Is it just me, or are politeness and kindness making comebacks?
Maybe it's the town I live in, or perhaps I am privileged (Someone did recently call me an elitist) and fortunate enough to associate exclusively with kind people, but I believe something is going on out there. I can feel it and see it.
Of course, this observation does not apply to politics. Tea Partiers are still angry, liberals remain frustrated, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's lawyers are rudely doing their best to perform a late-term abortion on the fledgling candidacy of fellow Democrat Zephyr Teachout, in an effort to keep her off the September primary ballot. (What do the help wanted ads say when Cuomo recruits attorneys? Maybe, "Wanted: soulless legal sharks, willing to obstruct the American political process, cost is irrelevant.)
But everything is great in Hornell and the surrounding communities. At stores, in offices, through email, it's nothing but sweetness and love. I mean it. At the check-out counters in stores, at bank windows, inside city hall, even on the telephone with a utility company, not a discouraging word is heard.
This is no small thing. Peruse internet political sites any day of the week, and you'll find columns and essays chronicling the alleged coarsening of the American culture, or breathlessly pointing to insurmountable national divides: red states vs. blue states, this region against that region, poor vs. rich, black vs. white, soccer vs. every other human activity.
I'm thankful that my day-to-day interactions involve little, if any, conflict.
I see the ladies at the local dollar star nearly every day. They must be tired of me by this point, but they never complain, frown, or close five hours early when I come through the door. They know what brand I smoke, they put up with my rambunctious children and they never insinuate that I have a candy bar problem. A great bunch, no doubt about it.
The tellers at Steuben Trust can see me coming from across the lobby, but they never rush to go on break, rather than wait on me.
"Here comes the guy who still doesn't have direct deposit, never remembers his account numbers, and always has a far away, vacant look in his eyes, like the Tom Hanks character in the final scene of 'Castaway,'" I imagine they are thinking to themselves when they see me in line.
But the bank employees are always helpful and considerate. That's a swell staff there.
Sometimes, I receive completely undeserved compliments. I called city hall a week or so ago, trying to track down the mayor (who, by the way, is always, and I mean always, willing to help out reporters), when a nice lady on the phone asked me if I "was that good-looking guy who works in the Tribune newsroom?"
"No, that's Sean Curran," I replied, "but really, he's not as good looking in person as he is in the photos of him playing basketball."
It does not matter If I find myself at Wegmans pharmacy, the Convenient store, or in one of the 15 7-Eleven locations in Hornell, employees are always awake, efficient and polite. Pharmacies can be stressful places to work, I would suggest. Employees face deadlines to get scripts ready, and the work-load seems very taxing. At the Wegmans location, employees never seem stressed out. They're cheerful and knowledgeable. My experiences at other drug stores in the Hornell area have also been positive.
Michelle, who works at the doctor's office on Pleasant Street, is a total sweetheart. Every trip to The Texas feels like I'm paying a visit to old friends. Speaking of friends, the people manning the phones for the gas company have been so considerate lately that I wouldn't mind having them for friends.
I'm hesitant to ignore the realities of the economy. Jobs are precious. Positions in service industries and retail may not pay enough to truly support a family, but nevertheless, employees know there is a long line of candidates ready and willing to scoop up a job, any job, if it becomes available. Workers have no leverage. It's an employer's market, not a worker's. So there's that, but I prefer to believe that people are just at heart, good.
I would be remiss not to mention Sue and Beth, the two great ladies who work at the front desk in the Evening Tribune office. Sue and Beth are two more examples of ace workers who treat customers with kindness and respect. And they are always willing to share a laugh with the regulars who stop by the Trib weekly.
Of course, there is a personal reason behind my fondness for Sue and Beth. Newsroom riff-raff are not supposed to loiter in the front office. Sometimes, I forget that rule, and overstay my welcome. Despite that, they almost never call security. They are too polite for that.
Neal Simon is the city editor of The Evening Tribune.