Excuse me. Allow me to help. That phrase you're searching for? The one you use so infrequently that it's disappeared from your vocabulary? It's: thank you.
Recently I have been angry about a number of things. And rather than bottle it up, which leads to much muttering and stamping about on my end (1), I have decided to write about it.
This week's post concerns a magic phrase — "Thank you" — which has almost disappeared from our everyday language.
For some time, I have noticed that many people who ask for my help or advice appear to have difficulty saying those words. Oh sure, helping others is its own reward the saying goes. And the reason to help someone is because you want to, not because you need to hear that phrase. Well that may be, but common courtesy does so make the world a better place.
I could blame this on the digital age. Much of the help I lend others is in the form of email advice. I hit "send," and hear the whoosh of my Mac rocketing my words through the ether and that's that. I know people are busy. They're out, see the message on their smartphone, say to themselves, I'll reply later, and then when they get home, they have 132 critically important Facebook notifications to attend to and well ... that's that. And sometimes the help I offer is so simple that it's ridiculous to start an email chain of messages that contain nothing but the phrases: Thanks! My pleasure. No, really thank you. No really, glad to do it. Dude, you saved my life. You're welcome.
But sometimes the help I provide is a little more than forwarding my sister's mailing address to my brother for the 15th time because he won't write it down, and he won't save my email containing the address. For this, I do not expect a thank you, though it would be nice because really does he think of me as his personal Rolodex? (2)
Sometimes the help I offer is a little more time-consuming, and I spend more than an hour distilling a complicated idea into a series of easy-to-follow steps, and I send off an email with this information and beyond the whoosh of my words leaving my computer I hear ... nothing. Ever. I wonder, did the email get lost? Has the person been involved in a derecho and lost their Internet and phone connection forever? Did they print the email out for easy reading and leave it where the dog could eat it? These are the mysteries of life.
Sometimes this kind of non-responsiveness makes me very angry (see 1).
A few weeks ago, I wrote that we should model the change we want to see. And I thought, how many times have I been guilty of the very behavior I dislike? So, here, not too late I hope, is a round of thank-yous to those who have tried to make my life easier. Really, dudes, I'm sorry these are so late.
To J.C. Penney. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts no matter how many times I unsubscribe from email notifications I never subscribed to. I can't believe I'm going to miss another opportunity to browse through the 1,000 clearance items you seem to offer every week.
To the N.Y. Times. Thank you for continuously telling me that you want me back, despite the fact that I so harshly rejected you after your seventh attempt to fix the problems with my subscription.
To the person who let go of the heavy restaurant door just as I was exiting behind you, sending the glass frame inches from my nose. Thank you for helping me to keep my reflexes quick (3).
To the driver who cut in front of me as I was merging onto the Surekill Expressway forcing me behind an over-size load transport. Oh sure, that meant I was 22 minutes late for work, but if not for you I would never have heard the story the BBC World Newshour did on artificial jellyfish. Who knew they could do such things with rat's hearts?
And, finally, to all the SEO experts in India. Thank you for your countless offers to help me push my website to higher rankings in Google. No matter how many times I ignore you, you press on. I'm humbled by your generous nature. And someday, when I want to increase my blog's audience beyond the five family members and friends who read it, who knows, I may give you a try.
- When angry, I have been known to talk to myself. As I am not auditioning for a theatrical role as an eccentric individual, this is probably not wise.
- Look it up. Or allow me to help and let me Google that for you. No thanks necessary.
- Not everyone is as nice as my son who often volunteers to play the role of public doorman.