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20-40-60 Etiquette---Me first?

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: December 21, 2011

QUESTION: Is there a “me first” attitude going on? Usually, I let people in front of me on the street, and they usually thank me with a wave. For some reason during this holiday season entitlement is rampant.

People just jump out in front of me and go on their merry way. No wave, no thanks. Somehow it seems like there is a lack of holiday grace among people in their cars.

Should I continue with random acts of kindness or mind my own business and go on down the road?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: If you are that mad about it, then you can join in on the “bah humbug” way. Keep doing your random acts of kindness. Who knows? You might rub off on people.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Yes, there is a “me first” attitude going on, but we can’t fix it. All we can do is try to make sure we’re not contributing to a general climate of “everyone for himself.” Do you let people cut in front of you on the street in order to get a wave, or are you doing it because it’s the courteous thing to do? Do you treat people with respect because you expect something from them in return?

I’m guessing the answer is “no” to both questions, that you understand that nice behavior makes the world a better place. From your question, it sounds as if you’re looking for someone to say you can quit trying to be gracious because no one else is trying.

But the holidays are stressful, and we all need grace this time of year. You never know what hardships other people are facing, so even if you’re the one doing all the waving, keep it up, and thanks!

HELEN’S ANSWER: There IS lots of traffic at this time of year, and how thankful we all are when someone lets us in the line of cars. Sorry if we forget to wave our thanks, but sometimes we are so busy driving and not getting hit by another car, that your kindness does not get the proper respect.

I think you should continue to give holiday grace yourself and overlook the rudeness of others. Let them in and wave a cheery greeting as you do it.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Matthew Price, The Oklahoman features editor: Ah, “the wave,” the universal gesture of goodwill on the road. I try to make sure to wave in these circumstances, but not everyone does. Traffic gets really hectic in December, and it does sometimes seem as if common courtesy is becoming less common.

However, I don’t think most people intend to be rude or disrespectful — I think many people get caught up in their own situation and difficulties and may not think of the other person on the road, or in line at the store, or on hold waiting for customer service. It’s up to each one of us to do our best to bring that respect and kindness to our own lives the best that we can, and try to remember to think of others.

There’s a quotation that’s helpful to remember in these circumstances. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The quote is often attributed to Plato, but it’s actually an adaptation of something written by Scottish author Ian MacLaren, the pseudonym of The Rev. John Watson. We don’t know what’s going on in the life of the person who cuts you off in traffic — whether it’s a sick child or a bad day at work or just a rush to check off all the items on the Christmas list. But try to remember others, and continue to be kind and grateful even when the other party fails to be.

To ask an etiquette question, email For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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