About two years ago on the Friday before the fourth of July, I was leaving the office for a long weekend. It was hot outside and I was ready to get home and get the holiday started. I pulled out onto sixty third street and headed down over the bridge well over the speed limit. Then I noticed a policeman motioning me to pull over when I approached the bottom of the bridge.
I pulled into the road leading into Swope Park and waited as the officer walked over to my car. He was very polite and talked to me as a human being. I returned the respect and jokingly asked him what he was doing out here on a day like this? He answered that they told him to go out and write some tickets, so he was just doing what he was told. I noticed he was sweating pretty bad so I turned the air conditioning vent so it blew out the window cooling him. He thanked me and I told him it wasn't a problem. He ended up giving me a ticket but for a minimum speed so that I wouldn't get points on my license. We parted with take cares and such and I went on my way.
Let me state that I respect all police officers and firemen. I realize they put their very lives on the line everyday to protect me and those I love. Officers should treat the public with respect in return until there is a reason not to. This fine officer was polite and treated me very well. I returned the favor and I felt like he respected me as a human being as I respected him. It was a two way street.
Fast forward to last Tuesday night on my way to dinner. I was driving down sixty-third street towards Brookside. As I arrived in the Brookside area, I noticed a man stepping out to cross the street from the opposite side. Sixty-third is about five lanes wide at that point and so I didn't think anything about continuing driving. Unless the man broke out into a mad dash across all lanes of traffic and he had the speed of a gazelle, I was not going to come close to hitting him. However, there was an unmarked police car sitting in the right lane so I switched lanes to go around him. Immediately I heard the quick siren and as I stopped the car, the officer pulled up beside me.
At this point, both of us had driven in front of the pedestrian and both lanes of sixty-third street were blocked, backing up traffic behind us. I put the passenger window down and he looked at me with a totally disgusting look. He asked me very harshly if I had seen the pedestrian crossing the street. "Yes" I answered and then he shook his head and went on a little terse tirade. "Don't you think you should have stopped to let him walked by, the way that I did???" I didn't know what to say. I just shook my head as I grasped for words to answer his question. He then just shook his head, waved me off with his hand and told me with disgust to go on, get out of here.
That officer did not get my respect. He treated me like an underling instead of a human being. There were plenty of better ways to have approached me. I realize that perhaps he had a bad day or something. Still, if officers want the public to show them the respect they deserve, they should show respect to us ordinary people until our words and action show them disrespect. I had respect for this man when I first saw his car but I was fairly angered and put off by the way he had treated me with his words and actions.
The point is that when the officer was nice to me, my immediate response was to treat him with the respect I thought he deserved. When the second officer treated me as an idiot that was too dumb for him to even waste his time with, he lost my respect.
That is the way it is in life. That is the way it should be anyway. There are a lot of nice people out there but it is the not so nice that attract our attention. Something that happened last night was what brought me to this topic.
I had stopped by the pharmacy to get my prescription refilled and then went across the street to the Pizza Hut to pick up dinner. If Barb and I are going to get pizza, we get it on a Thursday night. Trash pick up is Friday morning so this way we don't have a big pizza box sitting around all week. So this was going to be a pizza night.
I walked into the cool little pick up store and went to the counter. A lady in back yelled up in a very nice voice that she would be with me in a moment and followed it with "sir". This immediately kicked in my be nice personality as I told her there was no hurry and followed it with "Maa'am". After a while she came to the counter and took my order. She was very polite as was I to her. It was a pleasant experience on a day that had been stressful to me. This encounter in the Pizza Hut would make my whole evening a little better.
As I went to sit on a bench to wait for my pizza I noticed an older gentleman, older than me but I am not going to call him "old". I think the word "old" includes me now, but he was older than me. He nodded at me as I sat down to wait for my pizza.
After a while a young kid of about ten years old walked into the Pizza Hut to pick up some chicken wings he had ordered earlier. As it turned out he was all of six cents short of paying for his food. I asked him if he needed a quarter and he looked at me with an inquisitive look. I asked him again if he needed a quarter and I got up and walked to the counter to see how much money he needed. He told me that he was six cents short and as I was reaching in my pocket for a quarter, the older gentleman got up and placed a dime on the counter. Our eyes caught each other and we both returned to our benches.
After the kid got his food he turned to the older man and thanked him. Then he turned to me and thanked me as well. I am not use to kids being so polite and respectful these days and it kind of took me aback for him to thank me when I had not done anything but make the offer. Both me and the older man told the kid that he was welcome and it wasn't a problem. The kid left with his food without a care in the world.
The older man's order came up and I noticed that both he and the lady behind the counter treated each other with mutual respect and kindness. As the man picked up his pizzas, and headed to the door he looked at me and told me to take care. I responded with a "you too" and it felt good. The older man and myself had gained a respect for each other by the simple act of helping a ten year old out of a small jam. It was a big act of kindness but even a small act of kindness can go a long ways.
That kindness and respect build upon each other and by the time I walked out to my car with my pizza, a lot of kindness and respect had been floating around inside that little Pizza Hut that afternoon. It didn't take a lot. All it took was talking to people with out an attitude and then seeing the respect come from the kindness.
I know that this isn't always the case. You can be as nice as you know how and some people will still just act like you don't matter. The world would be better off without you or whatever. Sadly that is the way the world is a lot of the time. But being nice at least gives rise to the chance that some respect will be traded in a situation.
Lord knows that I am not always very nice at all. I have bad days like my friend the Policeman may have had. Sometimes I just don't feel nice for some reason. That doesn't make it right, but simply makes me human. We should try to be nice though. I wish there was a meter on me that I could look at and see my niceness factor so that I could correct it. Most times I don't realize that I am not being very nice. In the end though if you aren't nice you will never get respect. If you are nice and treat people with respect, at least there is a chance that it will be returned in kind, and I think the world could use a little more of that these days.