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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Friendliness not always a good idea

    Midterms are back during arguably the hardest month of the semester, so it’s time to claim an open table in the library and various coffee shops for study purposes. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of work you have, you’re probably not in the mood to be interrupted while you’re in the academic zone, but if you’re good-natured as most Tucsonans seem to be, you’ll chat with whomever approaches you for at least a few minutes.

    One of the benefits of living in the West is the pervasive friendliness. Coming from a beach town where everyone greets each other, converses comfortably and often develops relationships with coffee shop baristas, I always hoped the majority of people live by this lighthearted state of mind. This mentality isn’t for everyone, though. Many city folk are harder to get close to, and they appear hostile and harsh to their opposites. The warmth of Tucson (no pun intended) seems to boost our contentment and candor, but there are too many fair-weather friends and creeps who haunt us when we’re nicer than we should be, so it’s not always the right quality to have around strangers.

    I spent the summer in Washington, D.C., and was immediately startled and a little troubled by the curt atmosphere. Unlike Sun Tran riders, no one seemed to engage in conversation on the Washington Metro, and when I asked several passengers a question about a train destination, I received identical passive, chilly stares. A Midwestern coworker talked about her fear of tumbling to the bottom of one of the long Metro escalators, not because she’d seriously injure herself, but because she didn’t trust the soulless D.C. bureaucrats to call the police or ambulance for her. I mean, there are train cars to hop on and schedules to abide by. After two years in charming Tucson, it disappointed me that there exists a metropolis with little humanity and community support.

    On the escalator ascending to ground level, three ebullient young men got so excited, they accidentally stood on the left side of the escalator, breaking the unwritten rule of staying to the right to allow other people to climb the stairs if need be. Instead of asking them to please step aside, one woman shouted as she elbowed past, “”Stupid tourists! Go back to your own (insert expletive) city!””

    As depressing as it may be for someone to move to a more serious, arguably nastier city, cold attitudes may be essential to surviving in a dangerous place like D.C. According to a 2006 FBI Crime Statistics report, D.C.’s rate of violent crime was 1445.84 crimes per 100,000 people, ranking it number 18 in its rate of violent crime in populations of 100,000 or more. Demonstrating congeniality is not a top priority for D.C. residents, especially since some of the homeless there seriously menace and harass pedestrians for money. Expressing compassion can actually harm someone in such an environment, so anyone raised around this may not be capable of warming up to others quickly.

    Besides denying suspicious strangers a smile, spare change or a “”hello”” for safety precautions, many don’t go overboard with friendliness because it’s unnecessary. Some enjoy having effortless conversations with restaurant waitresses and hostesses, but these people aren’t going to remain in the lives of the customers, so it makes sense for many to skip sycophantic small talk entirely. Some believe there is no sincerity in forced friendliness at all.

    “”This constant sense of temporary friendships (in the West) makes making real friends difficult,”” said philosophy senior and DC native Tracey Schulman.

    “”People have the tendency to be overly friendly and be incredibly revealing about themselves when you first meet them, only to pass you the next day and not acknowledge your existence,”” Schulman added. “”On the East Coast, people tend to be outwardly colder, but becoming close to someone is more of a challenge and takes genuine effort. This makes it hard for someone moving there to instantly make friends, but if you have a long, deep conversation with someone, there’s a good chance they’ll call you and see if you want to go to a party with them.””

    Since we’re living here, it’s important to be courteous enough most of the time, and frankly, it’s hard to be otherwise since everyone is generally easy to get along with and interested in meeting others. We still have to draw the line when we’re putting ourselves at risk or getting carried away with politeness to the point where our days have been disrupted. Be cordial, but don’t overdo it.

    – Laura Donovan is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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