May. 15th, 2010

skyring: (Default)
Someone observed the other day, "People in general are just rude."

They were talking about walking the dog down their street, smiling at other people, and receiving back nothing but blank stares.

You know, I don't think people are rude. As a taxidriver, I meet a LOT of people (one of the reasons someone who doesn't know me well suggesting that I should "get out more" totally made my day), and most are friendly and polite.

So long as I am. I greet people with a smile and a "Good Morning", "Good Evening", "Good Heavens" as appropriate, make eye contact and take note of their needs. Someone elderly with a walking stick, for example, and I jump out of my seat to help them in, make sure they have enough legroom, close the door, etc. Younger folk, more spry of body if not mind, get Michael Jackson on the CD and they sing along.

I think it's a matter of everyday life being superficial. Larry McMurtry noted in his book Roads : Driving America's Great Highways that you can drive across the nation and speak not a surplus word to another soul, with self-serve petrol pumps and fast food restaurants. "Big Mac, medium fries and a bucket of root beer" does not make for a meaningful interaction, even if you add "please" at the end and the teenager instructs you to have a nice day as she hands over the rootbeer.

When we lived in smaller communities and knew everybody's business, we could be closer to their hearts, if I may put it that way. Nowadays, the bus driver is someone on a random shift from the other side of a great city, the cabbie comes from a different continent, the news is broadcast by an anchorman instead of a town crier, and gossip is reserved for Facebook rather than a good old natter over the back fence with the minister's wife.

Gone are the days when you sat on your front porch and waved to your neighbours as they walked by. One town council, seeking a return to friendly neighbourhoods, decreed that every new dwelling should have a porch. And so it was- the porches were built and secured with metal grilles to keep out intruders and the world.

I don't have any easy answers. Smile at strangers and you could attract stalkers. Move to a small town and be unemployed?

Perhaps my best advice is something I follow myself. Imagine that, following your own advice!

Become a cabbie.

Trust me on this, you'll get to know a lot of people, you'll be a small but essential part of the community, and the pensioners will love you as you lug their groceries up the steps.

And at night, as you put on the soft music for the couple embracing in the back seat, you can sigh happily for the spirit of romance.

Cabbies might not have all the answers, but they know a lot more than they generally let on.


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