One of the few perks of working a job with ungodly hours is the fact that there are times where I have a little bit of time during the week to do my own thing. Last week, in the spirit of my goal of traveling a lot more this year (as always) I made a quick trip back to the South to do some laundry and get my hair done by someone halfway competent. I don’t normally go halfway across the continent to do laundry and chill for all of one day but the flight was free and the checked bags were free and it certainly beat a trip to the laundromat contemplating the intricacies of my life while waiting for my clothes to dry and wasting an afternoon. But I digress. Other than the unseasonably bitter cold that happened to be the current climate at the time, I had an interesting experience right fresh off the plane. I went with the other passengers in the mad rush to the baggage claim only to stand around for about a half out before the bags were put on the conveyor belt. Since the biggest goal of my trip was doing laundry, I didn’t really pack a lot. I just dumped my dirty clothes hamper into the biggest suitcase I had and lugged it with me. Wonderful strategy. So my bag finally appears on the belt and at that point I was just ready to grab it and go. Mind you, it’s a pretty good sized suitcase but not so big that I can’t pick it up. It’s just bulky. So as I’m reaching for my bag I see a hand in my peripheral vision but ignoring its relevance to my situation I just ignore it and heft the bag over the belt onto the ground and come eye to eye with a man who looks pissed off. He immediately starts to chastise me for not allowing him to get my bag off the belt. He vehemently reminds me that I’m now in the South and that there’s no excuse for me not to allow a man to get my bed because chivalry is still alive and well. I was pleasantly amused by the experience and it was a nice reminder that there are some really good qualities about Southern culture. It’s funny how much you can miss those little things when you don’t live in that environment anymore but it’s also interesting how you learn to adapt and go without them because they aren’t even an option. If anything like that happened where I live it would be a big deal because it is SO rare. Even the nice gesture of having doors opened surprises me every time that it happens because it is not a common occurrence. Definitely a contrast to the societal norms of the South.
There are few things that I find more irritating and annoying than the lack of chivalry around me. No, I’m not going to go on a rant about how I’m entitled to be catered to for the sheer reason that I’m a female. I don’t expect that although being catered to would be nice. What I think would be something as small as offering to lend a hand when I’m moving substantial items instead of selectively ignoring me. While I’m perfectly capable of doing this, offering to help–or better yet, actually helping out says more about character than words ever will. I know that the women’s liberation movement has cast a shadow on some of the old practices but hey, I’m actually rather old fashioned in that regard. In the past two years I can probably count the times I’ve had a door opened for me on two hands or less. That’s common courtesy to me but I guess that’s not the case to others. But all that being said, I can’t neglect the fact that I think that chivalry is a two way street. It’s never ok to ignore a nice gesture without a “thank you.” People will continue to practice behaviors that they feel appreciated for. If there’s no gratitude, the likelihood of the behaviors continuing is small. Small gestures of kindness go a long way and tend to come back to you in some form. Chivalry is a great thing–when it is appreciated and I fear we’ve lost that ability. Kudos to the guys that practice it despite negative reactions. Y’all are truly an endangered species.