Manners Meltdown: When being nice is not so easy

Winter happens every year at this time in the NCR, still Ottawans struggle with the frigid temperatures, dark days and bad moods which unfortunately are in great supply. Recently posted on my Facebook page was the following adage: Winter’s Five Stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and April; the last one if we are lucky! This year it seems to be particularly distasteful with many wondering will winter ever end. Heck, last month even the groundhogs couldn’t agree on whether we would have an early spring (Nova Scotia’s Shubencadie Sam) or not (Ontario’s Wiarton Willie). Now with the official start of spring 2014 almost here, snow still falling and temps rarely going above zero, many are shaking their heads and asking “why do I live in this (insert expletive) city?” I for one think it is an excellent question at this time of year.

It then stands to reason with most of us being “snowed under” by the brutal reality of winter, our manners get buried as well. And honestly, it is understandable. When your face is chapped from waiting for the bus, your car has skidded for the third time in ten minutes narrowly missing said people waiting for said bus and everyone you encounter is scowling about the wretched weather, you are not inclined to be the doyen or doyenne of decorum. It is inevitable infractions are going to happen, hence the title of this etiquette musing. Let me begin by sharing a tale of one of my own recent “manners meltdowns”.

IMG_0338- A King

Having given up my car a little over a year ago, I am now one of the many bipeds (and sometime OC Transpo rider) who relies on the kindness of FWCs( Friends with Cars) to help me from time to time with a ride to far flung destinations; in this case the Food Basics at Hampton Park. For as long as I can remember, whether I’m a driver, passenger or pedestrian, I have always had a fear of something “really bad” happening in a parking lot. I will back up and not see someone, I will see someone the driver does not, or my worst case scenario, and someone will not see me until I am parking lot road kill. With these thoughts in my head that I cautiously approached the store entrance, in my periphery noticing a pickup truck turning into my path. Having scored a trifecta in the broken leg department (right, left, right) when it comes to winter’s icy sidewalks and roads, I do not do is rush or run, ever. I want to avoid a fourth encounter with the orthopaedic clinic. A believer in the good of mankind, I assumed the driver would stop and let me cross completely. Instead he decided to keep edging closer and closer until finally he committed a major invasion of my personal space. I jumped back fearful that my worst case scenario was about to come true and instead of quickly crossing, turned to face him and let out a barrage of expletives that were verbatim from Scorcese’s Wolf of Wall Street. Definitely not one of my shining Bette moments (especially in front of my FCW) and certainly not the wisest action when one is in the path of a vehicle with keys in the ignition! As written in a previous blog, when you are one with the pavement, it does not really matter who was right.

My point here is that most of us strive to be kind, respectful people in our daily interactions be it with family, friends or strangers. I do believe that and try to practice what I preach. However there are situations when etiquette and reason do not prevail and instead the primal response to survive takes over. So when external circumstance overwhelms us and we find ourselves at the end of our rope (i.e. fed up with a really long miserable winter), we may act in ways that are not the most flattering or even like us at all. In fact, it is you getting pissed after a really long, hard, brutal winter and that is OKAY. Instead of self-recriminating and over analyzing the response, remember that stuff like this happens to many people, all day, all across the NCR, Canada and around the world. You are not alone in your freak out.

Besides, if you forgive me, I absolutely absolve you of any wrong. And with spring around the corner, take comfort that it is the time for new beginnings.

And on that note, I’ll sign off for this blog and look forward to resuming our journey through the maze of decorum dos and don’ts next time.

Glad you dropped in-you are always welcome.

Elizabeth Rogers, aka Bette, is an event planner, certified wedding planner, publicist and manners maven. She is passionate about people and what makes them tick. She (almost) always treats others with respect, dignity and kindness. And when invited for dinner, always brings two bottles of wine, one for the meal and one for the kind people who have invited her.