Sunday, August 06, 2000

Nice? You want me to be nice? You try it, pal

        Don't start with me. Don't go there.

        Don't even think about it. I don't want to hear it.

        Because really, that's your problem. So . . .

        Here's 35 cents. Call someone who cares.

        Get a life, get a job, get a clue. Get out of my face.

        Have a nice day? Whatever. Have a lousy day. Have the worst day imaginable. And don't come back.

        Ever feel this way? Ever feel as if everyone else feels this way? Sometimes, I think we're a whole nation of John Rockers, in search of our own subway.

        I'm not talking about verbal smacks upside every other head in the human race. We haven't gotten to that point yet. (Give us time.) I mean the simple courtesies. The common civilities that grease the grind of daily life. The stuff you learned when you were about 3.

        Thanks, you're welcome, pardon me, what can I do for you. Please.

        We've forgotten.

        We live in the best time in history, in the best country man has yet devised. We have more money than our ancestors could have imagined, more free time than they could have dreamed.

        We have it good. So how come we don't act like it?

        Previous generations didn't need anger-management training. They didn't need courses on how to be pleasant. They weren't familiar with “road rage,” they didn't take classes on how to behave at their kids' sporting events.

        We live our lives leaning on the car horn. We treat each other the way basketball coaches treat referees.

        I've stopped thanking people in restaurants and stores after I've given them my money. They never say you're welcome. And shouldn't they be thanking me?

        I'm not moving to the right lane to allow a car to pass me, so I can get stuck behind a truck doing 50.

        If you're behind me heading out the door, you better be ready to push it open yourself. “Excuse me” is out. “Move” is in.

        It's my seat on the bus, lady.

        Try walking Fourth Street between Elm and Vine at lunchtime on a weekday. While you're bobbing and weaving so you don't bump into anyone, everyone else is at ramming speed, walking straight ahead.

        I did it the other day. After a block, I stopped moving for others. In the next two blocks, I marched like a cadet in a parade. I clipped three people. They weren't mad, at least no more than usual. How could they be? They were doing the same thing.

        I've stopped smiling for the sake of civility. Smiling makes me look vulnerable. You want me to smile, make me.

        It has gotten so bad, the only people with real manners are phone solicitors, who are so nice I feel bad hanging up on them. But I do.

        I was playing golf the other day, with my son, his friend and his friend's father. His friend didn't have his own bag; his dad carried his clubs.

        This was against the rules, a fact an ancient ranger made apparent by staring holes through the kid, then through me. “Spozed to have his own bag,” the guy finally said.

        He didn't know, I said. Next time. I made the mistake of apologizing. “That don't give him his own bag,” the ranger said.

        “Yeah. And that don't give you your teeth back, neither,” I said. To myself. Then I muttered something about Viagra, and walked away.

        Next time, I don't walk away or talk to myself. I dress the geriatric down, full frontal, without apology. That's just how it is now.

        Paul Daugherty is an Enquirer sports columnist. Look for his lifestyle column in People on Sunday. He welcomes your comments at 768-8454.


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