This morning, as I was beginning my mail route I had a man stop and ask me for directions, and the way he did it got me thinking. I have quite a few people a month asking me for directions; being one of the mailmen in town, it does kind of make sense. I know the place pretty well. The thing is that lots of the people who do ask me for directions don’t seem to have any idea how to go about it in a polite manner. This man, however, was such an almost perfect example of what to do, it gave me the idea that I should tell you all what he did, and I can use him as an example to help me explain the proper, or polite, way to ask your local mailman for directions, should you become lost or confused in an unfamiliar area.
I was just getting back into the truck, having made a delivery. I slung the door closed as I took my seat, popping off the parking break, winding the key in the ignition and slapping the directional on to indicate my intention to pull away from the curb, all in a flurry of practiced motions. I pulled my lap-belt on as I put my foot on the break, then put the vehicle in Drive as I checked my mirrors for traffic coming up behind me.
There was one car. I checked the road behind it in the mirror, leaning forward and back to adjust the angle of my view. There was nothing, the lone car was what it looked like; a lone car. I started to turn the wheel to the left, ready to pull out behind the car as it passed, but it failed to pass. Just as he pulled level with me the other driver stepped on the brake, jerking the wheel sharply to the right, cutting the nose of his car in front of my truck, coming to a stop with the tail end of his car sticking out into traffic. If there had been any traffic. He managed to pen me in against the curb like a cop stopping a getaway car.
I looked over at him, wondering just who this was who so aggressively wanted my company. I saw a man I can’t recall ever seeing before, leaning toward me in his car. I could see his mouth moving, but since you drive mail trucks from the right side, and his car was a regular old left-hand drive vehicle, we had a whole bunch of stuff between us, including two windows, his and mine, both of which were up. I could not hear a word. I thought about motioning toward my ear, or shaking my head, to indicate to him that I wasn’t getting his message, but before I could he seemed to realize what the problem was, and came up with a solution. He held up a hand and beckoned me toward him with his fingers, increasing the motion to include his whole arm when I didn’t hop out of my seat fast enough.
I sighed, seeing that he had no intention of moving out of my way until I at least got out to see what he wanted. I re-curbed my wheels, turned off the engine, reset the parking brake, removed my seat-belt, slung the door open and stepped out onto the sidewalk. I moved to the front of my truck, basically up beside his car, and peered in at him.
He motioned for me to come around to his driver’s side window. I looked back down the street, checking for oncoming traffic, and lo-and-behold there was some now. Traffic that Mr. Finger-wave was asking me to go stand in so he wouldn’t have to move his car. Or lower his passenger’s side window.
I chose instead to stare at him in feigned incomprehension.
He could pull the rest of the way over and stop blocking the street like that, you know, actually get out of the car and talk to me instead of barring my way and physically demanding that I fork over the information he’s looking for. He could.
Instead. He looks exasperated, powers the passenger’s side window down and starts waving me over again, still making a face like I’m doing a poor job of fulfilling his needs.
As impressed as I am with his people skills and ability to influence people, I stand strong on the sidewalk, bend down just a touch, and shout “Can I help you?”
“I need to get to Tioga way!”
Lots of responses to this spring to the forefront of my mind. ‘Well good for you’ is one. ‘But what about my needs?’ is another. ‘No, what you really need is a basic course in manners where you learn to say things like hello and please and actually ask for people’s help rather than simply demanding compliance and making your mother, wherever she is, cringe with embarrassment’ is another, admittedly long and convoluted thought.
But I digress.
What I actually did was point up the street and shout “straight ahead, it’s on your right!”
I turned back to see if he was even paying attention, but I was way too late. He shouted something as his window was going up and he was already hitting the gas, his car lurching away from the curb, freeing my mail truck as he sped off up the road.
I sighed again and, free to go, I climbed into my truck and went about my business.
Now, you recall way back at the beginning of this little trip down memory lane, I mentioned that this guy was almost a perfect example of how to act? Almost. He was actually a perfect counterexample of how to act. Just take everything this schmuck did, and to the opposite, and you'll be fine!
And here we have our very first:
And here we have our very first:
Talk to you later!