The Politeness Project

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Day 1: I Do Not Go Postal

I never want to go to our local post office. It always has long lines and, to make matters worse, there's a belligerent clerk who works there. Sure enough, while I'm waiting, I overhear her barking at a customer. Then it's my turn. I gather my courage and step up to the counter. "Hi," I say in my most pleasant voice. "How are you?"

She scowls. Clearly I've already overstepped her boundaries. I persist in my politeness experiment, scanning the dog photos taped to the wall beside her. "Is that your dog?" I ask sweetly as she weighs my package.

To my surprise, the clerk tells me her dog is a Hurricane Katrina rescue. "He had to have surgery to repair his hip, but he's doing great now," she says. And then the real shocker: She breaks into a wide smile.

The transformation is amazing -- and all it took was one polite question that acknowledged her as an individual. Score one for Grandmother's advice.

The afterglow of this first encounter lingers until I'm driving home and a driver cuts me off at an intersection. Experiment forgotten, I honk my horn.

Continued on page 3:  Day 2: I Rethink the Angry Rant


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