Living and Learning

Courtesy

This week, I was dismayed by a stranger’s discourtesy online. I know that the anonymity of the Internet makes some people feel emboldened to all kinds of rudeness from insults to threats, but usually those things are not directed at me.

Most of the time, the people in my life are courteous. They generally hold doors for other people, let people into their lane of traffic, say “please” and “thank you,” and oil the machinery of social interaction with good manners. It is so much a normal part of my life that when someone is discourteous it comes as a shock.

I had posted an article on a discussion board (Reddit) and made the mistake of taking umbrage at something someone said. Accordingly, I wrote a brief contradictory post. The other person then retaliated by casting aspersions on my ability to read the original article effectively by saying, “Have you even read the whole article?”  “How rude!” I thought.  I considered saying something about legitimate argument, but I decided against it. No point in inviting more insults.

While I was still smarting a little from having my reading skills questioned, it was heartwarming to be the beneficiary of another, very courteous, correspondence. I had met someone through an online dating site and we seemed to have a lot in common. We had dinner together and enjoyed a couple of hours of friendly conversation. We agreed on lots of opinions and made each other laugh.

Subsequently, I thought it would be nice to spend the afternoon together at the local Canada Day celebrations, and we agreed via email to do that. What followed was a chapter of accidents. I unintentionally called him at 4 a.m. when I was trying to listen to his voice mail. It’s a new phone! What can I say?

When we met at 1 p.m. I said I hoped he had been able to get back to sleep. He said, no, he hadn’t. He also said he had been playing a golf game since 8.30 that day and had not played well. Since he had not had lunch, he was hungry. We had a 2 km walk to the park, and it became clear he was tired and cranky. The line-ups for food were really long. The park was crowded with families with young children who were boisterous. He had to wait while I spent about half an hour in a long line-up for the ladies’ room. All-in-all, it did not go well. When my date and I parted ways, it seemed that we both knew we had not enjoyed the afternoon.

The next day, though, I got the most charming email. He told me all of the qualities he found attractive in me and regretted that we were not well suited as partners. It was the first time I have enjoyed getting “dumped.” It made me feel good to read his compliments; so much so, that I was not offended by his farewell. I replied in a similar tone and agreed that it was unfortunate that we didn’t click.

My date’s kindness completely trumped the rudeness of my message board adversary. Sometimes it is more important to be kind than to be right.

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