Usually bumper stickers, no matter how hard they try, don’t move me to contemplate their meanings or take action for the causes they promote. Visualize world peace? Yeah, OK, now what? Think globally, act locally. What exactly does that mean? But there’s one that caught my eye the first time I saw it: Mean People Suck. (Of course, by now it’s getting really old and I’m sick of it.) But though I’ll agree that mean people do, indeed, suck, I’d have to say that self-centered, idiotic people suck even worse.
If you’ve ever been tempted to buy a self-help book, save your money because I’m here to tell you some secrets about how not to be a jerk. For those of you who feel my pain, please help spread the word. OK, here we go.
First lesson is on how to drive. For starters, use your turn signal. Hello, what do you think it’s there for? The worst are the people who signal as they turn — their blinkers aren’t broken, they’re just inconsiderate morons.
Then don’t forget to make sure your signal is off after you turn — it’s so annoying when people drive for blocks and blocks looking like they’re about to turn.
And when you’re waiting to go left and you get the green arrow, hurry up and go already! Odds are good there are a dozen people behind you who would also like to take advantage of this arrow and if you don’t move your keister then no one else can move theirs, either.
Intersections. Why do they baffle so many people? At a four-way stop, whoever stopped first gets to go first. That’s not too difficult, is it? If two people stop at the same time, the person to the right gets to go first. So just go; this tentative almost-going-then-not-being-sure is making the rest of us crazy! And if you’re at a two-way stop but it’s the other car who has to yield, guess what? You can just go, you don’t need to stop, too, that’s the whole point.
On to telephone etiquette. If you dial the wrong number and realize it when the person on the other end answers, don’t just hang up. Were you raised by wolves? It’s not that hard to just say, “Sorry, wrong number.”
And I know a lot of students need to make money and take telemarketing jobs, and I don’t want to knock earning honest wages. But why do these phone people need to be so annoying? It’s bad enough that they interrupt you when you’re trying to eat dinner, take a shower or get romantic with your honey, but then when you say you’re not interested in whatever they’re pitching, they go on and on and try to make you feel guilty. Don’t you people have any self respect? Quit bugging us, for God’s sake.
And speaking of communication technology, if you’re going to see a film or a play, turn off your pagers and cellular phones beforehand. I went to “A Prairie Home Companion” a few weeks ago and not only did the woman behind me keep making tons of noise with her foil package of peanuts, but the guy next to her got a phone call in the middle of the show. He just let it ring and ring and ring. Two minutes later it started ringing again and he finally grabbed the phone and ran to the lobby. Didn’t these people’s parents teach them any manners? By the way, the movie theater is not your living room. No one else wants to hear your conversation, so pipe down until the film’s over. And stop kicking the back of my seat every time you cross your legs.
Here are some tips for making college “the good old days” instead of just the embarrassing period of your life when you acted like a jerk all the time. Believe it or not, not all your classmates are enthralled by your immense knowledge of the subject at hand. It seems like in every class there’s got to be some guy who always raises his hand and says to the instructor, “Excuse me, but I used to be a nuclear physicist and I don’t think I need anyone to review the periodic chart of the elements for me. …” Great, then go get a job and shut up.
OK, and when you’re riding the bus, especially those crowded Campus Connectors, can’t you just put your backpack on your lap? Do you really expect people to stand while your book bag gets its own seat? This rule applies in those crowded lecture halls, too. And when instructors hand back papers, it’s really rude to ask people whom you barely know to tell you what grade they received. It’s none of your business.
Now, this one is so gross. A recent nationwide study found that 26 percent of women don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom and 39 percent of men don’t, either. (The study was conducted by researchers who hid in stalls or pretended they were combing their hair while counting the number of people who did and didn’t suds up.) Haven’t people heard? “Dirty hands spread disease!” Hi, pleased to meet — oh, yuck! And speaking of hygiene, here’s a news-flash: Drowning yourself in cologne will not hide the fact that you haven’t bathed in a while. It just gives you an even stronger, more disgusting stench, so don’t go around thinking you’ve fooled anyone.
Here are a few more quick tips: Don’t smack your gum. Don’t dispose of your gum in drinking fountains. Hold the door open for people. Say please and thank you. Don’t tailgate. Don’t butt in line. Tip your waiters and waitresses adequately. Let people into traffic. Wave a quick “thanks” to people who let you into traffic. Don’t litter. When you have a cart full of groceries, offer to let someone with only a couple things go ahead of you. Don’t blow smoke in people’s faces. Don’t put people on hold forever. Don’t crack your knuckles in class. Don’t whine (unless you’re a columnist). Don’t make small talk with people on the bus when you can tell they’re not in the mood. Let people get off the bus before you get on. When you get off the bus, don’t smack everyone in the head with your backpack on the way out. Give up your seat to someone you can tell needs it worse than you do. Call to let people know you’re going to be late. Don’t ask if it’s cold enough for ya. Don’t complain if you didn’t vote.
That about sums it up. Give it a shot.
Kris Henry’s column appears in the Daily every Thursday. Her e-mail address is [email protected]