Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Today for lunch I opted to go to one of my favorite fast food drive throughs. It’s a little less so since they no longer have potato cakes, but there it is. Seems like every time I come to truly enjoy some fast-food offering, it changes. It’s very depressing.
Anyway, waiting to order, I caught myself saying “please” when I ordered, and “thank you” when I finished. The thought struck me that, in this day and age, these are rather old-fashioned words. You don’t hear them as often as in the past, and it occurred to me that at drive-through fast-food, they’re probably even less common.
At the window, I asked, “just out of morbid curiosity, just how much of a freak am I that I sat ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at the drive through?” The woman thought about it for a second, and responded, “you’re the only one.”
This is very sad to me. The people at the drive through are, for the most part, actual people, whether or not you see them when you order. I say for the most part because, on my drive home from the theater where I work, is another fast-food place where they completely replaced the people, with the possible exception of working in the kitchen behind the scenes. To order, you speak to a computer that interprets what you say, and you pay at the screen. But, even here, I am in the habit of saying “please” and “thank you”, despite knowing that no human being is hearing me.
Sometimes I fear that I used these terms so often that they lose their meaning. But when I say it, every time I say it, I am sincere. I believe in courtesy and politeness. I believe it helps build a rapport and helps to put people in a better mood. I don’t get better service as a result, at least not that I’ve noticed, but maybe it makes that person feel just a little bit happier.
Politeness is more than just a formality. Being polite is a way to show respect for other people. We don’t eat with our mouths open in a restaurant or fart in elevators to show respect to others in our vicinity. Perhaps the fact that such politeness as please and thank you are so uncommon because respect is distinctly lacking in our society today.
It’s getting worse with respect to political parties. On social media, people will pick arguments with one another, especially when it comes to political posts. To be fair, it is entirely possible to have polite disagreements, and frankly, I love when this happens. Some time ago, my friend posted on her social media page, and I made a comment. My comment drew a response in disagreement, and yet, the tone of the disagreement was quite respectful. Her friend and I went back and forth maybe a half dozen times, and yet, throughout our conversation, there was never an insult hurled. Instead, we both were both providing the thinking behind our stands, explaining why we feel we do and quoting studies and reports from the news (the real news, not Faux).
And the end of that argument? I said “thank you” to the individual. We didn’t change each other’s minds, but we both understood the other’s position better, and it frankly felt good to have such a discussion with another person even as we disagreed with each other.
Some people don’t like saying things like please and thank you to people that they view as “beneath them”. This is perhaps the saddest and most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard. Ranking people is perhaps the beginning of a lack of respect. We’re all in this together, and our station in life often has more to do with circumstances than ability. Besides, I always wonder why a fast-food worker is beneath somebody with money, when the person with money is paying the worker. I’ve never given somebody beneath me money, perhaps because I don’t see anybody as beneath me, but also because if they were truly beneath me, then I wouldn’t have to depend on them so much to have to pay them money in the first place. For my senior yearbook in high school, they asked us a question to put in the yearbook, namely, “what superhero do you look up to and why?” My response, which did make it (surprisingly) in the yearbook was that I don’t look up to anybody, because I don’t see myself as above or below anybody.