I have crazy dreams many nights. They are typically those from which I wake and, having to use the restroom at some dark hour, continue to ruminate on in a half-sleepy state for a few minutes guaranteeing that I will remember the ridiculous mental escapade when my alarm juts me from my slumber at 6AM. And inevitably I think: Where the hell do these crazy dreams come from?!
Example? The other night I dreamed I was decapitated right above the shoulders and then my head was sewed back on and magically better, but for some reason I had to die anyways. I spent the whole dream saying tearful, mournful goodbyes to the people in my life that I love most. My coffin was waiting as I hugged my friends, cried with my family, and all-the-while I was discussing what would be the best way to go. Finally settling on antifreeze (cats drink it because it is sweet – so maybe it would work for me…), I woke up.
Not quite sure where the decapitation thing came from. Perhaps it is an analogy for the amazing ability yoga gives me to escape my mind and get into my body instead, which I did before I pooped out on the couch. The “saying goodbye” part really stuck with me for two reasons. 1. I had discussed my grandfather’s death that day and how I didn’t say a real “goodbye,” (hence, the “death” part I gather) and 2. because I had debated the function of “goodbye” that evening. In the podcast Last Week on Earth with Ben Gleib (episode 8 [1/17/12] with Bobby Lee), comedian Ben Gleib shared some advice he received years before from comedian Bob Saget: never say goodbye at social functions. “You save half your time,” Gleib said. “I always have to have two interactions with almost everybody!”
This sounded like me. I do this everywhere, from small parties to huge art openings. I feel rude if I don’t say goodbye to those with whom I have relationships. Aren’t they important enough to find in the crowd before I depart? Hearing Saget’s advice made me question the benefits of the time expenditure. This practice adds probably twenty to forty minutes to my outings. So it begs the question, how much do others value the effort? If there was nothing more to say, why bother starting up the conversation again? Is it more awkward than jovial to say, “Hey I’m leaving! So nice to talk with you. Bye!” Really, do they care? I doubt it. They’ll see me again. And if they won’t, those folks probably really don’t care that I’m leaving!
So my new time-saving decision: I’m not saying goodbye to people at large social functions. At small social functions, I will use judgment and preference. I will convey my thanks to the host(ess), and then be on my way. One exception to this is family functions – as in my case I don’t see my family often. I insist on double encounters for the sheer purpose of increasing the amount of interaction in a tiny amount of time. And for hugs. I need a lot of hugs. I “build them up” for the days I am without physical proximity to my family. It tides me over until my next trek to the Midwest.
This topic got me thinking about the efficiency of good manners. I wonder how many people skimp on courtesy in the interest of time. Why hold the door open for someone when I am late for my appointment? Who cares if I cut someone off when I need to make that green light? What is the point of the “How are you?” “I am fine, you?” “Fine, thanks.” exchange as you pass by in the hallway? Seems like wasted effort to some I bet.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think simple pleasantries are a waste of time. On the contrary, often these little interactions can change the tone of a person’s day. Let’s say I got in a heated tiff with my husband before he dropped me off for work. I’m in a poor mood, and being pleasant is at the bottom of my list. But then someone holds open the elevator door so I won’t have to wait for the next, and with a smile they joke about the weather or being half-way through the work week. I start to feel better. I might even smile. My nasty mood is already diminishing.
My point is – you never know the impact a simple courtesy can have on others. So I still make time for them. I won’t get much farther up the road by cutting off the car in front of me (most of the time you see them at the next red light anyhow). I won’t be more than 5 seconds later by holding open that door. And sometimes my “How are you?” is greeted with a genuine, “Ah! I’m great! How are you?!” which leads to a lively conversation that makes my day or changes me in some measurable way. The benefits cannot be measured by minor manners, but in the long run they make a difference.
So no, I might not talk say goodbye to everyone at a party anymore. But I’ll still make a point of trying to say a heartfelt “hello” to all of them! I just never know where it might take me!