Nail clippings flying in my face! Ack!

My friend Dave sent me a link today to this article about signs posted in the NYC subway to encourage etiquette. Pretty freaking awesome, no? Can you imagine, some stranger’s nail clippings flying at you on your subway ride home?!! Yuck yuck yuck! I totally support this sign’s message! End the public nail clipping!

You can see a few more here at the site of the artist Jason Shelowitz. The “yes!” is encouraging! Glad so many people agree!


PS: The Kickstarter for Be Nice is going really REALLY well! Less than $30 to go!!! Still 2 months left, so who knows how far this might reach! Thanks to all of you, and keep spreading the word!
Not sure what I’m rambling about, click here or here.

My sister says Minnesotans are patient people

Recently my big sis moved to a big metropolitan area–the Twin Cities–from our old college town in Iowa. She’s adjusted pretty well to the new urban environment, and has had a number of pleasant experiences in the short three months since she relocated there. Here is one excellent example of a truly patient person, written by my sister Sarah…. If you have any stories you’d like to share, I would LOVE to hear them! I love emails and always reply! Share yours and (as long as it fits the focus of the project) I’ll post it! (An email form is to the right half way down, under the section “How it started & spread the word” with the link labeled: “Email me!”)

I recently moved to the Twin Cities and was trying to find my way through town after dark. Sitting at a stop light I decided to look at my Droid Navigator map. When I looked up the light had turned green and the two or three cars in front of me had already driven away so far I could not see them anymore. Embarrassed, I quickly stepped on the gas. In my rear view mirror I saw at least a couple of cars behind me. I was so surprised that no one had honked their horn to get me moving. I am not patient with other drivers and am quick to beep my horn when I feel like others are not moving as quickly as I prefer (let alone when an idiot – me in this case – is so obviously not paying attention to the street light!) But these cars behind me decided not to honk their horns at all. I do not know if Minnesotans are just a patient people or if they saw my Iowa plates and decided to cut me some slack because I probably did not know where I was going. Either way I was surprised and impressed. Now when I drive around town I am not so quick to reach for the horn; I take a breath and remind myself to be patient.

I think Sarah’s attitude could be a great one to adopt. Why not give ourselves a little extra challenge for the next few weeks–what with the winter weather in full swing and holiday shopping-crazed drivers whizzing past us as they seek out shopping malls and discounts?  Could be interesting!

Here’s your Hypocrite Certificate

There is one thing I can’t stand: people who complain over and over about things and then do nothing about it!

I have this problem sometimes too, but I acknowledge my hypocrisy so I can feel somehow slightly forgiven because I at least know I do it. Not the best excuse–I’m a work in progress–but I am trying. And usually I try to DO things to alleviate my frustrations by altering my behavior.

But man! People at work today. I just couldn’t handle it. It was a weird day in general, but the obvious hypocrisy of two particular women today was so silly and ridiculous that I was left speechless (quite a task)!

This afternoon, my facilities manager Carmen (name changed) was discussing how every workplace seems to deal with the same problem: people are slobs. They leave dirty dishes in the sink for days; they are too lazy to pick up a paper towel they dropped on the floor, or wipe off their crumbs from the break room table. They make disgusting messes in the bathroom and refuse to clean it up. The list goes on.

So here I am talking about this with Carmen and these two other ladies are also very passionately protesting such behavior: “Slobs!” “How inconsiderate.” “Savages!” After a few minutes of their complains (with which I heartily participated), I tried to interject my positive solution: “Well, I guess at some point though we need to move past our frustration and decide to model the proper behavior so other people feel pressured to do the same….” Before I could finish my thought, the two ladies were forcefully shaking their heads. Nope. I don’t think so! their faces said. They wouldn’t do that. “If everyone else breaks the rules, so can we,” they countered.

And that, my friends, is why so many people never find actual solutions to their problems.

This would change your community. Seriously.

Hour Exchange Portland logo

Listening to PBS NewsHour today as my fingers drummed mindlessly away at my work keyboard, I came upon a most wonderful idea and I wanted to share it with you. This is the kind of thing that could work in any community, anywhere in the country. It would help people keep their professional skills honed while unemployed, and help individuals keep their homes and lifestyles maintained and enriched. The PBS feature “In Maine, service time swapped to help stretch dollars in recession” details a project called “Hour Exchange Portland,” founded by an actual Rockefeller–Richard Rockefeller. Here’s how this thing works: you first make a deposit in the form of your time — donating your skills to someone else. For each hour of your time you volunteer, you earn a “time dollar.” You can spend these dollars when you want by asking for services offered from other members of the program (there are around 600 currently in Portland). By doing this act of “generosity,” people get their leaky faucets fixed, their mufflers attached, their doctors visited. Pretty simple, definitely straightforward. And those are always the best ideas (look at the Post-It). Amazing, right?!  How much better off would we all be to have this in our communities?

I encourage you to check out the newscast video (just 7 minutes), and share this with your friends and relatives! (There are “share” functions at the bottom of the post.) Start one of these in your town! We could change the world, our society, and our economy and get back the same that we give and it could be SO easy! 

Click HERE to see the video.

Click here to visit the foundation’s website:Hour Exchange Portland

Being nice can give you free stuff

I’ve been gone for a while. Sorry about that! I have no really great excuse. I moved to a new apartment awhile ago and I have been nesting. That’s it. Just making art, and nesting. Working on the next Be Nice. piece actually, which is in its final stages of completion. I hope it will make you laugh.

Anyways, in that spirit, I have a game I think you should play. It’s free, easy, and sometimes you get cool rewards, like free dinner, discounts, or free dessert. Usually you just get a warm fuzzy feeling, so I would let that be your motivation if you choose to play it. People can sniff out others who are looking for a freebie handout, so best to keep your motivations pure. Anyhow, it’s a one-player game, though you can involve your friends. My friend Katie and I like to compete for who can “out-nice” the other in pretty much any situation. Seriously, we do. It’s a blast. But this game is one that you can do whenever, wherever you like, with whomever you choose. And it’s great. It’s called the “Be awesome to customer service professionals until they are smiling, laughing, and happy” game. Not the best name–I’ll have to work on it. But you get the idea.

The rules are simple:
1. Be yourself, be friendly, and be genuine.
2. You cannot know the person–they must be a stranger.
3. Don’t plan it, just do it at the drop of a dime, when the opportunity comes up.
4. Pay attention to the game’s effect on the other person and how awesome it makes you feel (trust me, this game makes it feel great to be you, which is pretty cool).

It is pretty unusual for the “customer” to be friendlier or nicer than the worker, but that is what makes this game so effective. It catches people off guard. And when you do that, you have a better chance of really having a positive impact. Not to mention, when you cheer up that worker, they’ll pay that forward to future customers and friends. Here’s my most recent example of how this can be done:

Last night I was watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. I’m on a big kick and I’m re-watching ALL the old episodes while I sew. I was excited because my husband was off in his studio working, so I had the computer all to myself and could watch my show (he’s not such a fan) for the entire evening. Just me and some tear-jerking drama. I had fully immersed myself in the beginning of season 6. I was invested. Then, out of nowhere, Netflix had a server error. NOOOOOOO! I checked my internet, my browser. Nothing fixed it. How could this happen?! This was my Grey’s night! In a last-ditch effort, I called the customer service number on the screen and after three tries, I got in touch with a customer service rep. At this point I think many people would be pretty miffed. But how could I be? The guy on the other end of the line sounded super friendly, animated, and totally helpful. And I later learned it was his last call of the day, and he was still courteous. I love this kind of Rep.

Naturally I started to chat the guy up: “Where am I calling you?” “Portland, Oregon,” he replied.  “Oh! I am so jealous! What an awesome place to be I hear!…” From there we just rattled away at each other, and it was great. He was just getting off work, and I had the pleasure of sending him into his evening smiling and laughing. Being cheerful–even though I had a reason to be grumpy–had managed to make his night end on a positive note, and it made my little video viewing inconvenience not even matter!

I have plenty of examples like that; a credit card rep in India who I had more in common than I knew–AND who told me some sweet places to go if I ever get a chance to go to his country; an electric company rep originally from NYC who was putting herself through school while working full-time–she was a blast to talk with. An ice cream shop clerk who laughed herself red when I told her about growing up on a farm as a child, chasing giant cattle into their pen with a stick. It can make your evening, it can change your mood. Have fun!

Laws, law makers, and texting

Supposedly, a law is being considered in New York that would outlaw texting while walking. People are oblivious to the world around them with their IPods and cell phones and texting, and they are getting injured because of it. So some legislators have decided this is something they should regulate, and therefore are spending time writing laws to control our behavior… while walking. According to CBS6 in Albany,

Fearing a spike in the number of car-pedestrian accidents, state Sen. Carl Kruger (D – Brooklyn) proposed a law that would “restrict the use of an electronic device while crossing a cross walk in a city with a population of one million or more” and “provide for a person in violation to be issued a summons and pay a civil fine of one hundred dollars.”

Kruger’s bill remains stalled in the senate’s Transportation Committee. One other state – Illinois – is considering a similar measure.

I know, I know… what is this blog for if not to contemplate our behaviors and how they harm and help others?  But this blog is also all about personal responsibility and I believe in the importance of our personal freedoms as well.  And to me, this law seems over-the top. I’m not denying that this activity poses a danger, but so does eating while driving, yelling at your kids in the back seat, changing the radio station while driving, and window gazing while walking. But, I grow more and more concerned that our government continues to police behaviors, rather than trusting in our maturity to manage things ourselves. If a kid eggs my house, I don’t file charges. I vent angrily to my spouse, and then calmly talk to her/his parents (if it were my kid, I’d want the same treatment). Similarly, if someone is walking without paying attention and are about to collide with me, I walk around them. Perhaps the issue is that many city dwellers do not yield to others on the sidewalk, and so collisions are more likely when people play the game of sidewalk “chicken.” Then of course a pedestrian might cross the street without checking cross-traffic. But hopefully the drivers are watching out for possible collisions and defensively avoiding them. Following 2 major principles of civility–reaping what you sow, and avoiding troubling situations by being aware–it is pretty acceptable to allow this issue to exist without legislation. There are the unfortunate incidents where these two ideas aren’t enough, but I think those instances don’t warrant a law.

That politicians spend time policing our behaviors through laws, and not enough time policing themselves or governmental functionality, worries me. Is texting our biggest problem? No. Not even close. And can’t these texting maniacs police themselves? Yes. I’m all about laws that provide information: like listing calorie counts at restaurants. Because I can still eat dessert and not get a fine. And I am supportive of laws mandating regulations for driving (big objects = big damages). If they’re going to tax tobacco and sugary foods, please don’t use the money to cover up decades of bad spending and legislation. Use it to educate kids about proper nutrition, or serve healthier meals in schools. And if the politicians want to legislate behavior, why not impose restrictions on campaign finance? How about establishing a dialogue by promoting responsible use through billboards and ads?

I must be honest, I see both sides. The line is not finely drawn. I think using cell phones while driving is bad, even though using it while walking could be just as hazardous to the text-er and the person colliding with him/her. So this one is certainly in the gray area. And State Senator Kruger’s law is not entirely invasive to every New Yorker. But what concerns me is the numerous number of laws being enacted that restrict us in tiny ways, that, if allowed to accumulate, will dictate how we live every aspect of our lives. If these types of laws become the norm, it leads me to believe that politicians will govern anything that will bring in revenue and play on our sense of fear and loss of control. If these laws are a reflection of our time, it leads me to believe that we cannot trust ourselves to act responsibly or maturely. And I am not willing to accept this.

Let’s all be model citizens and be held accountable for our actions by their repercussions. Not by a fine. Last I remember, I learned right and wrong by making mistakes. My folks never taxed or fined me for making mistakes, eating ice cream, or dropping a swear word. I learned morals and propriety based on the perception of my character and the effects of my errors. If I walk and text, and collide with a pole, I probably deserved it (by the way–I don’t actually have text messaging capability on my phone. I disabled it.). If I get high blood pressure and diabetes from being overweight and doing nothing to avoid it, I deserved that too. Let that be the punishment. Don’t micromanage my life.

The world is an uncivil place. The sidewalk is too. And I am okay with it, if it means I don’t have a police officer wasting his/her time fining me over my cell phone usage while walking mid-stride in Manhattan. I would rather be frustrated by the crowds of distracted, texting pedestrians than give up another basic civil liberty. I would rather believe in what this blog is about: self-governing is a natural and necessary part of society, and by talking about these issues with our peers we slowly and surely improve society.

Thanks for reading!


Girl Falls in Manhole While Texting

NPR article

NY Times article

Dumb Laws

Off to Watch Hill

A much much less hilly and tree-free version of my childhood country roads...(Click to link to image source: Cornbread blog)

My husband and I just returned from a mini-vacation to Connecticut, during which we ventured into the southwestern-most corner of Rhode Island to a spot called Watch Hill. I just have to say how very nice and considerate the drivers in that general area of RI were. More than once in the 1 or 2 hours we were there, RI drivers would pause in traffic to let us turn or pass through–even though they had the right of way!! It was wonderful! I don’t know if this is regular driving culture there, but it definitely didn’t happen in the other areas of New England that we explored this week. Though I will say, everyone was very friendly everywhere we went.

It reminded me of the country roads on which I grew up, and how passing another car on the gravel roads was so seldom that we always waved at each other when it happened. I wonder, what are the cool things that people in your community do that add a little “happy” into your day? Please share!