Service of Thinking of Others

July 11th, 2011

Categories: Courtesy, Customer Care, Indifference, Restaurant, Thinking of Others


I’ve covered manners from all sides in at least a dozen posts. Awareness of others, in some cultures, is all you need to get along. What’s great about it is that it’s not complicated or hard to do and takes little time to learn.

Here are a few recent examples of a few who need remediation to grasp the concept of thinking of others:

Need of a Change…But Where? 

baby-diaperIn his Social Q’s column in The New York Times, Philip Galanes selected a letter from a California reader who complained about parents who changed their baby’s diapers on dining surfaces: A communal table and an airline food tray. The solution was convenient for the parents but did they for one second think of the yech-factor for their neighbors some of whom were trapped in seats on the plane?

Water, Water Everywhere But…

glass-of-waterWe were riveted by Adam Hochschild on Book TV over the 4th of July weekend. The “Mother Jones” founder was discussing his book, “To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.”

Unusual for Book TV, he accompanied his talk with photos and concluded with a compelling slide show of gravesites in France. At one point, his voice got rough and began to skip and I asked my husband, “Why doesn’t someone bring him some water?”  My husband noted, “Why isn’t water already up there?”

Hochschild soldiered on and when his voice gave out a third time, he asked for some water and eventually it came. Preparing for a speaker is more than sending out the invitations, ordering coffee and cookies and microphones. It involves common sense. Empathy and observation would help. Hochschild shouldn’t have had to ask.

You’re Here? So What?

sorry-were-openWe had lunch at an upstate restaurant we’ve been to quite frequently. We have spoken with the owner numerous times over the years. He wasn’t around when we arrived but soon stood at the hostess’s lectern pounding away at a computer and then he paced the floor a few times.

He never said a word to any of the guests, didn’t smile at us, say “hello” or look at our tables to check liquid levels in water or wine glasses. My husband said “Everyone has their bad day, maybe the chef or evening wait crew cancelled.”

Maybe, but I don’t think the owner of a restaurant can let his mood or stress affect his tableside manner. He isn’t thinking of its affect on guests who like to be made to feel welcome and who have so many other choices. Was he worried about the relatively new, successful Barbeque place across the street? His attitude is sending customers over there for sure.

His manner has already rubbed off on the hostess. She didn’t walk us to our table, waved us in the direction of a few of the options, was blasé in her greeting and enthusiastic only about getting to her mobile phone for a chat.

Do you have examples of people who haven’t–or have–thought of others? Do you agree that such a mindset is the key to success of much of what we do? Is it too much of a chore for most and not worth the trouble?


10 Responses to “Service of Thinking of Others”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Everyone is thoughtless at times, and most of us have been hit with some form of ill will, accidental or with malice. If it’s in a business situation, and an act is deliberate, a well articulated and well lodged complaint usually brings positive results. Suffering in silence only encourages ugly behavior.

    It gets touchier with personal relationships. A friend had the father from hell. Yet she gave much needed help until the day he died, an event which was welcomed by all.

    It’s difficult to know how to respond to direct slaps. Advice columns are full of exotic examples of how supposedly close friends and/or relatives purposefully foment disharmony. Is it that they are just plain stupid? Is it possible they just enjoy making trouble – along with being just plain stupid? The right answer threatens to bring about world peace, so it’s best not to hold ones breath.

  2. CKC Said:


  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good point: Who is being thoughtless makes a difference.

    It’s a cinch never again to return to a restaurant that doesn’t make you feel comfortable, to move away from the diaper scene at a communal table and to ask a stewardess to intervene and ask the parents to change diapers elsewhere if you don’t want to be glared at for the rest of the flight but a family member, such as an ailing, nasty mother or father, ouch.

    Your friend must be a saint and I hope she survived the abuse.

    One of the rules I remember when I passed Red Cross lifesaving tests in the day was to be very careful not to put yourself in danger when saving someone who is drowning as it would be better for one to die than two. I think this applies beyond water safety and doesn’t mean a person is thoughtless.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I have always tried to fight the trend you describe–which I don’t dispute–and get personal if not monetary compensation for doing so. I know of exceptions–very successful and thoughtful people– thank goodness.

    With Messers Spitzer and Weiner in mind, I also think that some of the aggressively thoughtless “get theirs” when they run into a snag and there’s not a single voice to say, “Hey, wait a minute” on their behalf. Part of this may be because nobody wants to jump on a sinking ship, but I like to think that it’s more that such people have been so nasty and selfish that there isn’t a single person willing to support them.

  5. Hank Goldman Said:

    Jeanne- this is one of your BEST! There’s not much I/we can add, but I/we sure DO AGREE with your writing!!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks, Hank!

    I believe that if each of us would think of others, we’d fix/resolve a lot, starting with the politicians in Washington, moving on to the warriors and peacemakers around the world. So call me a Pollyanna/optimist.

  7. Jeremiah Said:


    You have picked a curiously appropriate subject for this specific time in the life of our country and this world.

    Although there is not a politician in the country who will admit it, we are at a crossroads in our history as serious as the one we faced 150 years ago. How we deal with it now will decide how we live the next 150 years.

    Nature and reality dictate that there will be less to go around per capita in the world from here on in unless we dramatically reduce population size. Consequentially, the decision faces us, since we cannot control population growth, as to how do we divide up our share of the shrinking pie among ourselves?

    Do we let market forces prevail and discard as useless tens of millions, or in the sense of the world entire, billions, of our fellow humans who are either too ignorant or indolent to compete? Or do we give up some of what we have that they too may survive?

    It is an interesting choice. And it may be decided by our government doing what it did 150 years ago, nothing much. This then led to the bloodiest war in the nation’s history. 600,000 died. Heaven help us what the cost will be this time around!


  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Wow, Jeremiah, I hope you are wrong.

    We’ve been heading towards a crossroads for a long time. I wonder if the decisions made by Washington will boil down to thinking of others–or not. Will those who have a lot to give up support candidates even if they are asked to share a bit more and will they tell the politicians in advance that they will be elegant about it?

    You appear to be saying that with business as usual–i.e. nobody with power bothers to exercise it–those who haven’t thought of others for a long time might be shaken by those who have been forgotten, leading to big-time fisticuffs.

    And each party must be thoughtful of the other. As my husband has said countless times, in a successful negotiation everyone must leave the table with something good.

  9. Martha Takayama Said:

    All your posts are pithy and beautifully written, but this one is a Grand Prix Winner! The insight it reveals is terribly profound, but it also left me laughing out loud. Unfortunately, after I stopped laughing, I mulled over just how unpleasant and absurd the types of behavior it describes are. We seem collectively to be socially bankrupt as well as suffering from financial downturns. It is hard to imagine more unattractive or counterproductive behavior than that manifested in the current national epidemic of narcissism, entitlement, self-importance, and thoughtlessness which are reflected in your post. It would seem that as our economy deteriorates and our education becomes more spare, we elevate bad behavior and lack of service as our goals! Where and when will it all end?

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your last thought gave me a flash. I wonder if as a result of the bad economy, families will have less money to spend on stuff and going places and more time to be together. The fallout might cause parents to realize how annoying their children can be when they are around them for more hours than before so they will correct and discipline them, to the benefit of everyone.

Leave a Reply

Clicky Web Analytics