Louis C.K. has a bit he does where he says, “People don’t want to back off from their favorite thing. They won’t even do their second favorite thing.”
He describes someone screwing over entire lanes of traffic because the driver forgot to get in the left lane, so they cut over several lanes to make their turn before the light changes. “He just shoves his car through everybody’s life,” Louis snaps.
We have to stop doing things like this to each other. We’re all just going the best we can in life, and our best would be ten times more awesome if we tried to make the lives of people around us better, because as a result, our lives will be better. If everyone wants everyone else to be okay, then won’t we all be okay?
Here are 10 things we can do to make life easier for each other.
10. Have more patience while waiting in lines.
My local Vons supermarket is one of the worst places in the entire world. But I have to go there because I have to eat, and it’s close. Trader Joe’s is even more horrifying. So I go to Vons and I’m happy that I can afford food. Waiting in the lines at Vons is easily the worst part about the entire experience. There are never enough cash registers open. Sometimes the cashiers move at the speed of a kindergartener learning to tie their shoes. Sometimes the person in front of you has an avalanche of groceries and wants to pay in pennies. Whatever. That’s just life. Me sighing in annoyance isn’t going to make things go faster. I try not to do that because I hate when people do that to me. Like, oh, I’m so sorry I have to eat. Please forgive me for buying groceries at the grocery store. I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking.
9. Give more genuine compliments.
Do you think that guy/girl has a cool haircut? Are you worried that if you tell him/her that, he’ll/she’ll think you’re a creep? Screw it, tell them. People get dressed and do their hair knowing they’re going to be looked at by other people. So if someone’s wearing the best sweatshirt you’ve ever seen, go ahead and tell them, “That is the best sweatshirt I’ve ever seen.” Everyone loves a genuine compliment, but no one likes a fake one. So if you’re going to compliment someone, be real about it. Guys, I know some of you are worried that if you compliment women, you’ll come off as being creepy or weird. And thank you for your concern! Let me give you 2 examples.
Example 1: “Cool shirt. Love that band.” – good compliment.
Example 2: “Excuse me? Excuse me? Excuse me? Miss, excuse me? Hello? Girl? Lady? Woman? Hi? Your tits look hot in that t-shirt. Damn. Nice ass, too. Where you going? Hello? Where you going? Come back? Oh come on.” – bad compliment.
And, going back to Vons, someone made Vons easier and more pleasant for me when as I was grumpily pushing my cart around, staring at my shopping list on my phone trying to navigate past some slow-moving dude, slow-moving dude said, “I like your phone case thing.” I was so surprised. I said, “thank you!” and smiled. For the record, I have a pretty cool “phone case thing.” It’s David Bowie painted as a war general.
8. Send more letters (not emails) and gifts.
Is your brother’s birthday coming up? Send him an actual card. One that goes through the real mail. Through a series of people who transport things. And maybe send him a gift too. I know that everybody’s broke – myself included – but the idea isn’t to send something expensive. It’s to send anything. Because getting an unexpected birthday gift in the mail from your friend who lives in Seattle feels like motherfucking Dumbledore level magic.
7. Stop calling each other mean names on the Internet.
Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t like being called “a cunt.” (Cue all the “you’re an old-fashioned cunt!” comments.) I’m not going to let it ruin my day, but for some people, that would ruin their day. You never know whom you’re talking to on the internet. Would you honestly go up to someone after a reading and say to them, “You’re a stupid cunt, go die”? I really hope not. So why is it okay online? I guess because you’re not looking them into their sad, scared eyes. Well, from now on, pretend you are. Because sad scared eyes or not, someone’s going to read what you say about them, and while criticism, anger, and sarcasm may not be desired, they’re acceptable responses. Mean and crass insults never are. Also, if we could all just read the entire article before we comment, that would be great. But, baby steps.
6. Be a little more honest.
You can be kind while still being honest. Honesty doesn’t mean you get to go all Jim Carrey from Liar Liar and tell someone she looks fat. It means if someone invites you to a party or asks you to do something that you can’t/don’t want to, you need to tell them you’re not going as soon as possible. Because planning parties is hard. People need to know how much moderately priced booze to buy, among other things. So be upfront. If you know you’re not going, click “no” on that Facebook invite, or “decline” or “deny” or “fuck off” or whatever Facebook changes it to by the time you’re done reading this. If a friend wants actual constructive criticism on their writing, don’t skim it and say, “It’s great!” Give them what they want. And if you don’t have the time to, let them know.
5. Actually “hang out sometime.”
This one goes nicely with #6. Everyone has said, at least twice in their lives, “we should hang out sometime.” Rarely do they you actually hang out sometime. It’s become such a joke of our generation, TV shows and films have put that exchange in there of, “We should hang out sometime.” “Yeah.” “But I mean it, we should actually hang out sometime.” I know we’re all busy and it doesn’t always seem necessary to catch up when everyone’s lives are on the internet, but if you really want to hang out with someone, make it happen. Give the person two options for places and two options for times. If they decline those, give another set of options. If they decline those, they probably don’t want to “actually hang out sometime.” And that sucks, but it’s okay. We’re all gonna be okay.
4. Let someone know you’re not interested.
If someone asks you to go out/make out/date them/wink wink and you don’t want to, you need to tell them you don’t want to. This can be one of the hardest things you can do. Because nobody wants to hurt someone’s feelings. Nobody wants to be the one to say, “No. I do not want you.” But we have to do it. If you think there’s not even a chance you’re going to want to date this person, you have to shut it down immediately. Again, you don’t need to be cruel about it. Be honest, be simple, be kind. “Thanks for asking me, but I’m not interested” is an old line but it works. Don’t say you have a boyfriend or girlfriend if you don’t. Don’t lie. You don’t need that lie. You’re strong enough on your own and you’re entitled to not want to date someone. I asked on my blog, in regards to Ok Cupid and other dating sites, if men would preferred to be rejected or ignored. The majority waned to be rejected outright. So just do it (KINDLY). Inhale, type something short and nice, hit send, exhale. It’s for the best for everyone.
3. Be kind to people who work in retail and food service.
I’ve never worked in the food industry but I’ve worked in retail, and I didn’t realize how much patience you need in order to work in retail. Sometimes customers were just plain stupid, but that never gives you the right to be a total jerk to them. Customers: don’t mess up the store displays. Don’t tell us salespeople you don’t need help if you actually do need help, because we know where everything is and we want you to get what you need as quickly and efficiently as possible. In restaurants, if a sign says, “please wait to be seated” then please wait to be seated. And tip. Always tip. In America, unless they call you a cunt, you should tip them. Don’t go all Mr. Pink and explain why you don’t believe in tipping – too bad, you’re in America, that’s how it works. If they give you good service, you tip them. If they ask you if there’s anything else you need, and you need ketchup, that’s when you ask for more ketchup; don’t say “no” and then try to flag them down later. If you’re in a store and something is expensive, don’t complain about it to the salespeople. We know it’s expensive. That isn’t our fault. And no, if there’s no price tag on it, that doesn’t mean it’s free. And hopefully this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it: this section is titled “be kind to people who work in retail and food service” but you should also be kind to everybody.
2. Help people, and if you offer to help someone, follow through.
To anyone I’ve ever offered help to and failed to follow through: I am so, so sorry. It was because I plain forgot. It wasn’t out of malice or because I didn’t want to help you. It’s so terribly frustrating when someone, out of their own volition, offers to help you and then just disappears. And then you have to do those follow-up emails that sometimes get one apology with lots of exclamation points and regret and an insistence that they want to help, but then they don’t, so there’s more follow-up emails that are met with total silence and then you run into them at a party and they try to pretend they don’t see you. Don’t be that person. And you should always try to help people, because one day, they might help you. I used to be jealous of my friends and wouldn’t want to help them and one day I realized, that’s just fucking insane. They’re my friends. I like them. And they better they do, they better we all do. So I started helping. And they helped me back. There’s enough success in this world for everyone. Only one time have I ever helped someone with a favor and they were kind of a bitch about it. And now I know they’re not really my friend, and they were just using me. And I’m even mad, because that was something I’m glad I learned about them, and that was only one person out of many. So help each other and follow through.
1. Don’t ever tell anyone they look tired.
We know when we look tired. Don’t tell us. We’re hoping no one notices. We’re wearing concealer. Don’t tell us we look tired. Hand us a coffee and give us a knowing smile, Bob Benson style. We will love you forever.
Photo credit: “Annette Vadim in Cannes and St. Tropez” by Loomis Dean for LIFE via LIFE Photo Archives for Google.