Archive for the ‘Civility’ Category

Service of Because They Can Though Maybe They Shouldn’t

Monday, July 10th, 2017

The world seems to be divided between those who do anything they want because they can and those who factor in others. Since I wrote, last week, about the executives who don’t blink at charging exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs my mind continues in that track.

The driver of a supersized SUV turning into 45th Street from First Avenue didn’t take his foot off the pedal for one second and almost ran me over. Why? Because he could—nobody stopped him and even if he’d hit me, he’d have been off and running for the same reason. The light was fully in my favor [as in the photo above] and I was crossing at just the right place [unusual for some New Yorkers].

The driver felt big, important and on a mission. I was an irritating pedestrian in his way, slowing progress. This scene happens countless times a day to thousands all over the city. Over the weekend we were in a cab that missed being slammed by a zigzagging driver who treated Lexington Avenue as though it was a super highway. Sometimes the threatening vehicles are bicycles driven by thoughtless, entitled individuals.

Photo: pinterest

The SUV incident happened two days after NJ Governor Christie sunned himself on Island Beach State Park in front of the state-owned summer house [photo right]. This beach—and all state parks in the Garden State–were closed to other citizens June 30-July 3 because of the second government shutdown in that state’s history. Christie’s beach time wasn’t illegal—the house has access to the beach—though when he and the family were captured on camera by a news helicopter, it didn’t look good [no pun intended]. As Christie put it at a news conference in which he was criticized: “Run for governor, and you can have a residence there,” according to nj.com.

Island Beach State Park, NJ

He claimed that he’d promised his son that he would celebrate his birthday at the beach. But just because he could didn’t mean he should when his constituents had to cancel their picnic, swimming and sunning plans. “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t set well with most. In fact, his selfishness may have ruined it for future governors. There’s talk about selling the house or renting it to generate income for the state.

For the most part, the people I know and work with are thoughtful, caring, empathetic, courteous and cordial—because they choose to be. The men at the transfer station in Millbrook, NY were so gentle and understanding when I showed up on a recent Saturday with a car filled with garbage, paper and bottles. I was wringing my hands because I didn’t have my ticket [the first time ever]. I felt overwhelmed by their kind, understanding response. “Not to worry,” they said, “We’ll get you next time,” and they grabbed for the bags and bottles and moved them to join like refuse in the three separate sections. Wet garbage costs $5/bag.

In your life, are there more SUV drivers and Christie-like characters or more people like the men at the transfer station?

Service of the Rules Are Not For Me

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

 above the rules

Some are above the rules. To illustrate the point I’ve chosen a public figure who doesn’t flinch at keeping countless others waiting; bicyclists who ignore traffic rules potentially causing others harm and an actress who doesn’t care if she ruins an irreplaceable museum piece.

Tick Tock Not

Mayor Bill de BlasioMayor de Blasio, [photo, right], holds up the works because he can’t get places on time. His actions tell the public, “Tough; live with it.” He hadn’t held the title long when his reputation was forged: He doesn’t like early meetings and tends to be tardy at any time. Headlines still track his arrival often over the real news–why he went or spoke somewhere.

Talk about Traffic Rules

Last week, WOR 710 a.m. morning drive radio talk show hosts Len Berman and Todd Schnitt addressed the lawless bicycle situation in the city. Schnitt, who just moved his family to New York from Florida, said he’s teaching his children to look both ways before crossing a one-way traffic street so as not to get hit. Berman reported once being almost downed by a bike outside a sports arena.

bike against trafficEvery night as I wait for the light at 53rd Street and First Avenue, where the new bike lane I recently wrote about threatens, I must remind myself to look both up and downtown as bikes speed by both ways.

Too Beautiful to Follow Rules

And then there’s Elizabeth Hurley, a British actress, who sat on “the 16th century Great Bed of Ware,” at the Victoria & Albert Museum to snap a selfie, Henri Nuendorf wrote last month on Artnet News. “The actress reportedly triggered an alarm when she took a seat on the priceless 10-foot wide mattress to capture that perfect shot,” he wrote in “Liz Hurley Kicked Out of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum for Taking Illegal Selfie on Antique Bed.” 

Great Bed of Ware

Great Bed of Ware

“The resulting image, which Hurley shared with her 164,000 Instagram followers racked up over 3,000 likes in only five days.” He continued, “The V&A has a strict ‘no touching’ rule to preserve its historic exhibits. Touching introduces dirt and oil from the skin onto an object’s surface, which can attract dirt to linger and degrade old and fragile objects.” Her objective was to generate publicity at any cost. She did. There must be better ways to do this while not potentially ruining something irreplaceable.

I don’t have to ask one question–I know the answer: “because they can.” What does it take for others to insist on a change? Can you share other examples? Are there exceptions where rules of civility by public figures or of safety should be bent if not broken?

Exceptions to the rule

Service of Great Medicine

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

old fashioned pharmacy

My husband, Homer Byington, wrote this post a few hours after he returned from having his appendix removed.

As Jeanne well knows, and suffers through patiently– usually — I am one of the world’s most notorious pessimists,  a doubting Thomas, a Luddite, a true Cassandra and chronic complainer who is always telling anyone who cares to listen that life was better 50 years ago.

Like so many others, I have been knocking the way medicine functions in this country for years and even more so recently as a consequence of the inauspicious startup of Obama care. Yes, all sorts of things are wrong with the system, and much needs fixing. But people like me tend to forget how lucky we have been to have had the great doctors and nurses we’ve had and great treatment we’ve received at various hospitals both on an inpatient and an outpatient basis. Today was a good reminder.

Dr. AronoffThis morning, just a few hours ago, I was in an operating room at Lenox Hill Hospital under the knife of a surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Aronoff, [Photo at right] who was trying to resolve what he described as an “enigma.” I’ll skip writing about medical stuff because I’ll just get it wrong, and it is quite complicated, but both he and I fully expected my hospital stay to be considerably longer than just a few hours. Dr. Aronoff and my wife and I go back more than 20 years when, as low man on the totem pole of a team of five doctors doing colonoscopies, he first treated us. Then, when he went out on his own, we followed. Why?

A month or two ago, to resolve my problems, Dr. Aronoff suggested a routine preliminary colonoscopy. Then the question arose whether he, a busy surgeon working 12 plus hours a day, or another doctor should do the job. He told me bluntly, “I’m doing it. I’ve always done yours.” That is the nature of the man. In this cynical age, how could anyone resist such a doctor’s loyalty to his patients?

Lenox Hill HospitalThe O.R. on the 10th floor of Lenox Hill Hospital is a busy place at 6:00 a.m. Milling about are staff and patients of every shade of color, sex, age, accent and language, but it is an orderly and well-paced chaos managed by experienced professionals, a scene a little like what one might see in a well-danced modern ballet. It sure didn’t hurt that the two R.N.s who interviewed me first were old timers who fondly remembered our family doctor cardiologist Dr. Paul Bienstock. Each of them then spontaneously volunteered that I was lucky to have Dr. Aronoff as my surgeon and said that he was the best. (It did occur to me that they said that about their doctors to all the patients they interviewed, but in this case, I think they both meant it, and their positive words bucked up my already considerable confidence about what I was about to have happen to me.) Then the doctor stopped by. We chatted, and he listened and did not later forget something enigma-related that I had suggested to him.

A few minutes later I was on the operating table, and there he was again with a bunch of other people cheerfully doing various complicated looking things. The mood was calm and positive. An hour and half later when I came to there was Dr. Aronoff smiling. “You can go home. It turned out to be your appendix after all. It was pretty inflamed and I took it out. Everything else looked O.K.” We talked a minute and then he went off to the waiting room to update Jeanne.

The recovery room fascinated me, especially the interplay between all those different people with different problems and different duties. Like the prep area it was an ordered chaos, but all the professionals, busy as they were, took the time to be solicitous to their patients. There may have been the usual friction between staff members that occurs in hospitals and nursing homes, or, for that matter, at any large institution, but it certainly wasn’t evident here. Somebody brought me a cup of ice chips for my throat; somebody else, a cup of tea and a plate of crackers. Even one or two doctors I didn’t know who were coming to see other patients smiled or said, “Hi.” Or, “How are you doing?” Jeanne showed up an allotted five minutes to make sure I was alive, and then Dr. Aronoff visited yet again to check up on me.

Next I was moved to the main floor recovery room, Jeanne in tow, where one terrific nurse gave us common sense, understandable answers to all sorts of questions like when I could take a shower and what I should eat. We were not rushed but as soon as I felt ready, off we went home just before 2:00 p.m.

Looking back on the experience a few hours later, I thought to myself that this is how medical care should be delivered. Maybe I received special attention, but I don’t think so. Everyone else around me seemed to be being treated the way I was.

At least ten different professionals dealt with me and they all acted like they cared about what they were doing and about me. There is no way for me really to know whether Dr. Aronoff is the miracle worker I think he is, but his results do speak for themselves. Here I am at home, never in pain– and hardly at all during the day –and painkiller free, writing a blog post just after having had two procedures performed on me, my inflamed appendix removed, and I am damn near 80. Now that’s great medicine! Yes, we haven’t doped out all of the enigma that brought me to the O.R. in the first place, but we may have that answer also by the time pathology gets through with my appendix.

The question is if Lenox Hill and Dr. Aronoff were able to deliver like they did for me in the middle of a healthcare crisis, shouldn’t we trust them, and the many like them, to come up with a sensible, efficient way to keep us healthy instead of the Washington politicians who seem to be at the beck and call of Big Business, Big Insurance, Big Labor and their battalions of highly competent, self-serving lobbyists?

Lobbyist 2

 

Service of Civility: Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate Survey and East Hampton, N.Y. Manners

Monday, August 12th, 2013

sir walter raleigh

Sometimes I think I live on the moon. I was reading Nicholas Joseph’s highlights on researchscape.com of a survey of a thousand Americans that KRC Research conducted for Weber Shandwick and one of its divisions, Powell Tate. I’m in sync with the condition but not with the cause to which 80 percent of respondents attributed incivility: Government leaders.

Hot potato gameWhat about parents and guardians? Is this another game of hot potato where nobody wants to be left holding the vegetable when the music stops?

Joseph wrote: “Civility in America remains at a steady low level as 54% of Americans expect civility to continue to decline in the next few years….. With Americans encountering incivility more than twice a day, on average, and 43% of respondents expecting to experience incivility in the next 24 hours, dealing with incivility has become a way of life for many.

“Many Americans believe that uncivil words are provoking harmful deeds: 81% of respondents believe that uncivil behavior is leading to an increase in violence in our society. Respondents view the government, general public, and large corporations as uncivil, while they see local news, small businesses, and their community as civil.

69% of respondents view the government as uncivil

63% think that the American public is not civil

63% also view the media as uncivil”

I’d like to insert easy access to guns also leads to an increase in violence.

FightingToward the end Joseph added: “The level of civility will not improve until government leaders act more civilly and 83% of respondents think that politics is becoming increasingly uncivil.”

Granted, the survey blamed the American Public second after government…but that’s far too fuzzy for me. It’s not the public but a person that lets a door slam in my face as I enter an office building with my hands full; watches the elevator door slap shut as I’m about to step inside or crashes into me on the sidewalk without taking a breath to apologize.

Respondents—70 percent–also directed fault at the Internet. Almost half  have blocked missives from an uncivil offender while Joseph reported cyberbullying has increased 15 percent since 2011.

East Hampton HomeManners are a first cousin of civility and Jim Rutenberg focused on the former in the title of his New York Times column, “Mind Your Manners, Or Else.” Datelined East Hampton N.Y., the first instance he described—of a hedge fund person and Wall Street lawyer trying to scam a local real estate company of its fee by leaving behind notes in one property asking the homeowner to deal directly with them—wasn’t about manners, it was about ethics and honesty.

After mentioning venues that capture unmannerly behavior, such as TheRudeHamptons.com, Curbed Hamptons and twitter character Joe Schwenk, whose handle is @HamptonsBorn, Rutenberg continued: “‘The Hamptons are, first and foremost, the locus of all this stuff: It’s where the powerful, the glamorous, the rich and the exalted go to summer,’ said Neal Gabler, the Amagansett-based author. ‘Because it’s their playground, the place where they can let themselves loose, it’s the place where you are likely to see them do things that they wouldn’t do in their own environment.’

“Mr. Gabler, who wrote the seminal biography of the gossip columnist Walter Winchell (“Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of the Celebrity”), views the sites devoted to reporting on suspected misdeeds as practicing a form of homegrown gossip columnizing, the whole basis for which, he said, “is essentially to equalize and take down the mighty to make sure they know they’re not better than we are.”

Manners apply whether or not you are rich or important or think you are. Some have them regardless, others don’t.

Definitions of “civility” and “manners” widely differ so we would naturally have diverse expectations about each. Is the reason we step on one another therefore inadvertent? I’m also curious about why survey respondents leave themselves out of the equation on the subject of civility and point far away to government and the public.

Your fault

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