Reasons to believe

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Photo: flickr.com courtesy Creative Commons

There’s a reason I still have faith in humanity.

I left the house to get groceries on Sunday in a foul mood. Passing an empty beer bottle slung by some slob into the planter outside my building only confirmed a belief the world was going to hell in a hay-cart. All day I’d felt disappointed and let down due to a good friend’s behaviour the previous evening while at my place for dinner.

I enjoy cooking for others and always make an effort. Taking advantage of the fact I live within walking distance of the culinary mecca that is Borough Market, I’d spent more than I should and most of the morning fighting crowds to get the necessary ingredients.

Most of the afternoon was spent slaving over a hot stove while preparing my culinary output for the evening. Then, before my guests arrived, the flat was cleaned and the music chosen, all with the intention of being the best host possible. My anticipation quickly became bemusement when the first of these friends turned up drunk.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m certainly not anti-alcohol and, indeed, enjoy a bottle of red myself most weekends. In fact I’d purchased a couple of excellent bottles for both my guests and I to share that evening. What I found so annoying was this person – someone who frankly, should know better, couldn’t be bothered to wait for the rest of us.

Many readers simply won’t understand why this upset me. The closest comparison I can draw for their benefit is, if having prepared dinner early, I proceeded to sit down and started eating the dessert before my guests even walked through the door.

Sadly I think my friend’s behaviour is indicative of a much wider, far more serious problem affecting society. Something that, despite its seriousness can be summed up in three short words: lack of courtesy.

Unfortunately said friend’s social misdemeanours did not end there. Throughout the evening they spent most of their time, including while seated at the table eating dinner with the rest of us, texting someone due to the possibility of getting lucky later. Again, call me old-fashioned, but I was raised to believe if someone invites you to their home and takes the time to cook a meal for you, the very least you can do is pay attention to what they and everyone else present are saying. More lack of courtesy.

I was walking back from the supermarket bemoaning this person’s behaviour during a call to another friend, someone who shares my mostly jaundiced view of the way people treat each other these days. He was appalled, as I knew he would be. He knows the person in question and, like me, usually has a high opinion of him.

As we spoke, I realized I’d forgotten to buy something so needed to pop into the little supermarket beneath my building. After explaining this, I promised to call again when I was back in my flat. Unlike some people I don’t think it’s civilised or necessary to walk around a store talking on my mobile. I also feel even though you’re not friends and they’re only doing their job, the very least you can give anyone serving you is your attention and a smile.

It amazes me how many people I see in shops completely ignoring the person serving them. Any acknowledgement they manage is little more than a nod while they conduct an entirely different conversation on their mobile phone about football, EastEnders or what Becky in accounting did at the pub Friday. Again: lack of courtesy.

After buying what I needed, while walking back to my building’s entrance I noticed a guy cutting branches away from a tree on the kerb that had become especially overgrown around the base. Only the other day I’d been thinking how untidy this was and how much it spoiled the surrounding area.

Believing he was a council worker, I stopped to thank him for a job well done and coming out on a Sunday but recognized him as someone who lived in my building. Appreciation quickly became admiration. I congratulated him for taking time out of his Sunday to do a job the hundreds of other occupants in my building and those surrounding it, including myself, simply couldn’t be bothered to do.

Retracing my steps, I picked up the empty bottle from the planter on the way in, stopping in my building’s bin area to put it in with the recycling. Phoning my friend to continue our conversation, I told him what happened and he agreed: despite the rudeness epidemic sweeping the modern world there are still many good, considerate people out there.

It’s funny how the universe works.

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