Be kinder than necessary

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We have a reminder for everyone: Use your manners.

A story in the New York Times about a Cape Cod restaurant that closed down for a “day of kindness” for its employees got a lot of attention last week. What prompted the restaurant to close — an entitled customer berating a member of the staff to the point of tears because she would not take his takeout order before the restaurant officially opened for the morning — is, unfortunately, the type of rudeness we’re seeing and hearing about on the Island. 

Follow J.B. Blau’s social media, and you’ll see similar stories. One of his posts is about a man who couldn’t read the online menu. To help, a staff member provided an old, laminated, printed menu. When the prices didn’t match up, the man left no tip for the waitstaff and included a note that read, “Tell JB before I do.”

Disgruntled customers are taking their impatience and intolerance out on staff when, instead, they should be thankful those men and women who are willing to work under difficult circumstances. There is a worker shortage, and despite the relatively low number of cases of COVID-19, there is still a worldwide pandemic out there, and too many people spreading misinformation about the vaccines that protect us from it.

The rudeness goes beyond restaurants, however.

Recently, we watched an interaction between a young traffic officer and a van filled with people getting dropped off at the Steamship Authority terminal in Vineyard Haven. The van was parked at a diagonal, not in a legal spot, and the young man gently asked them to use the parking lot across the street. Those unloading from the van and the driver simply ignored him. Not saying anything and pretending to not hear instructions from someone in authority is just as rude as being outwardly disrespectful.

In Oak Bluffs, we’ve seen young goslings struck and killed by cars — left for dead. No compassion from the drivers. Fortunately, good Samaritans have taken it upon themselves to call for help from animal control.

We see litter everywhere we look, fouling the landscape. Discarded wrappers. Bottles tossed aside. Disposable masks disposed of improperly. Again, we’re lucky to live in a community where some volunteers are willing to take bags and gloves on their walks to clean up.

Before you blame this on visitors, these issues don’t disappear when the last ferry departs after Labor Day. They’re just intensified during the height of the tourist season. 

We can all do better when it comes to being sensitive, kind, and using our manners.

So how can you help? Take that old bumper sticker to heart: “Be kinder than necessary.”

Let someone take a lefthand turn. It helps everyone because traffic flows better when we all take turns.

Drive more cautiously when you see bikes on the shoulder or a pedestrian waiting to cross the street in a crosswalk. (That one is a law, by the way, but too many of you just keep your foot on the gas.)

Put a bag in your pocket and pick up after your dog. No one wants to step in that.

Put your cans and bottles in the recycling bin, and your trash in the receptacle. It only takes a couple of seconds to be considerate.

Tip generously when you go out to a restaurant. The staff is working doubly hard these days, with fewer people to cover shifts, and more people wanting to go out. And remember behind the scenes, men and women are working in kitchens that are hot and stressful, all so you can enjoy a morning, afternoon, or night out. It may take a few extra minutes to get your meal. Sip a beverage and take in the atmosphere.

Random acts of kindness don’t have to be flashy. They can be as simple as holding open a door for someone with an armful of groceries.

Back when Michael Dukakis was governor, Massachusetts had a slogan: “A little courtesy won’t kill you.” It wasn’t quite “I love New York” or “Virginia is for lovers” memorable, but it did stick with people.

Courtesy, indeed, won’t kill you, and it just might make someone’s day.

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