Thursday, 29 September 2011

A World Without Jerks?

Generally speaking, we're a bunch of jerks. We really are. I don't know if it's because I've experienced a terrible couple of incidents over the last few hours, but right now, I've got a general distaste for humanity.

A few months back I noticed a new ad campaign become prevalent on TTC billboards in Toronto. The campaign, featuring simple graphics and text, is part of this movement encouraging people to do good. It's called the People For Good project.

When I first stumbled across it, I couldn't help but smile, because I thought, "Wow! Here's a group of people who truly want to do well by this world. What a refreshing use of ad space!"

As time went by I began to notice more of these posters, and not just on the TTC anymore. The campaign had spread to the street, stores, and to bus shelters across the city.

I never really thought Toronto was a bad city, you know? I never thought it was filled with people who turn to anger before kindness, and selfishness over simple human consideration. I mean, I understood the point of the campaign, but I didn't think we needed to be reminded of it everywhere we went... to choose good.

But after my experiences this evening hit a boiling point, I realized just how essential it was. The sad reality is that we NEED to be reminded to do good. To be good. To choose good.

Today was a good day. After a stream of not-so-good days, I welcomed the end of my working hours, and headed to to the subway for my daily ride home. I stopped off to pick up my October metro-pass at the TTC booth, and after paying with my debit card, I asked the collector for a receipt. This request was met with a series of angry remarks from him, along with demeaning comments at a very loud tone:

"You already have your debit receipt!"

"You already have a receipt in your hand, why do you need another one? Can't you see what's already in your hand?"

"What the hell is wrong with you? Are you stupid? Woman, just get out of here!" 

My request was simple: I asked him to provide me with an additional receipt to go along with my purchase, because another TTC employee had informed me in previous months, that this was needed for my own accounting purposes. But the employee from today's incident didn't want to hear it. Instead of explaining it to me simply, or asking me for my reason, he chose to yell and humiliate me in front of a growing line of customers.

If I didn't need an additional receipt, he simply had to tell me. If he didn't understand my request, he simply had to ask me. There was no need to yell.

Anyway, I walked away feeling about two feet tall, and completely embarrassed. All because I made a simple request. And for the record, I always pay with my debit card, and when I ask for a receipt, other TTC employees always provide a written one... that includes their signature and employee number.

*Deep Breath*

So suffice to say, my good day did a 180 and turned utterly horrible from this single incident. An incident that could have been avoided with simple customer service (that the TTC prides itself in delivering), active listening and understanding.

Then, while I was getting on the train, I saw a young man standing in the doorway while people were trying to get on. He was blocking the entrance, and making people walk around him, while he stood there with his backpack.

After a number of people squeezed through, one older man said, "Do you mind moving in a bit please? There's people trying to get on."

This simple comment made the young man so angry. The audacity that someone asked him to move in and show some consideration to the people trying to get on the train.

He smirked and responded  with, "Show some respect! Why do you care where I stand?"

Really? Show some respect? You're saying this to an older man who is asking you to show some consideration. The way I see it, you and your 15-year-old self have a lot to learn about respect. And of course he cares where you stand. We all do! Especially when where you choose to stand is making it difficult for other people to get into the train.

Most days, I just really don't understand people.

And then I got to thinking about this campaign. Wow! How desperately do we need it? How desperately do we need to be reminded that life doesn't have to move at a thousand miles a minute? That we don't need to be so quick to jump to judgment. That a wee bit of understanding can make such a huge difference in situations, and in life all together.

What's to gain out of being mean? All you're doing is hurting someone else. I understand that some situations warrant quick wit and rebuttal, because let's face it -- some people deserve what's coming to them. But in everyday behaviour? What do we have to gain by being rude? Unless you're some sort of sadist who thrives on the misfortune of others and from making people feel beneath you. If that's the case, I feel sorry for you. Life is about so much more than sitting on a high chair and looking down your nose at people.

There's something to be said about really connecting with people. About listening. About paying attention to things that don't necessarily involve you. About having points in your day, week, month, where you choose selflessness and kindness.

Doing good and seeing the reaction you get from your actions -- the smiles, the aura that changes from one of darkness and doom to hopefulness? There's nothing quite like it. It fills your soul and it becomes contagious.

So try it. Choose good. Do good. And watch how the wave spreads and takes over humanity. There really is no catch.

Call me a hopeless optimist, but I truly believe (down to my toes) that it's possibl/

Images Courtesy of Google Images


  1. My optimism is fading. Was told by a teen that life's not fair. After he butt in line in front of me at the gas station.

  2. straightfromthecurlsSeptember 30, 2011 9:17 am

    sigh. i know, grace. it's just that i'm so sick of feeling upset all the time, you know? it's gotten to the point where people are shocked when a good deed is passed their way. it should be the norm, not the exception. but i understand what you're saying.

  3. On Wednesday morning as I reached the GO parking lot I could hear the train approaching the station.  In a mad rush I parked and literally ran across the lot through the connecting tunnel and up to the platform. As I reached the top of the stairs I heard the familiar chimes of the doors closing! Rats, i thought to myself, now I'm gonna be an hour late!  To my surprise the conductor radioed the door operator and told him they had one more passenger! They reopened the doors for me! It was a nice gesture on behalf of the conductor!  and one that he did not have to do as the train was ready to pull out of the station! 

    It was a refreshing experience!!  Increased my optimism scale! :)  

  4. straightfromthecurlsSeptember 30, 2011 10:40 am

    See? Now stories like this make me smile! So happy to hear about your positive experience, OK! :) Funny how experiences like this can shape your day, huh?

  5. You know I agree with you.  We do need to be reminded because we too often forget the influence our attitudes have to everything around us.  The other day, I was walking down the street on my coffee break to peruse a bookstore when I passed by a middle aged lady trying to get into a store with a young child (probably around 4 or 5) and an oversized stroller.  She was having a difficult time keeping the door open long enough to squeeze her stroller through with a young child in tow.  So I stepped in and held the door open for her.  It was no big deal really, what difference does 2 minutes make when I'm basically looking for things to do to pass the time?  The lady then turned around and said to me, "thank you, I knew younger people weren't all hopeless."  I felt good in helping her, and bad at the same time.  Has our generation gained such a bad reputation that we are deemed to be mostly hopeless?  And what does that say for our future?  Is our future also hopeless?  Perhaps, we need to start looking past our noses and start seeing the waves our attitude affect our surroundings.  Maybe we're too shrouded in selfishness because media tells us that individuality is good (which it is) but they don't tell us of its shortcomings, such as selfishness, conceit, egotism, etc.   We should instead start thinking of ourselves as part of a community and not solely an individual or start defining ourselves as individuals that has a place and voice in how our community functions.  In short, maybe we need to take responsibility for what it means to be an individual within a sea of other individuals.  Perhaps then our attitudes may change but until then, I gladly welcome this friendly reminder.


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