing on the subway and some Neanderthal is pushing thorough the train car without regard for anybody and I think "If I just leaned my knee out a little bit they would trip and it wouldn't really be my fault."

Then I catch myself and realize I am a bad person. And I realize I need to get away.

I then usually take some time off to visit my parents in South Carolina where things are quite the opposite of what they are in New York. Things move slower. People are good natured and jovial. OK maybe not jovial, but the sales staff in stores are strikingly friendly. So friendly in fact, that it confuses me sometimes.

My dad and I went into the grocery store to get some lunch meat for, well, lunch. He was already at the deli counter when I met up with him and as I walked up to the counter the meat slicing lady said, "I will be right with you sir." I paused for a moment and looked around slightly confused. Who was she talking to? Was she talking to me? I hadn't even spoken to her. Why was she acknowledging my presence if I hadn't made some sort of a complaint or yelled at her.

I smiled to myself and just enjoyed the moment. It was so polite of her to acknowledge my presence without any precursor. Just, oh there is a human, let me make him feel welcome. This is a stark contradiction to when I normally go buy lunch meat and have to throw multiple bags of pumpernickel in the air just to get someone to notice me.

After I got over my flusterment I watched as the deli lady sliced a half pound of yellow American cheese for us and do something extraordinary.

First of all she sliced one piece of cheese and then asked me if I would like a sample.

Of course I would like a sample!

In the history of my life there have almost no instances where I didn't want to taste a sample. In fact when I was a kid, my friend Mike and I would walk around the food court at the mall feeding ourselves exclusively on samples.

I did this same thing in my college years at Costco around lunch time. But there you have to battle the old fogies who line up 20 minutes early for a cocktail weenie or a crab puff.

So back to my deli lady who is offering me a sample. And not just one sample, but for every single meat and cheese we ordered (4 in total) she offered up a sample. I should have just held up a sign like Wile E. Coyote that said "Yes I would like a sample" so she didn't have to ask.

But then she did her most magnanimous act of all. She finished slicing the cheese and put it on the scale to make sure it was indeed a half pound like we had ordered. Seeing that the weight was just slightly over the correct amount she took 2 slices off the pile, weighed it again, printed out the ticket, and then added those slices back onto the pile.

In essence what she had done was not charged us for some cheese.

She had given us FREE CHEESE!

This woman was a vision. A meat slicing prodigy. I wanted to take her home with me and install her at my local grocery store where they don't even look at me unless I happen to actually be laying down on the counter.

Now I'm not saying people in New York aren't friendly. You meet plenty of sparkling personalities in my dazzling city. But sometimes you forget just how nice people can be.

And you certainly forget what it is like to get some free cheese!

I really shouldn't' have been caught off guard by such a small gesture. I shouldn't have whispered to my dad, "Hey dad did you see what she did? Did you see?!" But I did. Now I'm not suggesting that everyone give away free delectable sandwich products. But I think it does say something about a slower pace of life where people are friendly and go the extra mile with you.

So for these reasons and several more, I have decided I am ready to retire.

To be continued...

5 comments:

Nancy said...

I know what you mean about being noticed - I like it when they acknowledge that they will be right with me - in fact I get a bit out of sorts if they don't. But yell at me?? I'm not sure New York and I would do well in the long run.

I remember my first trip there and my husband warning me about the rude people, like I was some country bumpkin - okay, well even if I was...

Anyway, everyone was wonderful - even very nice at the Carnegie Deli. The guy yelled at the person in front of me but probably saw the stricken look on my face and took pity - he was very nice when I stumbled over my order for that giant pie they call a rueben sandwich. (My husband helped me eat it for lunch - we worked on it for dinner - and finally tossed half of it on our way to the airport..)

whalechaser said...

You know of course, that you are very fortunate. You have found the absolute best of both worlds and can be at home in either of them. This is something few people can do. Enjoy the free slices, enjoy the 'apparent rudeness' and always...write down your memories!
Whale

Caroline B said...

I've not been to New York, our only experience of America is Boston, but I found the Bostonians the politest, most considerate and courteous people I have come across in a veeeery long time. They put our new breed of rude, surly, bad-tempered, aggressive and deliberately difficult Brits to shame....

Jeninacide said...

Here in Portland, Oregon we seem to have a mix of both emo hipsters who tend to work in cafes and dive bars who can't really be troubled with acknowledging your existence, and hippies who will go out of their way to be super-nice and love-spreading. Strange dichotomy, not sure which category I fit into, but I am leaning towards hippie as I hate it when I am not acknowledged when I am in need of service. Damn hipsters!

Pat said...

There is something to be said about a smaller town and a slower paced way of living. Take time to smell the roses, etc.

And being friendly to people surely doesn't hurt wherever you live! Just so you know, I ALWAYS thank whomever holds the door open for me!

You are a polite young man! You can help me cross the street next time I'm in New York!