Lately Freddie has been so keen to welcome in the day he’s decided that 4am is a reasonable hour to do so, which seems pretty unreasonable to me. 4am is officially the middle of the night; lights out, deep dreams, silent streets, dead to the world territory. It certainly isn’t the optimum hour to begin the day, not even with a rendition of Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes. But Freddie doesn’t know this.
After beginning my day in the middle of night, I was a little blurry eyed on the way to work. Blurry because I was tired and because my morning had been fairly eventful in the five hours I’d been reticently awake. In those precious pre-dawning hours I’d already thrown up into a miniature whistle*, survived a flash flood** and showered twice in a sick storm***. It is fair to say my morning hadn’t started all that seamlessly.
So when confronted with unyielding traffic that stood between me and my bus to work, I was somewhat affronted by the cyclist who took offence to my position on the pavement, shouting ‘stupid idiot’ at me as she whizzed passed. And as I watched my bus pull away without me, my mind was still with the cyclist who’d shouted at a stranger at the side of the road – a stranger who’d been up since 4am, who had thrown up into a miniature whistle, who had fought a flood and showered in sick. A stranger who would never shout at a stranger for standing at the side of the road. And I thought ‘why can’t everyone just be nice?’ It’s really not that hard.
Be nice. Don’t huff behind someone whose contactless card is feeling frigid at the barrier. Huffing won’t help their card work any faster. Just be nice. Lend a pen, leave your change, open the door; wouldn’t that be nice? For goodness sake, give up your seat to the pregnant lady. Give up your seat to the boy with too many bags, or the red-faced woman with two children slipping from her hips, or someone who looks like they’re carrying the weight of the day on their shoulders and might just need that seat more than you. Be nice. When you walk past a homeless person don’t pretend you can’t see them. That’s not nice. Don’t blow smoke in my baby’s face at the bus stop. Be fucking nice. If someone falls, help them up. If the door closes, open it. Don’t gossip, say sorry; that’s nice. Say thank you (even if you don’t mean it) and say please because it’s just nice to be nice. Let them out, let that go, save a slice; be nice. Be fucking nice!
I appreciate that nice isn’t all that exciting. It’s not anarchic or passionate. It’s not sex on the beach, or screaming at the ref or drinking jaeger bombs from a bucket. Nice sits neatly on the white fence in middle of the road in Sussex. It’s a biscuit with your tea and flowers on reception. It’s ‘excuse me’ and ‘after you’ and seven kinds of ‘thank you’. But nice isn’t just agreeable, it’s essential. It’s essential to the life-blood of society that differentiates us from the rats in the race, grappling to survive in a world without compassion, empathy or understanding.
We are all guilty of focusing on our own feet, keeping our heads down in an effort to make our way through the day without disruption. Life is challenging enough without being tasked with sustaining societies good vibes; but surely we can all take responsibility for playing our own small part? A smile takes but a second. A pleasantry in passing can make a day. ‘Thank you’ might make it all feel worthwhile. Shouldn’t we all want to treat everyone like we’d want to be treated, no matter how insignificant your meeting.
Give it a go. Try it out for size. You might find your niceties are infectious and breed like a flu for the fair hearted. And whatever you do, please don’t shout at strangers on the side of the street, because they might have just thrown up into a miniature whistle. Think before you holler and BE FUCKING NICE!****
* Fred has a tendency to launch himself from his changing mat, so to distract him from such audacious actions I Iike to entertain my reclining prince with a miniature whistle. On this particular morning, his nappy was powerfully potent and I learned that throwing up into a miniature whistle makes for an underwhelming tune.
** The dishwasher broke and emptied 320 gallons onto the kitchen floor. I learned that I don’t own enough towels for such a situation.
*** I learned that when all your towels are on the floor mopping up the contents of the dishwasher and sick from a miniature whistle, you need an emergency back up drying solution when your son can’t stomach his third breakfast. (Socks aren’t a very good emergency back up drying solution.)
**** If you don’t think it’s nice to swear, I apologise – so don’t be fucking nice, just be nice. Thanks.
Fred says, ‘BE NICE!’