Monday, September 12, 2011

Three behaviours to avoid

Yesterday during a visit to the supermarket I encountered three types of behaviour people should avoid, within a few minutes of each other. Having these things happen in such proximity made me aware that many people don't realize the consequences of their actions, so I decided it was worth writing about, even if these seem like obvious things to avoid.

1. Sexual harassment: As I entered the supermarket, the security guard said, "With a smile like that, I won't even check your bag". I hadn't been aware I was smiling, and it was probably my normal polite expression. I felt very uncomfortable to have a stranger I'd never seen before engage in this sort of banter. Then, when I left the supermarket trying to avoid any further contact, he said, "Where's that smile, then?", and I reacted with a forced, self-defensive smile. The man seemed creepy to me. He was old, had a goatee and a long, greasy pony tail. I don't usually judge people by their appearance, but in this case his attitude confirmed the impression his appearance made. If I'd said something like "Don't talk to me like that", he would have become defensive, saying it was just some harmless fun. He would probably not understand, or care, that it made me feel uncomfortable and that for me that was an intrusion into my privacy. Some readers may be surprised that I could be upset by something so minor. Indeed, I have experienced more serious cases of sexual harassment in the past, and I know many women would accept this as natural. But the point is that such men frequently treat women they encounter as sources of entertainment rather than as people with feelings. So, if you are a man reading this and have engaged in this sort of "harmless fun", please think again.

2. Inconsiderate behaviour: I have seen this often, but yesterday there were so many shopping trolleys (= carts) in the supermarket car park (parking lot), and in one place there was a whole stack of them almost blocking the way so I had to drive carefully to avoid them. Many years ago, supermarkets introduced the lock mechanism on trolleys, where you put in a coin and then have to return the trolley after use to reclaim the coin. This was supposed to ensure that people put them back in the right place instead of leaving them all over the car park. What happened is that people now have coin-shaped pushers that they can use to unlock the trolleys, so they no longer have to worry about retrieving their coins, and the situation has reverted to the original, pre-lock state. People don't seem to have enough consideration for others to put their trolleys back, and this can even endanger drivers. Until another method is invented to ensure the return of trolleys to their place after use, I would like to call on everyone to be considerate and responsible, take a few more steps, and put the trolley away. And this is just one example of the sort of selfish, short-sided lack of consideration that is prevalent in society.

3. Absent-minded behaviour: Then, when I was driving out of the car park, I almost had a head-on collision with a car trying to turn into the car park exit, which was clearly marked with a no entry sign. Luckily, we were both driving very slowly, and my headlights were on. As soon as the driver noticed me, he realized his mistake and turned the other way. But this demonstrated to me that careless and absent-minded behaviour could potentially have dangerous outcomes. I am a very cautious driver, and when I enter an underground car park, I turn on the lights, take off my sunglasses, and look around carefully to make sure I am driving the right way. This is not the first time I have seen people driving the wrong way in this car park, so I am always alert for people doing the wrong thing there. So I would like to call on people to be more aware of their surroundings, especially when driving.

I often wish I lived in a world with better people in it. There is not much I can do to change the world, but perhaps readers of this post will become more aware of their actions and of the impact such things can have on others. If through my writing, or as a personal role model, I can help even a few people change their behaviour, that will be my contribution to the net sum of goodness in the world.

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