According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “etiquette” is a noun: “The customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group. ‘The basic code that helps maintain a healthy society is etiquette towards others.”
During the COVID 19 shutdown of 2020, as I have noted a few times in previous posts there seem to be a lot more people who are keeping healthy by going for walks and hikes in the area where I live. Now, I want to be as honest as I can, I cannot verify this with certainty because the times when I am observing the saturation of hikers and walkers I would normally be driving to, as I live more than an hour from where I live or teaching, and frankly, except for on the weekends, until now, I no frame of reference for how many people are out on walks or hikes. I am happy to see people staying in shape and taking care of their health. Going for a walk or a light hike may be the best for most people. I have a few things I want to observe regarding trail etiquette, walking etiquette, and just life etiquette:
First of all, a customary code of polite behavior in any society is to be aware of your impact on others. This awareness is important to keep a society working smoothly and for the best benefit of all in the society in which people live. Secondly, if everyone follows the same basic codes, then things will progress toward the benefit of all. There are a few areas of life that I think some need to be aware of in order to make improvements. Hopefully, they just are not aware of these items, and after being informed they will be able to act within better etiquette toward others.
If you are hiking, here are a few points of etiquette:
- On a trail please move to the right and allow them room to pass on the left.
- If you must listen to music, listen to them on headphones, and do so quietly so you are able to be attentive to your surroundings.
- Listen to your surroundings, stand to the right if someone is going faster than you are traveling.
- If you are hiking with another person, please talk in a soft quiet voice.
- Pay attention to the chance for there being mountain bikers or horseback riders, if they are coming, stand aside and let them pass.
If you are walking, here are a few points of etiquette:
- Walk against the flow of traffic, you should be seeing traffic coming toward you.
- When traffic approaches move as far to the left as possible.
- If you are walking with others, walk single file, essentially if there is traffic.
- Listen to your surroundings, stand aside if someone is going faster than you are traveling.
- If you are on a sidewalk stay to the right.
- Do not walk in front of traffic, wait until you get to a crosswalk, of until there are no cars coming.
If you are driving, here are a few points of etiquette:
- Don’t tailgate, you will get there, tailgating is dangerous.
- Pull as far to the left as you can if you are awaiting space to turn left, this allows others to pass on the right.
- Know where you are going ahead of time, know where you are going and use directionals so that all can tell where you plan to go.
- Approaching a green light that changes to yellow does NOT mean stop.
- Pay attention to your surroundings, if a sign says 45 mph, that does not mean 30 mph; if there is neon or yellow sign with a person and crosswalk, that means you might need to stop for someone in the crosswalk, be prepared.
Wearing of masks, here are a few points of etiquette:
- You are wearing a mask to protect others, not wearing one is selfish.
- Be aware of your surroundings, stand aside in stores to allow others to pass if you are “just-looking”.
When living, here are a few points of etiquette:
- Pay attention to your surroundings, just because you are not affected by something does not mean others are not
- Listen to others, understand their perspective may be different from yours but their views are valid and need to be considered.
- Understand that you may be unaware of “societal norms” that benefit you at the distress of others; be willing to sacrifice to buck those “societal norms” in the name of being just.
Finally, etiquette is: “The customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group. ‘The basic code that helps maintain a healthy society is etiquette towards others.” At the very least, in order for society to be healthy and therefore sustainable, being kind, being generous, and love everyone no matter what; every time. This is non-negotiable. In fact, we are beyond the point of etiquette when it comes to being aware of the many topics, instances, and continued transgressions of “societal racism”. Right now America is sick. We are all responsible for holding ourselves and others responsible for assuring that we are informed and carrying out social justice. Don’t pretend that it is, “not your problem, or not your responsibility,” it is. It may be uncomfortable for many or even most, but I am confident if we all do the hard and often uncomfortable work and persist in working for true justice we will make the changes that need to be made. Then we may be able to have an American etiquette that we can all be proud of, a healthy society. Do you get it yet?