The Perils of Living in Paradise

Yes There’s a Problem

Yes There’s a Problem

Just had to post this great commentary by a friend in my writing class. It’s terrific.


By Karen Grace

Have you noticed how what we thought were appropriate, mannerly declarations and responses have changed?

We used to say “thank you.” The response was “you’re welcome.” Now “you’re welcome” is rare and usually from an older person. More often, it’s “my pleasure,” or a smile or the worst, “no problem.”

“No problem!” Was there a problem? What was it? You did something for me. I said, “thank you.” What was the problem? Or the non-problem? Why is the word problem even part of the response?

We used to walk through town and smile or nod to passersby. Same thing on the bike path [in our island community]. Montanans raise one finger (no, not the middle one) above the steering wheel when they pass another Montanan while driving. They don’t seem to care if it’s someone they know or a stranger. If it’s a Montanan, that’s enough.

What response do we expect when we smile or speak? Maybe a “good morning,” “hello,” “beautiful day.” Not a blank stare or, even worse, a look of fear as if our remark were threatening and the precursor to a violent act. Have we become that afraid of people we don’t know?

In the Beach Club gym one morning, former president George W. Bush entered. That’s not a rare occurrence [on our island] in January. He’s always smiling and if you make eye contact with him, he’ll say, “Good going. Keep it up.” Or he’ll give you a thumbs-up.

That morning on arrival, he did just that to a woman who was using a weight machine. Her response was indignation. “Do I know you?”

“I guess not,” was his reply, said with a smile. It was amusing to the rest of us. But why was her response so wary – even if she thought him a stranger.

We won’t even talk about civil discourse or intelligent debate. The point of a discussion isn’t to convince or WIN! Sometimes when we listen to a view other than our own, we achieve a better understanding of an issue. It could happen. It can help to say “You’re right” or “How interesting” or “Thank you for sharing your ideas” before launching into one’s own take on the subject.

If only the thank you doesn’t elicit a “no problem” response.


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