Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mind your manners

I try to do the right thing. Not just "whenever I can" but all the time. I'm not trying to brag and I don't always succeed, but it is important to me to live life in a way that I would be proud of. I have always felt that a better world is made up of every person doing better things every chance they get. If there is something wrong in our society today it is because children are being raised with fewer manners and less expectation that they are responsible for their own actions. Because of that, I take special care to show my children the right way to act and treat each other. I probably look like an Old-Fashioned Nerd to them, but I feel very strongly about this. Instead of complaining about other people's rudeness, I try to use negative situations as a learning opportunity for my kids and I discuss what went wrong and what could have been done to improve the situation.

So, this weekend, I was heading out for my normal weekly grocery store visit. I hadn't even parked the car yet, when a test of character came into play. I saw a spot right near the entrance and decided to park there. Then, as I pulled in, I realized there was an SUV about to turn into the same slot. They even had their turn signal on and were waiting for me to pass so that they could park. And I just took the spot they were aiming for.

Boy did I feel like crap when I realized what I had done. There are very few things that will drive me to screaming and cussing in the car like someone taking my parking spot after I had already toured the lot, found a space, turned on my signal, and waited patiently for traffic to let me in. I would have been furious if someone had done this to me! I was very thankful that I was alone in the car so no one else saw my horribly rude actions. However, I did get a glimpse of the other drivers face and she was not happy at all.

She decided to park two slots down from me - still very close to the store, but not quite as close as my spot was.  Suddenly, I felt very awkward and I didn't know what to do. Should I get out of the car and risk having to walk right next to this person I just committed such a sin against? If I rush in to avoid walking next to her will I look I am running away from her in my guilt? I finally decided I would sit (stall) in my car for a few minutes and let her go into the store first. However, it seemed she was doing something similar because after several minutes, she still hadn't gone into store. Then I got all nervous wondering if she was so mad that she was setting up some sort of an ambush for me. I felt a little silly contemplating why I would be afraid of this woman I didn't even know. But then, I looked up to see them walk past my car. That was when the driver turned, looked directly at me, and gave me a nasty look.

Ok. I deserved that. I stole a parking spot that had already been "dibbed" by someone else. I showed an extreme lack of manners and I probably would have given the other driver a dirty look had the roles been reversed. Maybe not so directly, but I certainly would have been miffed about it.

Anyway, that was how I got a good look at the lady who was probably mentally cursing my family. for the next several generations. The reason that is important is because I recognized her again in the store while I was shopping. It seemed that they were shopping for the same items I was and they apparently had a similar shopping pattern because I kept seeing them pass by while I was making my way through the aisles. I tried to avoid them, because that just seemed like the smart thing to do. I mean, they didn't make threats toward me or anything, but they still seemed really ticked off and I was REALLY embarrassed about it. So, I lingered a little too long in the dog food aisle. I rushed out of the pasta aisle and nearly forgot to grab the sauce. I looked down and studied the chicken legs a little bit longer while trying to avoid their glares. Maybe I'm just being a little too self centered here, but I really kind of felt that they were still angry about losing the parking spot and they were trying to let me know as much.

After several minutes of this I thought, Ok. This is ridiculous. We are grown women. Why am I creeping around like The Girl Who Pissed Off The Cheerleading Squad? I decided I needed to just act like an adult. The next time I saw them cruising down the same aisle as me, I looked that woman straight in the face and said, "Um, I think I cut you off in the parking lot. I'm really sorry."

Do you know what these ladies did? They glared back at me some more and walked away mumbling to each other.

I was floored. I just apologized to them publicly and they just glared? When I say publicly, I mean to say there were at least a handful of other shoppers in the same area as we were and I knew at least one of them heard me. I swallow my fears and try to do the right thing and I get brushed off as if I just committed another crime of some sort?

Fine. An apology is not always as sincerely accepted as it is given. I can still be a grown up and walk away know I at least tried to do the right thing. Their nasty looks did hurt a bit, and they certainly didn't react the way I would have if someone apologized to me, but here was another opportunity to do the right thing.  Really, I need to stop wasting energy on petty things and just get on with my shopping and my life. Why waste another thought on such an insignificant occurrence?

I tried to shrug if off and get back to my shopping but I must have still looked a little sad because then, a random woman came up to me and said, "I thought you were being very nice, even if they weren't."

She must have been one of the ones close enough to hear my apology. I couldn't do anything but smile and nod; it was so unexpected! It did make me feel a lot better, though. Sure, I received a cold shoulder for my apology, but someone else out there thought I did the right thing.

That actually made me feel pretty darn good.

So, don't ever hesitate to do the right thing. It does make a difference. And if you screw up? Admit it and apologize. Even if you can't control how other people react to you, you can at least feel good knowing that you did the right thing.

Deb "Sorry" Lollar

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