As many of you know, my husband and I love to travel. In fact, when we plan a destination, we try to plan the scenic route if possible. Since my meetings were in Arlington, VA right near Washington DC, we decided to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. As we traveled, we liked to stop at the pull-offs to look at the views. Usually there is a big parking area so everyone can enjoy the view, even from their cars. At one point, we pulled in a space away from any other cars so that we wouldn’t bother their enjoyment and looked out our car windows in awe of the view. A few minutes later, a car pulls in beside us and a family of 3 gets out of the car and immediately stands in front of our car, blocking the view. I promise you, this was the same exact view they could have seen from the front of their car. I am flabbergasted but do not want to be rude to them even though they were rude so we drive on. We stop at the next pullover to admire the view and again, it is a large parking lot. We left many open spaces in case they came to the same place. You can only imagine how stunned I was when they parked 3 spaces away and proceeded to get out of the car to…you guessed it!...stand in front of my car and blocked our view. We drive off to the next pull off and I confess to doing something very childish. We parked and I emptied the water in the grass right in front of my car so there was a huge puddle. Again the family arrives and walks in front of our car. As they stepped in all the water, we drove off smiling. I’m sorry I resorted to childishness but I have no idea why they wanted to do that to us. It was a mother, father, and a young teenage girl who were nicely dressed and driving a nice car. All I can think of was that they had no idea how rude they were.
Another time we hiked to a beautiful waterfall and when we arrived, this man had a camera on a tripod in order to get a good picture of the waterfall. Another man and child walked around the tripod and immediately blocked the picture. Why they thought the photographer wanted them in the picture is beyond me. Not only did they make no effort to get out of the way, but they plopped down on some rocks so they would be in the picture of anyone taking a photo of the falls. I just shook my head and hiked on.
Now the next day we went to Mt. Vernon, which was a wonderful place to visit. If you are near there and have never been, it is worth the $13 per person to go there but plan on spending all day. We didn’t expect to spend that long there but we did. As we took a tour of the mansion, 20 of us were grouped together so we could hear the guide. As we were herded into one room, this tall man and woman were in front of me and I knew it would be hard for me to see, but at least I could hear. As soon as they stopped in the space directed, they looked at me, and urged me to step in front of them so they could get behind me. I thought about how kind and thoughtful they were! No one asked them to do that and I never said anything either. It seemed like they were used to being thoughtful so it was probably a no-brainer for them.
I hope I am that way to others too. I know I have accidentally walked in front of people when they are taken pictures and feel bad. I apologize and sometimes even offer to take a family photo of them so they have a picture all together.
I know that this seems like a no-brainer, but we need to constantly make our students aware of these small acts of kindness/etiquette/manners or whatever you call it. I have had my students actually practice letting people exit an elevator before they attempt to get on. In many business areas, people stay on the right of the escalator unless they are moving up the left side. This is an unsaid practice, but everyone knows it. Holding the door open for the elderly or letting them have a seat on a bus if all are taken. The little things count! I love to start this conversation and actually let my students start adding other ways to be courteous, kind and thoughtful. I know this takes away from of the standards that may schools require but I think it is well worth the time and goes a long way to helping a student be more successful in life.