Yeah, yeah… “Thanksgiving” posts abound… So, thank you. Thank you, and you, and you…

It seems simple enough, right?

(Warning…  ranting ahead…)thankyou1109

I’ve noticed that’s a statement that gets overlooked these days.  In our culture of instant gratification and “It’s all about me…  or what YOU can do for ME,” the graciousness of our society has been somehow diminished.

It’s a shame.

I’m no stodgy old fart, but some times I do miss the days when it was unheard of for a gentlemen to enter a building before a woman – ANY woman, not just the hotties. And holding the door, for females or male counterparts, was simply expected.

For those that don’t remember… There was a day when chivalry and politeness were commonplace.  It was a sense of making the world comfortable – for everyone else, not just you.  No one was concerned with their wireless reception or how many bars they had.  The parking place closest to the door didn’t take priority over yielding to a senior citizen.  Paramedics weren’t called because of how long the line at the bank was, or if the shop on the corner didn’t have the freshest Hawaiian Kona beans.  Being a member of society was more about the niceties that, well, made society SOCIAL.

Then I thought about it…

When was the last time you were consciously aware of how many times you thanked someone, anyone, in a single day?

So I decided to do an experiment.  For one whole day, I’d document how many times I said thank you or performed a “random act of kindness” as well as how many times I witnessed others doing the same.  This is what I found…

What’d you say to me?

12 times, I intentionally looked someone directly in the eye and said “Thank you.” Not in a creepy, “I’m going to stalk you” way, I was genuine and sincere.  I wanted to let them know that while their actions weren’t unexpected, I was appreciative of their effort.

A majority (7) of those salutations were reciprocated with “you’re welcome.” Another two at least flashed back a smile and a nod.  And the remaining two were pleasant enough to ignore me completely while avoiding all eye contact. Paranoid or guilty?

My secret voyeur-vision…

I wanted to just sit and watch others interact.  So, I sat at a small table in the corner of my favorite restaurant and watched people engage.  It wasn’t a scientific study, but it was eye-opening.

For 45 minutes, I watched as customers entered, ordered, navigated around others, ate and exited.  While doing all that, I saw five (yes, 5) people hold the door for someone else.  I heard “Thank you” said to the counter attendant six times. And the number of people that simply left their plates, trays, drinks and partially eaten sandwiches was shocking.

I also watched as the staff provided a service.  Sure they were getting paid.  Sure they do it every day for ungodly hours.  And what did I see?  Professional courtesy…  cold, calculated and systematic.  I saw three employees smile and thank their customer (non-scripted). And one employee stood out from the disappointment by coming out from behind the counter to help an older, feeble man get through the door as no less than 10 able-bodied citizens watched on in disinterest (including me).

Here, let me get that…

I held the door at three establishments for three people each. At the morning coffee shop, I was completely ignored by all three.  One woman was talking to her friend that was already in the lobby, the second, I thought would say some kind of thank you, because she DID make eye contact; but she quickly motioned to her head (similar to the “I’m crazy” signal) with her forefinger signaling to me that she was on her bluetooth-a-ma-jiggy and couldn’t pause that conversation .  The third was a “gentleman” that seemed a little “uncomfortable” that a dude held the door for him.  Get over it Romeo.

At lunch, I tried a different establishment, but got similar results.  The first two were young “ladies” (liberally applied term) that were much more interested in giggling and texting (each other, I assume) than acknowledging my kindness.  The third was a smartly dressed business woman that simply nodded and proceeded on to cut in line at the service counter…  classy.

Finally, at a convenience store, I held the door for one 40-something blue-collar guy that roughly blurted “thanx” (yes, it would have been spelled that way) and another lady that said nothing at all.

Then, my chivalry-dream-come-true walked up the driveway toward the door.  She was a 70+, silver haired lady clutching her handbag like it was pay day in 1931.  I opened the door and looked her in the eyes and said, “Here, let me get that for you.”

She looked up at me and in a small whisper of a voice said, “… hmmm such a good gentleman… thank you, hon.” And she patted me on the chest, smiled and walked in.

That just about made me cry.

As I’ve said in the past, I tend to over thank people.  I was raised in a restaurateur’s family where it was imperative to show your appreciation for the little things people did for you.  Opening a door… Delivering a package…  Serving a meal… and my education yesterday was quite disappointing.

Why, on Facbook and other social sites, are there millions of people posting “what they’re thankful for” throughout the month of November when they can’t simply do it while standing in line at a restaurant on a basic Tuesday?

From a branding perspective, what does that say about American society?  No wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re a bunch of self-serving, materialistic bullies.

Can technology and the “Now Generation” do anything to correct this offence to basic civility?  Sure, I sound like an old-fart curmudgeon, but as technology expands even further into our lives, how will civil, face-to-face social interaction survive?

With that, give thanks today, tomorrow and every day for the things that you have.  Large or small, life is a miracle and it’s a blessing that we get to share it together on this little rock racing through space.

The alternative is frightening.

Keep Cooking (actual social interactions – always)!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

[Photo by Thomas Hawk]

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