I have long been enamoured with Wheaton’s Law: Don’t be a d!ck¹. In its eloquent simplicity it sums up something I want to say to so many people so often, but refrain from it, since I myself don’t want to be a d!ck. It strikes me how very often people choose to be d!cks, rather than be nice and polite to one another. Being nice mostly takes less effort (remember that thing about how many more muscles you have to use to frown, as opposed to how many you use when you smile? Honestly takes less effort), and comes with the added bonus of most people being nice to you in return. In this never-ending circle of niceness, people become more productive and healthy, as they spend fewer of their waking hours fuming over what complete d!cks other people are being.
Before I launch into my tirade on how not to be a d!ck, I perhaps need to clarify what I mean by being a d!ck. I am not referring to the water-fowl, nor the actual male genitalia. If you’re a duck you can’t really stop being a duck, nor should you, and there is no way in which you could literally be a penis and be reading this. (As for ducks, if you’re reading this, wow, I had no idea ducks could read. Sorry about my ignorant human presumptions. Please write me a comment, I’d love to be the first person to ever receive a comment from a duck.)
No, when I say d!ck I am referring to a person who is unnecessarily rude, inconsiderate, nasty, childish, selfish etc. It’s those people we see around us every day. We’ve probably been one at some point. You might be being one right now. But don’t be. Nobody likes a d!ck. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time doing your best to avoid being a d!ck. So what now follows is advice on how not to be a d!ck in various situations.
If you happen to be living with other people, try to be considerate of them. If you create a mess, clean it up. If they’re attempting to sleep, don’t make so much noise. If you’re a child, realise that your parents are also human beings with feelings and potential for exhaustion. Try to be tidy and help out around the house, and don’t talk to them in a way you would feel would be rude if you were talking to a friend’s parents. If you’re a parent, don’t yell so much at your children, it really isn’t productive.
If you have people over, try to at least make them something to drink and clear a space for them to sit down. If you have room-mates, don’t take their food or bathroom products without asking. If you went to have a shower and all your shampoo was gone, wouldn’t that annoy you? Or if you were starving and just wanted to grab a quick snack when you get home after a 12-hour workday, but someone ate the last of your bread? If you have neighbours, don’t force yourself upon them unless they explicitly express a wish to be forced themselves upon, and once again, try to be tidy and keep the noise down.
On the Street
Don’t catcall. Some people may simply feel appreciated, but most people will feel a bit annoyed, or even creeped out. If you’re in a car, try to remember that there are people getting places by foot or on bikes. Don’t block sidewalks or driveways when you’re parking somewhere. Don’t honk your horn, you’re really not supposed to unless it’s imperative that you get someone’s attention to avoid an accident. Don’t play really loud music with your windows down, someone in a house you’re passing may be trying to work from home or just got their tiny child to – finally – go to sleep. If you’re a pedestrian, try to remember that there are people trying to get places in cars or on bikes. Will it really save you that much time to cross the street and stop that long line of cars, or could you wait a few more seconds for them to pass before you cross?
If you’re walking a dog, do pick up after them. If you have the time, health and money to own a dog and take it for a walk, you can also afford those little white bags, and the few seconds it takes to bend down, pick the dog-poo up, and dispose of it in any of the numerous red bins that they have along the pavement (in at least England and Sweden) for that express purpose. If you have litter, put it in your pockets until you reach the next litter-bin, then dispose of it in the bin, not on the pavement or someone’s back-yard. If you’re on a bike, try to remember that people are also trying to get places on foot or in a car. Use that bell when you’re passing someone on the pavement. When the law says to get off your bike at a crossing if you wish to cross as a pedestrian, get off the bike.
In the Grocery-store
When you’re shopping, there will most likely be several other people attempting to shop around you. You may be in a hurry (which doesn’t mean the store is any more yours than anyone else’s, and it also doesn’t mean you can talk to the staff as if they’re stupid or hearing-impaired). You may not be in a hurry (which doesn’t mean you can hold other people up who are in a hurry. If you have a lot of items, you might even ask people with few items to get ahead of you in the queue at the check-out.) It means that you may need to get to items that other people need to get to. Try to not put your full trolley in front of any popular items, or if you do, watch for people attempting to get to the shelf where you’re stood and move a little so they don’t have to bend like Hermes Conrad doing the limbo in order to get around you.
When walking down the aisle, try to keep to one side with your trolley. There may be a stressed person who needs something down the other end, but they’re being held up by you ambling down the middle, wondering which of the 50 different flavours of ice-cream you’re walking by you’d most like to get, if you were actually getting ice-cream. When you get to the check-out, try to put your items on the conveyor in such a way that the cashier can scan them more easily. If you have coupons and club-cards, get them out in good time rather than 5 minutes after all your items have been scanned and you’re still looking for them in your pockets or handbag. When you’ve put the groceries away in the car, put the trolley away. Do not leave it in the space next to your car. That space is for another person who also needs to shop for groceries.
When Visiting/Staying at a Friend’s/Relative’s Home
Start off with “do unto others.” If there’s something you wouldn’t like people to do in your home (wear shoes on carpet, leave the lid up on the toilet, put wet glasses on tables etc.) just don’t do it in other people’s homes. Try to ask whether you can take something/use something, or offer to help with something. Some people will actually mean it when they say “mi casa es su casa” but for the most part we just want guests to stay in certain well-cleaned, well-lit areas as we make sure they’re comfortable. If you’re staying the night, don’t leave a mess for your hosts to clean up the next day. They’ve just expended a bunch of effort on feeding you, being polite, entertaining, and adjusting to having someone else in their home – which is usually the only place they can be themselves – for a period of time. Do they really need to remove your dirty sheets from that bed, or clean your hair out of the shower-drain, or pick up the 10 odd plates and glasses scattered around the room you slept in? Once again, you’re staying in someone else’s home, so try to be tidy and watch your noise-levels.
If there is a common space here – a staff room of some form – it is everyone’s job to keep it clean. If you leave cups and dishes on the side they do not magically clean themselves, someone else has to do it. If there’s a shared microwave at work, cover your food, or that same someone else is going to have to scrape gunky, disgusting, semi-dried food off the inside of that microwave. Don’t talk about colleagues while you’re at work, unless you intend to say something nice. No-one needs work-place drama in their lives. The place where you spend so much of your day is generally stressful enough without extra backstabbing and gossip. If you go to get yourself a cup of tea or coffee, offer to bring some to the person you’re talking to/working next to. Don’t play music in such a way that other people can’t avoid hearing it. You may love that music, but they may not, and might even have a hard time concentrating on their tasks while music is playing. If you have employees, don’t yell at them, or talk to them in a manner you would feel was rude if you were talking to a superior or a friend. If you have a manager or employer, don’t talk about them as if they’re some sort of Vogon, or make fun of them behind their back.
Be considerate. Try to notice what people around you are doing and see if they need help; try to notice how they’re feeling and see if they want to talk about it, or be left alone; try to listen to what they’re saying and not just think of what you want to say next. If you’re sick, try to stay home. If you can’t stay home, wash your hands often, don’t stand too close to other people, and don’t sneeze without covering your mouth with a tissue or similar item. If you tell someone you’re going to be somewhere by a certain time, be there by that time. If you have to be late, apologise properly so they understand you don’t think they’re unimportant. Wait for people. Stop for people. Get out of other people’s way. Hold doors. Smile. Smile at people. ‘Tis the season not to be a d!ck. So don’t be one.
¹ The word consistently spelled as “d!ck” in this text is meant to be spelled with an “i”, but in the curious and misplaced interest of propriety the author has chosen to replace this character with a suitably similar symbol. Also, please comment below with further suggestions on how not to be a d!ck.