star trek coffee
captain kirk on the bridge of the uss cafe helio-
happy halloween (boo…)
One time I dressed up for Halloween and my friend Frank took this amazing photo of me. He is an awesome photographer check him out: http://fotographzfrankjackson.tumblr.com/
Today I was walking home from my local coffee shop. It was getting to be rush hour in Los Angeles. On the way there I encountered this familiar scene:
An elderly man walked across the street of a busy intersection, everyone passed him by and hurried to make it across the street before the crosswalk light changed. The elderly man made it halfway across the street when the crosswalk light turned red. Traffic in the lanes behind him started whizzing by. The traffic in the lanes ahead of him started to creep forward and try to drive around him. (WTF L.A.!)
I ran out into the street and asked him “Do you need some help?” He seemed a little disgruntled that I asked him this and said “No, I’m fine.” Before he finished his sentence a man riding a crotch rocket and splitting traffic lanes whizzed by the front of us at about 40 mph. After this, the elderly man took my arm and we crossed the rest of the street. The elderly man said a small gruff “thanks” and we went our separate ways.
The moral of this story is not “help old people cross the street.” (you should do this anyways, don’t be an asshat) The moral of this story is: How can you offer assistance to someone in need and help them maintain their dignity?
I wondered why the elderly man seemed so disgruntled when I offered to help him, I thought about it for the rest of my walk. I made a mistake by using the phrase “Do you need some help?” While my intentions may have been good, this simple phrase was a pretty rude and demeaning way to offer assistance. It places me the asker into a position of status/power. It is a subtle way of saying “I am so strong and powerful, I can see you are weak. You are at my mercy, beg for my help.” The polite way to offer assistance would have been to say “May I help you?” This puts the person you ask in the position of status/power over you. No longer are they at your mercy, but now you are at the their mercy. Will you get to be the lucky soul who is allowed to complete this quest for them?
I am sure this difference of phrasing is probably a well established and documented rule in a big book titled “Proper Manners of Polite Society” but I have never read that book. This change in phrasing is subtle, if the difference is recognized at all it is most likely on a subconscious level. So why even make a fuss about this or a post on tumblr? I guess maybe this is just a way of reminding myself to always be considerate about this sort of thing and maybe it will help someone else remember to be considerate. So pass it on and help other people learn how to help everyone else without being demeaning.
P.S. It is also entirely possible that maybe this was just a grumpy man who did not like strangers, and did not give two sh*ts about the nuances of the grammatical phrasing I make in my day to day life.