Addressing Nastiness in Society

My, my. We do tend to get testy as a society now, don’t we? I remember talking to then-sheriff Mark Casteel a couple of years ago. He was telling me about sitting in a line at a red light. One guy actually ran the light (a pretty gutsy move considering the obvious sheriff’s car) and others were impatiently tapping on their steering wheels and then honking when the light changed and the first car didn’t spring forward.

How long is a red light? Despite the fact that they seem like hours, they’re not. They do sometimes illustrate our lack of patience.

Of course, that’s just one example and doesn’t account for actual differences of opinion. Heck, it doesn’t matter if it’s politics, religion, sex or tiddlywinks. It’s been said in this space before, you’re either for me or a’gin me and there ain’t much middle ground.

How do we fix it? Can we?

A lot of folks say that toothpaste is already out of the tube and there’s no putting it back. Me? I’m not so sure. I think it’s not that complicated, we just have to step back and respect the other guy’s opinion. Notice, I didn’t say it was easy. But it’s surely not complex.

There’s a great story that maybe gets to the point.

A traveling salesman finally completed what had been a long stretch of appointments away from home. There were no flights to his destination that evening, so he got a room and early the next morning headed to the airport the required two hours ahead of his flight. But when he got there, he found the flight was overbooked and he had to wait until early afternoon for the next one.

Unfortunately for him, that flight wasn’t direct and he had to endure numerous stopovers at airports all over the country. On some, he was able to stay on the plane but on most he had to race to another terminal. Twice, he barely made the connection – and got no sympathy from gate attendants who seemed to resent the fact they had to check in one more passenger.

As you might imagine, his irritation kept going up and up and up.

Finally, at around 10 p.m. the last flight lifted off and he was on his way home! He was so relieved he didn’t mind much that they were out of coffee by the time they got to his seat.

Around midnight they landed! However, it seemed to take forever to get off the plane while everyone in front of him struggled with the overhead compartments. Once in the terminal he made a beeline for the carousel to get his suitcase. After what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, the flashing light came on, the alarm sounded and the carousel sprang to life. One by one, suitcases and duffel bags wound their way around.

Not his.

People were grabbing their bags and heading out. He looked at his watch. It was 12:20. The carousel was getting emptier and emptier. Pretty soon, he was the only one left and his suitcase was nowhere to be found.

Angry beyond belief, he found the lost baggage office and one tired clerk. The frustrations from not being able to fly out the night before to the canceled flight to the multiple stopovers, the poor service, the lousy attitudes . . . all of it spilled out and he unloaded. His voice was loud. He waved his arms. He ranted and raved. All the while, the clerk just stood there.

Finally, after the man was done, the clerk calmly leaned forward. “Sir, at this very moment there are only two people on this planet who care one iota about your luggage, and one of us is rapidly losing interest.”

It’s a lesson we can all learn from. Sure, we have our frustrations, our opinions. But none of that changes the fact that we need other people. Let’s make sure we don’t force them to lose their interest.

– Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at [email protected]