Are you a nice person or a jerk?

18 Dec

jerkImagine the world was clearly divided between nice folks and jerks. I am not talking about good versus evil, but just your general behavior in the public sphere.

Now be honest and ask yourself, are you nice or a total jerk?

Let’s find out.

When you’re in the lift and someone is rushing to get in as the door is about to shut, do you wave your hands to activate the motion detector so the doors slide back open, or do you stand like a sphinx reveling in their misery as they come close but don’t quite make it?

Talking of enclosed public spaces, do you control the urge, or do you pass wind when it’s almost impossible to determine the culprit?

At the supermarket, if you develop buyer’s remorse about the prosciutto shaved fresh for you at the deli, do you just leave it concealed  in a random cold section knowing it’s likely going to be discarded, or do you buy it regardless?

And while we’re still at the supermarket, when you’ve unpacked your groceries in the car, do you return the shopping trolley back to it’s place or do you abandon it as a potential wayward hazard?

Do you sneeze and cough in a handkerchief or on your sleeve to avoid propagating your microbes, or do you let it all out not caring you could be patient zero of a deadly pandemic?

And if you were certain you weren’t going to get fined would you park in a spot designated for the disabled, or would you never do it out of principle?

Do you hold the door for others and maintain eye contact with a smile, or do you zip through, not caring if the door hits them in the face on the way back?

If you and another person reach the queue at roughly the same time, do you allow the other person to go ahead of you or do you walk faster to claim your lead?

When you bump into other people, do you automatically assume it’s your fault and apologize, or do you fire a dirty look at the other person?

Do you smile and say good morning to strangers, or do you habitually ignore the world, living behind your Beats headphones?

Do you talk candidly to your neighbors about things they do that annoy you, or do you leave passive aggressive notes?

Gents, do you put the toilet seat up in a public restroom as you hose down, or do you assume when it comes to urine on the toilet seat it’s every man for himself?

Do you praise your friends in public and criticize them in private, or do the exact opposite?

When you drive, do you always give pedestrians right of way, or are you always trying to get ahead of them?

Do you only buy stuff  you plan to keep, or do you sometimes buy things to use just once only to return them during the grace period?

Are you the sort of person who breaks up with a significant other over email, text or Facebook, or do you do everything face-to-face regardless of the pain?

Have you ever faked a heart attack or other serious illness on a plane to be upgraded to the next class? Or requested the disability service to whiz through customs and immigration when you are perfectly healthy? Or is that just not your style?

Do you give false compliments to gain petty advantages, or do you only say nice things to people when you genuinely mean them?

So what are you, a kind soul or a total a** hole?

Here’s what I think. A very small minority of the folks reading this are going to swing heavily towards being either totally angelic, or totally rotten. But for most of us, we will fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Nice 24/7 can be colorless and irritating. And rotten all the time is unacceptable.

The truth is, as humans, our own survival and best interest is hard-coded somewhere in our primordial blue print. Living in mega societies and adapting to a system that respects the other is in a way counter-intuitive to the basic set of animal mores that have helped our species evolve tenaciously over time.

There will be times when even if our general disposition leans towards being cordial, it’s going to be impossible not to be a jerk. Such as when we are grieving or just fuming angry. If you’ve just discovered your spouse is banging their sexy personal trainer, you aren’t going to hold the door open for the chatterbox old lady who lives on the first floor. And if you’re that personal trainer who just discovered the cute, wealthy client you’ve been sleeping with is no where near as single as they claimed to be, not only will you not care to return the shopping trolley to its bay, you may also be tempted to ram it in the closest minivan as a blanket assault on all married couples. Or in other words, when we are stressed or threatened, we revert to our basic, survival codes which prod us to be less amiable.

Sticking by the  rules of public civility makes life generally more pleasant for everyone, but for most people it requires that we actively choose to play nice. One day at a time.


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