There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of common courtesies we automatically observe that help keep a civil society civil, that help make daily transactions run more smoothly. I greatly appreciate the small etiquettes and little niceties that people follow in the interests of allowing everyone, not just themselves, an equal chance of having a hassle-free encounter.
But there are a few inconsiderate people who - thanks to their penchant for tone-deaf, unaware and selfish behaviour - spoil it for the rest of us. These are the people who willingly accept courtesies but seem oblivious to the concept of reciprocity. Here are just five examples of people who need to be reminded it's not all about them.
ONE: Bench-seat hoggers
Two weeks ago in Air New Zealand's regional lounge in Auckland I sat down on a built-in bench-seat behind a small cafe-style table. A gentleman on my left was similarly seated behind his own little table.
But he'd placed his bag so far away from himself that it was about 2cm away from me. (Was that my fault? I don't think so. There weren't a lot of empty seats. I could have sat in the seat opposite me but then there would be nowhere to place my handbag).
Anyway, whenever someone sits near me on a built-in bench-seat I always move my handbag in closer and make sure they have plenty of room. Such consideration was not afforded to me in this instance. I vacillated between thinking it's rude and telling myself it was no big deal. Should I ask him to move it or was that being too precious? What to do. What to do.
Then my arm (unavoidably) started resting on this piece of luggage as I read the newspaper. Danger. Danger. Firstly, touching the possession of strangers is inappropriate. Secondly, because I was wearing a dress with pale-coloured sleeves, I started wondering if this person's carry-on bag was clean. This was getting ridiculous. I took decisive action and shoved the bag in question away from me and towards its owner. Crisis averted. The man was oblivious to both the shove and the fact I'd been obsessing about the rogue bag. I can only dream of attaining a such a Zen-like state of disregard for the comfort of others.
TWO: Inconsiderate wheelie-bin users
On rubbish collection day we position our green wheelie-bins quite precisely. Our driveway (as do most others in the street) has quite a wide entrance - meaning we are able to place the bins on the concrete at the edge of the driveway itself without impeding vehicular access. This probably looks a bit neater but the main benefit is that no one will park in front of the bin so the driver of the rubbish truck doesn't need to get out of his (or her) vehicle. A little bit of consideration goes a long way.
But try telling this to people who live nearby who routinely put their wheelie-bin right in the middle of the grassed area in front of our house, even though they, too, have a wide driveway. This thoughtlessness makes it difficult for both rubbish collecting and lawn mowing. To add insult to injury, the offending (emptied) bin was left on the grassed verge for most of the Easter break, giving anyone casing the street the impression our house was vacant. With neighbours like that who needs enemies?
THREE: Vocal nervous fliers
I'd no sooner recovered from the bench-seat incident described in point one above when I found myself on a Napier-bound aircraft seated next to a stranger seemingly determined that I would understand he was a nervous flier. "I'm scared of heights," he said, by way of introduction. Channeling that everything-will-be-just-fine vibe of cabin attendants, I smiled vacantly and hoped that would be the end of it. But no. After we'd been advised what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency, he added: "I'm nervous about flying." I was silent. What I would have said if I hadn't been being considerate of his emotional state was: "After losing a loved one in an accident on board United flight 811 in 1989, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I'm fine now but I'd rather give your issues a miss, thanks."
FOUR: Car-park hijackers
The other week I parked my car in a street-side parallel parking space defined by white painted lines. When I returned, a motorbike was parked behind my vehicle and within the space it was occupying. My car was jammed in. Luckily there was ample room in front so I was able to escape. I did reverse a tiny bit first though just to hear the shrieking protestations from my car about an impending collision. That hostile parker was lucky I wasn't driving a rental car that day. If I had been, motorbike might have been squashed. Just saying.
FIVE: False indicators at roundabouts
Have you ever been waiting at an roundabout because you saw that a car that entered the roundabout from the street directly ahead of you has its right indicator on which means you must give way to it (as it is about to cross your path) but then, at the last minute, the vehicle's left indicator comes on and it enters the street you are waiting to leave and therefore it doesn't cross your path at all? Me too. And it does my head in. You mean to say I waited for you and I didn't need to? So bad. That is 10 seconds of my life I am never going to get back just because you don't know the correct procedure for going straight ahead through a roundabout.