We can afford to slow down
Modern society has less and less time to waste on unimportant things like other people, and even here we’re following the country’s lead on this one.
How else to explain all those aggressive and inconsiderate driving habits on our roads? “I’m in a hurry and too bad if I endanger someone else’s life? My time is more important. They better get out of my way!”
Getting annoyed at traffic jams, long lift lines, etc., is ridiculous, though impatience with slow inefficient and uncaring service at shops and post offices is understandable. In either case, it’s pointless. The world doesn’t rotate any faster to appease your mood.
It’s easy to fall into the impatience trap. I do it all the time. “I’m late! What are those idiots doing? No! Now they’re going to talk to each other? Can’t they see I’m self-pitying, intolerant and angry?”
Fortunately, impatience is easy to deal with: a quick hard mental smack in the head to change one’s perspective and all can be well. Five minutes can be either a long or short time, and it’s usually up to you.
Three-hundred seconds of fuming, glowering at every obvious question, eyes rolling as the cashier pauses to say hello and grinding teeth as someone searches for the exact change is a very long time.
Five minutes of imagining what the person ahead is cooking tonight, what part of Russia the cashier is from, and surveying the eclectic fashion styles displayed by local supermarket shoppers is not a long time.
Seeing life from the point of view of those around you makes waiting much easier. Remember, if you’re late it’s more your fault than theirs, and it’s probably not that important anyway. Not much really is.
You could try talking to someone and they might even find you interesting enough to reply. If someone tries to talk to you, respond! It is a huge compliment. A stranger is risking being embarrassingly snubbed to find out more about you and what you think. You’ll make their day if you are nice.
It is kind of sad that we’ll now often take a chair lift (let alone an airplane) and never exchange words with out co-riders. I’m not sure why, maybe a fear of strangers or we look at from the business viewpoint as just a wasted investment of effort. “What can they do for me? I’ll never see them again, so why bother?”
Often people who maintain that they’re the quiet type who enjoy their own space, etc., scramble desperately for inane comments and banal platitudes when the stranger in the gondola is gorgeous or famous. Talking to strangers keeps your small talk up to snuff for when you meet that special someone you really want to entertain.
Whenever I’ve managed to overcome my inertia, self-absorption and fear and enter into conservation, I usually enjoy it. I get at least a brief glimpse into the possibilities of other lives.
At worst it’s a five-minute ride of predictable chatter. At best, I will meet one of those genuinely good people who catch you by surprise, inspirationally so. I can leave a chairlift trying to be a better person with the comforting feeling that there are these unassuming forces for good out there, quietly building up the human race’s karma. Makes for a good day.
Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.
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