In celebration of common sense day!
When I get into an elevator, I make it a point to give everyone their personal space. I do not stick my shoulder to strangers’ arms; I step out of the way when someone needs to get off. When I cough or sneeze, I cover my mouth. When I buy a good amount of things at the grocery store (even if it fits in the hand basket), I do not line up at the express lane.
As far as I’m concerned, this is behavior that falls under the category of “common sense.” But as I’ve seen, heard and experienced, common sense isn’t actually that common.
So what better way to celebrate Common Sense Day than by going through the most forgotten and most frighteningly uncommon practices?
Now, you might be the most malambing person on the planet, but that doesn’t matter when people around you don’t hold physical contact to the same regard. Hugs are good amidst close friends and arm grazes cannot be helped most of the time, but if there is room for space, then give it—and this includes lowering the volume of your music (even if you are using earphones).
Brush your teeth, put on some deodorant and cover your mouth when you cough and/or sneeze. Properly throw the tissues you use for your waste and wipe the toilet seat when you leave…stuff.
When someone hands you their phone to show you a photo or a text, don’t swipe. Not up or down, not left or right. Remember that they’re showing you only what they’re showing you and you need to respect their privacy. And while we’re at it: Just because you know someone’s passcode doesn’t mean you have the freedom to navigate through their smartphone without permission.
When someone mentions that they’re tired and that they have something to do early the next morning, pick up the “it’s time to go home” hint. As much as you can, don’t start a new conversation or order another round of drinks or nachos.
Inserting yourself into conversations
When two people are talking and you need to discuss with one of them, wait for their conversation to finish first. If it’s urgent, try to call their attention but do not—do not—just step in and disturb them.
Eating strong-smelling food
Look, no one wants to smell your curry dish (however much we love curry) in the movie house when all they ordered was butter popcorn.
Blocking the way
We’ve all heard the stand-on-the-right-walk-on-the-left argument, but there’s something else we should be highlighting: when you get off the escalator, start walking; when you’re in line for the ATM, don’t block the hallway; when you’re in the middle of a crowded elevator and someone needs to get off, get off and just get back in.
There are several more examples that we could list down—returning grocery carts, cleaning up after yourself, not showing up unannounced to someone’s house—and the question then becomes: If common sense is supposed to be so common, why does it escape so much people? Why is it that something as basic as covering your mouth isn’t reflex to everyone?
There’s an argument that common sense is actually neither common nor sensical for the simple fact that it relies heavily on personal experience. And, as we all know, personal experience isn’t universal. So can we really throw shade at someone that doesn’t seem to know that an innocent touch of the shoulder can make someone really uncomfortable? Is it right to roll our eyes when someone opens a bag of strong-smelling food in the elevator? Perhaps not.
But in the situations wherein “common sense” can be replaced with other words such as “sensitivity” and “manners,” there is very little gray area.
Art Alexandra Lara