I got to thinking about courtesy the other day when a woman hit me with her car. I want to stress that this was totally my fault. I was crossing a street in Miami, in a pedestrian crosswalk, and I saw the woman's car approaching, and like a total idiot I assumed she would stop. The reason I assumed this -- you are going to laugh and laugh -- is that there was a stop sign facing her, saying (this is a verbatim quote) "stop."
Channel 4: A show (this is the one I ended up watching) in which five people were taste-testing various brands of canned beef gravy and ranking them on a scale of 0 through 10.
(Of course we have bad TV shows, too. But thanks to cable, we have infinitely more of them.) My point is that the English aren't better than us in every way. But they are definitely more courteous. It seems as though every time an English person comes even remotely close to being an inconvenience to anybody, he or she says "Sorry!" Often this causes the other person to say "Sorry!" for having been in a position to cause the first person to say "Sorry!"
This may trigger reflex cries of "Sorry!" from random passers-by, thereby setting off the legendary Chain Reaction of Sorrys, which sometimes does not stop until it reaches Wales. I'm pretty sure that the queen, when she's knighting somebody, taps him with her sword and says: "Sorry!"
Wouldn't it be nice if we had more of that spirit here? Wouldn't it be pleasant if we tried a little courtesy, instead of shooting each other over trivial provocations? Wouldn't it be wonderful if, when we irritated each other, we said "Sorry!" and then shot each other? At least it would be a start!
In fact, I'm going to start right here and now. I'm going to address the end of my column to the woman who hit me with her car, in case she's reading this: Whoever you are, I am sincerely sorry that I impeded your progress through the stop sign. And I am even more sorry that I hit your car with my fist. It should have been a hammer.
Pub Date: 6/09/96