I first noticed it in college. Overt rudeness, that is. Before that time, I was evidently lost in the syrupy oblivion of youth. But when I hit my college years, I was suddenly and rudely shaken awake by the perpetual foul moods greeting me at seemingly every turn.
I thought – hoped, actually – that it was isolated to the fine, stalwart university I attended. Boy, I couldn't have been more off-the-mark. Since recognizing blatant discourtesy running rampant at my alma mater, I have since discovered it everywhere. So when did this happen? When did the world get mean?
I tried an experiment. Each day while walking to class, I greeted ten people. Invariably, at least eight failed to respond. In any way. Most appeared utterly unaware of my presence. The rare subject who bothered to reciprocate would do so with a curt nod or a mumbled monosyllable. Then I started to worry. Was I real? Had I died without realizing it and now haunted the route between my apartment and the Student Center? Did Bruce Willis and I have far more in common than I suspected?
No. That was almost certainly not the case, though I wish sometimes it was. It would at least illuminate this inexplicable lack of cordiality.
Soon I tested my experiment elsewhere. The movie theater, a rock concert, grocery shopping. Same results. People simply did not wish to return simple salutations. It was easier to look away than it was to smile. The world has soured like a cup of cream in the sun.
I should recognize the small minority of friendly folks who prove the exception to the rule: the loud hailers, the high-fivers, the huggers, the goosers. I'd laud them for keeping me from losing all faith in humanity, but these overly-aggressive individuals are somehow worse, as if they felt invading another's personal space with as much fanfare as possible was their obligation.
Oh, we could start listing reasons we no longer seem capable of fellowship and good will. We could debate the whys and the hows. We could pontificate for hours on the subject, but why bother? Reasons don't matter; solutions do.
Here, I'll start. I'd like to take this opportunity to extend a warm hello to everyone. If you see me on the street and don't wish to return my simple greeting, I'll not hold it against you. It is a sign of our times. Every man, woman, and child for him- or herself. Forgive me, though, if I long for the days when neighbors borrowed cups of sugar and chatted idly over fences. Human beings have turned a corner somewhere on this twisted road. We've grown up, grown jaded, and grown resentful. We live in bubbles and refuse to step outside their gossamer comforts.
It's time to lighten up, folks. I wish you no harm and I hope that sentiment is mutual. I know there are more of us today than ever before, but it's no reason to let slide our most fundamental manners. Let's make our parents proud. What do you say?