Courtesy is Contagious

After moving from Chittenden County to Central Vermont, it took awhile for the courtesy of the drivers to affect me. Yes, it was nice having someone stop and allow me to make a left hand turn. It was also a pleasant surprise when I was allowed to emerge from a parking place into traffic.   But it took awhile to change how I drove.


At first, I just accepted the kindness of strangers and continued to plow along at my usual pace. Then, I noticed how I was driving. Just after enjoying the courtesy of someone who let me into traffic, I almost whizzed by a car waiting to merge. I saw the sad face of the driver waiting in the hopeless anticipation of finding a break in the traffic. So, I hit the brakes and let her in.


Next came the appreciation as the lady pulled in front of me. She gave a huge smile and waved thank you, like I had just made her day. It didn’t really cost me anything; I still got home at about the same time, but I got a lift from that random act of courtesy. Before long, I tried it again.


Every time I stop to let someone turn or merge, or for a pedestrian to cross the street, it is the same. There is always the happy smile and wave. There is always a lightness and joy within me. Being nice is nice. It makes me feel better. While the cost is negligible, the reward was substantial and enduring. I feel better all day.


In another month, we will have been living in Barre City for a year. During that time, I have learned not just how to be courteous in my driving, but to look for other opportunities to be courteous. It has even spilled over into how I deal with people at the super market or walking along the sidewalk. Saying “hello” has become automatic. Taking a moment to assist a person or let someone get ahead of me at the checkout has become natural.


Being courteous takes a little bit more time, so I have to slow down. Otherwise, I miss the opportunity and the reward. Slower turns out to be less stressful. Wow! Another reward. The courtesy of other drivers has taught me how to extend courtesy to others. It can spread like the measles!


Because of my work, I still drive a lot in Chittenden County. However, I don’t drive like I used to; now I am polite. This can be very disruptive to the traffic flow amidst all the hustle and hurry that typifies driving there. When I stop to give someone the opportunity to make a left hand turn, they often react like I’m setting them up for an ambush. Few smile or wave thanks. They usually just gun their engines and react like I’m another old fart who can’t keep up with the pace.


Fine. I don’t mind because I’m now hooked on courtesy and can’t help myself.


When people ask what is like to live in Barre City after living in Chittenden County I tell them it is great. It’s just like living in the Vermont I moved to 30 years ago.


Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident, and courtesy makes it easier.

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About the author

Scott Funk has specialized in Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgages for over a decade. He is a recognized Aging in Place advocate in his home state of Vermont. His monthly newspaper column Aging in Place has run for 7 years in 24 papers around the state. Scott is brings a lighthearted approach to his talks on Boomers, retirement and aging on purpose.