we need droids that understand etiquette and protocol

C3PO-RobotLuke Skywalker’s uncle, Owen Lars, may not have seen the need for a droid versed in the ways of etiquette and protocol, but we here in the United States sure could use one. It’s primary use would be to teach human beings how to be considerate to each other in little ways. If you ask me, we can’t get C-3P0 fast enough.

I have long held the belief that Americans are among the most inconsiderate people in the world. Perhaps, though, this is a function of me living in the USA continuously since 1984. Before that, I lived in Belgium and Germany, where the common (and not entirely undeserved) opinion is that French people are the most inconsiderate folks around – but that’s a subject for another post.

What I’m talking about is that lubricant that greases everyday interactions – common fucking consideration. There isn’t enough of it.

Most of us encounter this lack of consideration when we drive. Your lane is ending, but the guy in the car next to you refuses to let you merge into his lane ahead of him. You stop at a stop sign (or red light) and the guy across from (or beside) you blazes through the intersection without acknowledging your right of way. You don’t start moving in the 18 milliseconds after the light turns green and the guy behind you is on the horn like it’s his job. You send and read text messages while driving, putting dozens of other people on the road at high risk of being killed.

Those things I almost understand. After all, YOU are clearly more important than I am and YOU must clearly be allowed to reach your destination 37 seconds faster, those seconds being gained by cutting me off or whatever it is you’ve done that shows exactly how little consideration you have for the common man. I get that.

What I don’t get, though, is the stinking elevator.

When you’re waiting in the lobby of a building for the elevator, you know the elevator will arrive in one of two states – empty or full. If it’s empty, there’s no problem, obviously, but if there is even one person on it when it arrives, there is an extremely high probability that they will want to get off the elevator. That’s generally how ground floors work.

Yet, mysteriously, a sizable portion of the American population seems not to understand this function of the elevator. Instead, they, possibly waiting patiently in the lobby for the elevator to arrive, stand immediately in front of the elevator doors. That way, in the instant the doors are open as wide as their shoulders, they can get on the elevator and get on with their day.

This ensures that nobody that is ON the elevator can get OFF the elevator, because our lobby-waiter is blocking the doorway. Since they are clearly more important than you, they expect you to stay on the elevator until they’ve boarded, and THEN you can get off. This actually slows everybody down because it interrupts the natural flow of elevator traffic. The best way to facilitate a quick flow on and off the elevator is for those on to get off, then those in the lobby to get on and choose their floor.

Why people don’t get this, I just don’t understand. It is one of many indicators that our society is growing more inconsiderate by the day.

To further the elevator-as-symptom-of-our-ongoing-social-collapse, let me paint another picture for you. The elevator arrives in the lobby, those who are on get off and those who are off get on. The first person getting on moves to the right, presses the button for his floor…

AND STANDS THERE RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE BUTTON PANEL.

This requires the other passengers to do one of two things: 1) ask the panel-crowder to press their button (which invariably produces an eye-roll, a sigh, and a half-hearted jab at the appropriate button, or 2) invade the panel-crowder’s space to push the button themselves. Thankfully, this is often ignored by the panel-crowder, because of course that person is texting somebody on their goddam smartphone.

Actually, now that I write this behavior down in black and white, I’m not sure if it’s a sign of somebody being inconsiderate or somebody just being a total moron. I’d skew towards the latter, except actual stupid people can easily figure out that standing close enough to the button panel that other people have to say “excuse me” to press 6 is inconsiderate.

(I can’t bring myself to get started on cell phone use, because that’s just depressing beyond all imagination. I think the smartphone has contribute more to the decline of consideration in this nation than any other invention in the history of man.)

I’ve been paying attention to these two items of elevator etiquette in the last two weeks. As to the first (crowding the door so people can’t get off), I’ve lost count as to how many times this happens. It’s at the point now where instead of saying anything as I’m trying to get off the elevator, I just stand there and stare at the person until they move. Luckily I’m kind of intimidating looking (giant baldish man with a full-on Grizzly Adams beard and a piercing stare), so most of the time they move aside pretty quickly.

The panel-crowding thing, though, that happens a bit less often. In the last two weeks (through yesterday), I’ve counted this as happening fully 50% of the time I’ve gotten on the elevator with another person or another person’s been on there already when I’ve gotten on. FIFTY PERCENT. One of every two instances.

Today is laundry day. (I could riff on laundry room etiquette for a solid hour, by the way, but I’ll spare you this time.) I got on the elevator with two laundry baskets and – guess what – the only other person on the elevator is standing so close to the button panel that I can’t press G without touching them. (He was going down to 1.) Instead of doing what I usually do, which is to say “excuse me” and wait for them to move, I simply reached over, brushing against his coat in the process, and pressed my button. He shot me an evil look, which I returned and said “you could always back away from the panel.”

As you might expect, I probably looked quite scary in my flannel jammy pants and slippers, which is why he grunted, broke eye contact and took two step back from the panel.

(In my return trip from the ground floor, where I’m doing laundry, a lady just walked onto the elevator on my floor fast enough that she nearly knocked me over. Well, technically, had we made contact, I’m sure SHE would have gotten knocked over, not me. What was she doing? TEXTING.)

These seem like little things, I admit, but they are indicative of a social rot that penetrates deep inside our society. We live in a society where ME is increasingly more important than THEE. This is acceptable in a 3-year-old, but in a grown-up? Nope. The more considerately we act, the better our society will become. When everybody behaves as if other people matter, guess what? EVERYBODY WILL MATTER. This inconsiderateness is the root of many of our societal ills – sexism, racism, anti-homosexual sentiments, anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, etc.

My point is that you are no important or necessary than I am. I am no more important or necessary than you are. We are, human-being-speaking, pure equals.

When we all start acting like that, many of our problems will fade away.

The irony of human nature is that we are incapable of doing so. We will continue on this spiraling cycle of ME ME ME until our society self-destructs…

…or until we finally develop droids to teach us etiquette and protocol.

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