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There's a fine line between courtesy and ignorance

Among such social graces as good manners, politeness and respect comes a quality that is held in comparable esteem as common sense. What is it? It is common courtesy.

Among such social graces as good manners, politeness and respect comes a quality that is held in comparable esteem as common sense. What is it? It is common courtesy.

Holding a door open for the next person, allowing that shopper with fewer items to go ahead of you and turning off your cellphone at the cinema are but a few examples of everyday common courtesy. For that matter, so are not spitting in public, having a decent muffler on your car and ensuring your pants are well above your equator! Common courtesy can be made manifest in many ways.

On any given day as I venture out into our fair city to run errands or take in a leisurely stroll, I find, for the great part, that common courtesy is alive and well. People say hello, ask how I am doing and are generally appreciative of the small things like holding the door open or allowing them to merge ahead when three traffic lanes suddenly become two. Often I am the recipient of common courtesy and this inspires me to ‘pay it forward,’ in fact when someone else does something for me out of kindness or generosity, it reminds me of why community is so important. If only everyone would extend common courtesy to others — what a wonderful world this would be!

Sadly Louis Armstrong’s voice is diminished in my daydreams of utopia the moment someone foregoes both common sense and common courtesy. We have all encountered these ‘special citizens’ — perhaps we have even been ‘that guy’ or ‘that gal.’ You know, the ones who feel that they are above everyone else, that the rules don’t apply to them. They butt cigarette ashes out vehicle windows, throw wrappers and other litter on peoples’ lawns, don’t pick up after their dogs and crank up the music into the wee hours. Sound familiar?

Worse yet are those who, in departing from the expected norms of the Motor Vehicle Act, believe they are extending common courtesy by doing such things as stopping on a freeway to allow jaywalkers across or waving someone to cut across oncoming lanes when not all other drivers are anticipating such a move. By deferring your responsibility of following an expected rule and instead imposing a reactionary response on someone who is not expecting to have to suddenly stop or yield, you are not extending common courtesy, you are creating potential accidents! Disregarding traffic regulations to ‘give someone else a break’ has the potential to put others in harm’s way. There are indeed times when it makes sense to give way to another driver — just make certain you are not impeding the safe passage of a third party! Sharing the road in a proactive manner is certainly in the domain of common sense, which, sadly, some people lack.

Common courtesy is a good habit to get into. It enables us to see beyond our own nose and place focus on serving others. It behooves us however, to insist that people be held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. In the spirit of Star Trek I like to use the principle of first contact. If I have a concern with you or vice versa, I would take a moment to have a neighbourly discussion and see if we could resolve our issue locally. If not? Nothing ventured, nothing gained — that’s why we have bylaw enforcement officers and, sadly, that’s why we have so many fences. Maybe Robert Frost was right? Good fences make good neighbours — but I prefer the road less travelled!

Tim Cusack is attempting to control the dandelion population on his lawn. It’s spade time!