Tuesday, July 22, 2008


L-Girl did a post on being nice and the way people interact in different parts of the continent. I figured I'd just do my own post about it since I have so much to say.

I moved to NYC after living in the woods for 30 years. Granted, it was woods an hour away from NYC, but it was still classic sub-suburbia. I add the extra "sub" because I've since realized that what most people think of as "suburbia" is strip malls and sidewalks--neither of which existed anywhere near the house I grew up in.

I'd been going to the city for years just for fun, but living there, I got to experience new things. Working in New York. Going to the doctor in New York. Grocery shopping in New York.

I'll never forget my first grocery run there, at the neighborhood C-Town. Or was it Key Food? I guess I've forgotten some of it already. I was totally shocked as the cashier fired my crap across the scanner, threw it in a bag like a bank teller being stuck up, and gave me my change without looking at me, speaking, or acknowledging my presence in any way, even after I thanked her.

In high school, I worked at Stop & Shop. A major part of the training was treating the customer with respect. You always called them "m'am" or "sir." You had to look at them and say please and thank you and never let them leave without telling them to have everybody's favorite kind of day, "nice." There was also a video about how to bag the groceries: build up an outer wall with boxes, then put the odd-shaped stuff in the middle, and the bread and eggs on top.

Did I need this training? No. I was brought up well and I have common sense. As did most of my co-workers. But it was that important to the company that we did this stuff, they spent, who knows, probably thousands of dollars and hours just to be sure. It was the same deal everywhere else I worked in Connecticut. But, again, I'd be doing this stuff even if my employer specifically told me not to. I'm not some suck-up, and I'm really not the best at being a social-type, but if someone says "hi," I say "hi." A "thank you" will get a "you're welcome," a "no problem," a "sure," or at the very least, the nonsensical-but-effective-and-accepted "yup."

I don't ask for more, and I don't even really want more. But it's just common courtesy.

Now what was the deal with this and all the other supermarkets in New York City? I remember the manager being right there near the register many times. And thinking, Wow, this dude is watching this happen. I wonder if they really do have some kind of ant-training: "Okay, forget everything you know about common courtesy." Maybe they're just so concerned with getting people in and out that they don't even care what the cashiers do. I don't even care, as long as I get the correct change--but I do care on a human level. Regardless of whether you're at work or not, and I thank you, how hard is it say "you're welcome?" Or to nod?! Gimme a nod...a grunt...an upward glance!

Laura also brought up how co-workers in Canada will ask you if you want something if they're going out. But that if you say yes, they'll resent it. I think this just depends on your workplace and how well you know people. My co-workers in New York regularly asked me if I wanted anything from the store, and didn't seem to mind on the rare day I took them up on their offer. But I feel like when they asked, it was done in a whisper--like, "I know you're not originally from the city--don't let anyone else hear this, but I know you're used to politeness, so do you want a Coke from the overpriced corner-market?" Then again, maybe they didn't want to talk so loud that others would hear and ask if THEY could have something, too...

Okay, that's all I've got for now. I'll leave you with this picture of our light switches at sunset.

Hey, thanks! Great post. Glad I inspired you.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States