This morning I missed the bus as usual. This time is was different though, because a young man had missed it too. Both of us panting and feeling annoyed, I offered him a lift to campus. He seemed so shocked at my gesture, but to me it was logic. If I’m driving to class anyways, why wouldn’t I give the kid a ride who had frustratingly made the same mistake as me?
The conversation during the ride was forced and awkward. Questions like what’s your major and whatnot formed the basis. I asked him why he had a cast on his right arm. He asked me permission to drink a can of Mountain Dew. I was helping the guy out, but it seemed like the last place he wanted to be was sitting in the passenger seat of my Honda.
After parking, he said goodbye, and I said that I’d see him around. No smiles, no offer to help put money in the meter(that’s OK ’cause I was going to have to pay it anyway), was there even a “thank you”?
I felt like I had done the right thing, but it also felt so unfriendly, so impersonal. Is giving a stranger a lift to class rather that weird?
I got to class feeling hot, tired, and hungry. I sat next to a blonde girl wearing a tie-dye sweater, and as we make eye contact for a split second, I smile and give a nonchalant “good morning”. The girl averts her gaze immediately, taken aback from my informal greeting, gives an uncomfortable moment of eye contact and looks away. She practically turned her entire orientation in the opposite direction.
Why is decency so reviled? Why is common courtesy so rare that when someone offers a kind gesture it freaks the other person out?
I felt like a leper. What’s wrong with giving someone a ride to class? Why is saying hello such a threat?
It’s no secret that our society is quite impersonal and often unfriendly. We ‘other’ each other and avoid situations where we might feel out of place. We avoid eye contact, avoid sitting too close to someone. Avoid having our views challenged. In an age of Facebook where our lives are on display for all to see, we lack intimacy more than ever.
We walk around campus with our headphones in, staring at our shoes and focusing on getting from A to B with the least amount of friction possible. Sometimes I’m this person. Avoiding everyone and everything because I’ve got a bone to pick with life at the time.
But more often than not I appreciate a greeting, I welcome the unexpected recognition that I exist.
We’re not all so separate, so foreign. We’re a bunch of humans walking around on Earth. Essentially, we’re all the same. We all struggle, we all carry baggage, we’ve all had a screwed up life in some way or another.
Given this, why do we avoid each other so? Why is it so hard to make a connection with another being? Why is friendliness seen as a threat or intimidation rather than a gesture of good faith?
I think each of us, and society as a whole should question this.
Why are we so pissed off all the time? Why is being kind the exception and not the norm? What happened to common f***in’ decency?