Smiling and other common courtesies

Today I went on a run with a new running friend. It was a great run! Good conversation was had the entire run and before I knew it 6 miles zipped by before I had time to question why the heck I was running 6 miles on a bitter cold January morning.

During the run my friend, who is a recent NJ transplant, mentioned that she and her husband weren’t thrilled with NJ life. When I questioned this statement, she answered frankly – People are just angry here! She had lived in Colorado for many years and, while I was born and raised on the East Coast, had spent several years out west myself before relocated back east. We commiserated over the lack of friendliness in the tri-state area with examples of road rage, blatant rudeness, no smiling, and a general lack of common courtesy. Even fellow runners, we both noticed, rarely smiled or waved or nodded or gave any other response to the smiles and waves we both try to dole out while running. Appalling!

Now if you are from the East Coast and are thoroughly angered by my rant saying to yourself – People around here aren’t like that! I’m not like that! What is she talking about?!?

Yeah. Right.

Spend a few weeks anywhere on the west coast and you’ll be shocked by the difference between the two ends of our country. I drove into San Francisco a lot when I lived in California and that city is crazy with traffic! But there’s NO HONKING! Seriously. Even with hours of bumper to bumper traffic, there’s no road rage. Or at least if there was some I didn’t see any. Whereas around here, honking and swearing and cutting someone off and tailgating are a matter of course; you’re actually kinda odd if you don’t participate in these asphalt rituals.

Another story: I went to American Eagle the other day to exchange a pair of jeans. The woman who rang me up looked as though I had just run over her favorite dog, then backed up and ran him over again. It was really that bad. I left the mall (or maul as my funny dad likes to call it) with a sick feeling that stuck around longer for a while.

Yet another story: When I was running up a particular long hill by my house, I saw another woman on the same side of the street running toward me. She was older and a bit overweight and struggling with her jog. But, as the conversation in my head went, she’s out here! She’s trying to be fit and jog which is pretty great, so kudos to her! I decided to take a gamble and tell her when I passed her. Me panting uphill: “Looking great!!” I shouted as I ran past. Her whole face changed from the grumpy struggle of someone who would rather be somewhere, anywhere, else, to a full-blown smile. It was awesome! It made me run faster and that hill not seem quite so daunting. And it only took a second to make someone feel good (or at least that’s what I’m hoping).

The moral of my story is this: Smile. (Although for all you men out there who tell women to smile, don’t. It’s annoying and one my number one pet peeves.) But find that thing that makes you smile and let it affect the rest of your day. Because a friendly smile and a kind gesture really do go a long way and it only takes a moment.

    • alissagrosso
    • January 10th, 2010

    Oh good, it’s not just me. I’ve been referring to Clinton as a town full of unfriendly people for awhile, because when I pass someone on the sidewalk and say “hi” or “good morning” or whatever I usually get nothing but a grumpy look in return.

    A few years ago, I was visiting my parents here and took a walk up to the library I was waiting to cross the road along with and older lady (no one would stop to let us go of course) and we started chatting, when suddenly she stopped and said, “Wait, you’re not from here, are you?” I thought maybe I had some sort of tell tale accent, but no it was just that I was actually talking to her.

    I will say, that not all of NJ is like this, perhaps just the more affluent parts of it.

    • I think there are just some people who are so wrapped up in themselves that they forget that they are just a small part of a larger community/world.

      Thanks for sharing your anecdote, Alissa!

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