I typically don’t work Fridays. One of the perks of grading papers all weekend. I always promise myself that one of the three days I have off will be spent not working, a promise I break steadily. It’s fine. It’s just me. On my Friday’s off, I typically ride my bicycle to Tryst, an amazingly trendy and hip coffee shop that I go to so I can see trendy and hip women. What? I’m honest.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with being a nice person. This is something you don’t have to be in the city. You can be as rude as you like. People expect it. In the city, we are too busy to care about your feelings. Toughen up. Get use to the abuse.
At Tryst, a seat opened as soon as I walked in. A beautiful young woman, maybe twenty five with a laptop, eyed the spot. She needed the table way more than me.
“You want that?” I said, pointing.
“No, no,” she said, looking down, waving away. Normally, that would have been enough. I ASKED.
“You sure?” I asked again.
“You don’t mind?” she asked. That’s not what she really said. She really said, without saying it, “You are really giving me that seat?” Seats at a table by yourself next to the huge bay windows are rare. People covet them and no one gives them up easily.
“Please,” I said. She took the table seat. I took the couch.
If this were a movie, I would have asked her out. Or something. This isn’t a movie.
I wasn’t nice because I want to charm my way into heaven or because I wanted to sleep with her. I just felt like being nice.
Holding a door for an older lady. Moving out the way when a guy is stocking shelves at a store. Giving a bum some money.
“Here,” I said last week to a guy with the cup, sitting on a crate, his clothes dirty, his hands and face weathered. I handed him a 2 dollar bill.
“Man, this is a collector’s item!” he screamed. He put his cup down and reached to his back pocket, putting the bill into his wallet.
I firmly believe that, naturally, we are nice people. We are socialized to be jerks.
We make excuses to be jerks. The world is harsh and abrasive. IF I DON’T STAB YOU, YOU’LL STAB ME! SO, I’M SORRY! I’M STABBING YOU! This is the world. But, not really. Yes, the world is harsh. It is abrasive. But you’re not going to make the world any less harsh or any less abrasive by giving everyone that slights you the middle finger.
True, my moments of niceness are weakened by the sheer evil thoughts that I harbor in my skull. I think most people are idiots. I never tell them that, though. Another way I’m being a nice guy.
This is all topical. Wednesday was “Chick-Fil-A” appreciation day. You know full well that Chick-Fil-A has given money to groups and/or organizations that help fight gay-rights initiatives. Wednesday was a day for people to show support for the franchise by going and eating there.
Where I grew up, there used to be a service station in town that we never went to. Never. We always went to another one, even when it was a bit out of the way. I asked my Grandmother why we never went there.
“We just don’t,” My Grandmother said, which was a stronger authority than the Bible. I knew why we didn’t go there. That service station wasn’t very fond of Black people. To say it nicely.
You can say the whole Chick-Fil-A thing is a publicity stunt, that it’s not a big deal, that people are blowing it out of proportion. Or you can understand what I understand. The business of Chick-Fil-A isn’t very nice.
One final note, just to show you that I have both a Devil and an Angel on my shoulders: Riding my Bike up 14th street with a pack full of groceries, a car cut me off. It pulled in to the bicycle lane. I was going up hill. In order to keep my momentum, which is sweeter than honey, I swerved into traffic, passing the offending car.
“CHECK YOURSELF, ASSHOLE!” I screamed, pedaling uphill. Not very nice of me, I know. Baby steps, my friends. Baby steps.