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April 19, 2023

Is happy and kind the new weird?

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.

When I was kid, my caregivers taught me of the importance of being kind to strangers and being polite. It wasn’t that long ago but now feels like an entirely different world.

I used to do the morning shopping with my late grandpa, and whenever we entered the store he made sure I greeted the people already inside, especially those who work there loud enough so they all could hear me. If I failed to do this, we had to stand in the entrance until I did it. Back than not greeting people when you entered somewhere was considered rude and I’d be told I have no manners. It was natural to be polite when asking for anything, or apologizing when needed, saying thank you when someone helped us in the tiniest way out, even it was something they had to do, like serving us at the cash-desk.

I’ve been thinking about such things for a while now. Especially since the other day I was queuing at the grocery store when a loud man dressed in bright green gym clothes took back his place right in front of me. He was standing there before but left to pick up something he forgot and when he arrived, he started to thank the woman for saving his spot and explained why he had to go back. He was talking quite loud, taking up his space, kept calling the woman “madam”, smiling all the time, being very polite and appeared to be very happy.

The whole time the woman seemed uncomfortable, like she was praying to get away as fast as she could and kept looking at me with a look that begged for help. Once he packed up his stuff on the counter, he placed the divider behind his bread so I could pack up there too. I smiled and said thank you. Oddly, he noted: “Madam, you are the first who said “thank you” to me today, and it’s already past 10am.”

I wondered.

When his turn came paying the cashier, he greeted the lady politely, calling her Madam as well. The cashier looked around confused, like the man was insane. He handed over some coupons and explained on which products he’d like to use them. The woman seemed to be totally freaked out from him. The whole time he was very nice and called everyone “madam and sir” which is a polite way to call a strangers in my country, we just stopped using it. When he left he thanked the cashier and wished a very lovely day to her. The whole time the woman was looking at me, like she expected a  hidden camera recording or something or like she wanted some kind of validation from me that what she experiences is in fact strange. When the green man left, she asked me “That was weird, right?”

I just didn’t get it.

True, he was very kind and polite in a way that might seem strange because rarely anyone behaves like this anymore. But he wasn’t strange. In my opinion he behaved in a way we all should.

That made think all day long and ever since I keep paying attention to people abd how they act in public.

My experience is distressing.

When did not smiling, being grumpy and rude, not greeting people, not saying thank you and expecting people to serve us like we are better then them, became the new normal?

I used to be a cashier, too and I remember how most people didn’t even say ‘Hi’ back, they rarely smiled back, some didn’t even bother to answer my questions and just rudely showed their credit card in my face. No hello, no goodbye, no thank you. From 100 people who paid at my cash desk, maybe 1 smiled and said “Hi and thank you”. That was about 4 years ago, so even before the Pandemic.

I wonder if the lockdowns have anything to do with that, or were we heading towards this sad state anyways?

Why isn’t being nice, kind, polite and happy normal anymore? When it’s not hard to be like that and anyways, doesn’t it make you feel good to be and do good? Because it makes me feel good, and if it means I am perceived as someone strange, then let me.

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