Tag Archives: civility

Friendly Skies

Courtesy of United Airlines, 2016

Courtesy of United Airlines, 2016

On the plane, United, we fly to Chicago for the Columbus Day weekend. Beverage cart in hand, working alone, the mustached male flight attendant asks, “Drink?”

I reply, “sparkling water,” then as an afterthought, “in the can.” Noticing he had turned away, out of my peripheral vision, I wondered if he had heard me.

I repeat, “In the can, please.”

Slapping down the napkin, placing the can, an empty blue plastic cup and a crunchy Snack Mix alongside, “I heard you,” he said, in a chastising tone.

The water was cool, no need for ice.

A half hour later, the same attendant returned with his cart to collect trash. He pronounced, “We have a new recycling system, no messy bags.”

I watched as he tipped each empty blue plastic cup upside down, one on top of the other, pressing each in turn to assure a neat stack. If the cup held a paper napkin or the empty snack package, he made certain to separate the paper and place it in its proper well.

Marv, trying to help, leaned forward from his seat across the aisle to place his empty plastic sandwich container on the bin. Marv’s left arm still in the air, the cart lurched forward as the attendant grabbed the container. Exasperated, he instructed, “This belongs in recycling,” popping his find in a well.

For a brief moment, I worried about Marv’s arm, whether or not the cart had bumped him, but Marv was quick to pull back and avoid a mishap. Friendly skies? Not so much, where was the “Thank you, sir.”

Minutes before readying the cabin to prepare for the final descent, the attendant came by with two large plastic bags— one for paper, the other, for cans and plastic. Again, Marv failed to anticipate the wary eyed, precise soldier as he placed his cup into the closest bag. “We recycle,” the attendant chastised, code for wrong bag as he corrected the error. But then, a tiny smile appeared at the corners of his mouth. “Oh, that’s all right,” he chirped.

Turning to me, he picked up my can and cup, tightly stacked, paper separated, in wait at the edge of my tray. Then, with almost a full smile and for the first time, looking directly at me, he said, “We recycle, you know.”

“Yes,” I said, “Good job.”

“Every little bit helps, you know.”

“Yes, indeed,” I replied.

I’m grateful for United’s recycling program. In retrospect, the male attendant, obsessively careful, worked alone; he was on the clock, needing to serve drinks and manage the recycling protocol. I have my own dedicated bins— plastic bags, cardboard, paper, plastics and glass— tucked away in drawers, to be placed in a large green bin on the curb for pickup Tuesday mornings.

On the return flight, two women manned the cart. They worked cooperatively and efficiently.  I was grateful for the ease of their smiles.




Blowing off Steam: Civility on my Mind

Hillary at First Presidential Debate

Hillary at First Presidential Debate

When I think of civility, I think of the efficient, gloved female cashier whose eyes and hands waltz in rhythm as she begins the task of scanning my grocery items. Always, even if her feet hurt from standing four consecutive hours, she greets me with a smile. Always, we chat a little, as she invokes the machine to approve my charge.

Civility, in retail and in much of life—takes patience and appreciation that the person with whom you are engaged is deserving of respect.

Post the first presidential debate, civility is on my mind. Trump’s total lack of civility, his petulant, insistent, whatever-is-in-my-mind-I-am-entitled-to-say tic-like behavior made me squirm. At the halfway mark, I began to pace back and forth from the living room to the kitchen. I needed something sweet to get me through his mean spirited grunts and invectives. I came away empty handed. In truth, nothing I could ingest could calm my disgust and annoyance until Hillary spelled out how she has proved her metal in the stamina department.

“As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” Hillary said.

I am grateful for Hillary’s spirited civility. It took discipline to stand before 84 million viewers, to think on her feet, speak out, and continue on as if she were not being interrupted 51 times with words such as “Wrong, Not True and Where Did You Find This?

According to the on-line McMillan Dictionary, a debate is defined as “an informal and spirited but generally civil discussion of opposing views.” Wikipedia tells us that the word civility comes from the word civilis, which in Latin means “citizen” and that “Civility is the action of working together productively to reach a common goal.”

Since the time of our nation’s beginning, the question of civility in political discourse has been discussed. Wikipedia cites a letter written by John Adams, our second president, to his wife about his “fear that in every assembly, members will obtain influence by noise, not sense.” Is that not what we witnessed during the debate— Trump’s effort to distract with noise— sniffling, grunting, single words, all manner of rudeness—to gain attention, cause confusion, detract from the words of his opponent.

But Trump is more than a serial detractor. His inability to contain inappropriate responses was on full display. In psychological terms, he lacks “Executive Functioning,” the ability to step back, discern and contain the effect of what he is saying.

I close with respect and gratitude for Hillary, whose executive ability assures the option of a disciplined and discerning presidential candidate.