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“P”s And “Q”s

Roy Esaki

When life gets overly hectic and stressful, it’s easy to disregard the social lubricant of etiquette amidst graver concerns of assignments and chores. As a testament to the ease of their neglect, P’s and Q’s are so named because grammar school children had trouble distinguishing the two if they weren’t properly mindful of the rules. There’s much complaint about administrative policies and sociopolitics, but everyday manners and interactions cumulatively make a more direct impact on the quality of life.

Pet peeves differ, and some may feel that there’s nothing wrong with some of the following, but there are general oversights which warrant occasional airing.

During class: If you’re one of the earlier ones to arrive at a lecture or if you’re sitting with friends, don’t sit in the aisle seats, especially in the center sections with the greatest number of adjoining seats. It might be convenient to get out a couple of seconds faster at the end of class, but forcing other people to hurdle and writhe over you isn’t very nice for either party, unless you’re that desperate for physical contact. Make your cell phone vibrate, not ring, if you need it at all. Don’t talk during the lecture.

If you need to talk to the instructor at the end of class, be mindful of the other students. Often a student who just needs to have a form signed and is already late for the next class waits for a student wanting to nit-pick semantics. That’s not nice.

During the day: If the Tech Shuttle is crowded, move to the end of the bus, for the same reason that one should move to the middle of a row of seats. That, and the bus driver says so. Holding doors open and subsequent thanking is pretty good, as it’s easy to remember, but it’s still something to keep in mind. Ironically, something more fundamental than most other kindnesses -- responding to greetings with a hello and a smile -- is often less common. I’d say about two-thirds of my greetings are unrequited (and almost a hundred percent of anything more I try, but that’s another lament). It rather detracts from the humanity of this place when hellos are returned with furrowed brows and glassy gazes.

Don’t litter. When the Athena clusters are really busy, and you don’t really need to be playing games or frivolously messaging people while others need to print out their paper before class, get some fresh air outside. Say please and thank you to the Aramark people. Be nice to office staff.

At your place of residence: Take your laundry out of the washers and driers promptly after the end of the cycle. Not many people enjoy rifling through other people’s personal garments (at least they shouldn’t). Keep the music and bellowing or screeching laughter to a minimum. Throw up in the toilet rather than in the sink. Clean up messes in the kitchen, bathroom, and common areas. Expecting, if not demanding, that the custodians look after our careless and wanton messes isn’t cool; appreciating their presence with greetings and gratitude is much better. When making unsolicited calls upon people in their rooms, read the subtle signs and leave in a timely fashion. If you say or do something especially mean during times of stress-induced crankiness, apologize later.

Shower daily. This is also applicable for any of the other sections, especially for in the classroom; you might not notice it, but it’s not fun for others sitting in the vicinity. Online: What’s lacking in real-life social graces on campus is probably more than compensated for by our general savvy of online protocols and manners. Most don’t need to be mentioned. A couple of suggestions: don’t demand that people respond to Instant Messages immediately, if at all, even if they don’t leave an away message. People use the medium differently -- as a message board, as a substitute for life, or exclusively for vainly flirting with distanced acquaintances.

Lists such as this seem nagging, but it’s really nothing more than a list of ideas on how we could make the quality of life better for ourselves and others on a daily level. It’s not even about the ideas, but it’s instead mostly a matter of making a conscientious effort to realize what we’re saying and doing, and what we’re not saying or doing. Fixing all sources of frustration and pet peeves starts with making sure we aren’t a source of them ourselves.