Monday, February 20, 2012

Politeness Abounds If We Just Let It

I have just been on a very enjoyable road trip visiting friends and family, and managed to squeeze in an overnight trip to New York City to take in Mary Poppins with my good friend William Hanson. He was over from England orchestrating a Guinness World Record for the world’s longest curtsey – which consisted of a chorus line of about 80 men and women executing a curtsey that lasted a full 5 minutes. Just prior to launching off on my train journey from the City of Brotherly Love to the Big Apple, I was informed that New York had been named the rudest city in the entire world by none other than Travel and Leisure Magazine. I quietly thought what a perfect challenge for William and me – two gents making their livelihood consulting on and teaching good manners!

As it turned out, it was no challenge at all! Everyone along the way treated me so nicely. I even thought to myself, “Ain’t life grand!” It all began with a shoeshine man at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia who made me feel as though I were his only and most important concern. Little did he know how important his job is to my life. A well-polished pair of shoes speaks volumes about one’s self-respect. The lady who sold me my train ticket was professional and courteous and smiled as I spoke with her. I naturally smiled back. I was off on the right foot now! I thankfully had a business class seat, which in this day and age means a quiet car! And it was quiet! All of the passengers abided by the rules, far more so than they do in Britain! This enabled me to catch up on correspondence and make reservations for restaurants.

I walked through the hustle and bustle of New York’s Penn Station noticing how seemingly unhurried other passengers were. There wasn’t the anticipated pushing and shoving so common in such places. I walked to the Hotel Lola, a brand new midtown gem and was treated like an old and revered customer. The staff was perfect and even succumbed to my request for free Internet. The room was ready early, allowing me extra time to walk leisurely uptown to meet my lunch date at Michael’s, a great restaurant I was experiencing for the first time. The owner and the manager both greeted me so cordially and made me feel special. Believe me, when you pay $10 for Club Soda, they should! The waiters were great, the food was great, and the lady who dined with me (a native New Yorker whom I had never met before) was enchanting.

Without going into every other detail of my 24-hour whirlwind trip, I will simply say that not one soul spoke a cross word or exhibited any behavior deserving of the moniker “world’s rudest” anything! Naturally I thoroughly enjoyed Mary Poppins, a very good Broadway musical, and the rest of my time spent with my most trusted and enjoyable colleague. Even with delayed trains and pouring rain, all was good!

As I was gratefully wallowing in the warm feelings I had, I began to wonder why the experience was so flawless. I came to the conclusion that perhaps it was because I was nice to all of the people with whom I met or spoke with. I was focused on having a good time and enjoying myself, and they all fell right in step.

This can happen to all of us, most, if not all of the time. So much of our happiness depends upon how we connect with other people. Taking the first step to be cordial and respectful of everyone, whether they are shining my shoes, serving me a meal, or simply engaging in a pleasant conversation, sets the tone for the connections we make. I have noticed when I am rushed and discourteous, that behavior is mirrored back to me with great consistency.

Planning ahead and being well organized goes a long way to ensuring your day goes smoothly. Life is full of surprises. Take for example the fact that I managed to leave my passport and wallet at the hotel, a fact I discovered upon my return to Philadelphia. Keeping focused on a positive outcome (next day FedEx) and not tearing around like beheaded poultry worked wonders.

Staying positive, keeping focused on respecting others, and being grateful for everything others do for you can and does make or break one’s day. At least it does for me. I hope it does for you, too!