I’m spoiled and I know it. I live in a place where I don’t have to see another person unless I choose to. Even when I do leave my home, the number of people I encounter at any given time is always manageable. Because we are a small community, we are unfailingly polite to each other. I’ve sat at a four-way stop sign with cars at each corner for up to several minutes while the drivers repeatedly gesture to each other: “After you.”
“I’m sure you were here first.”
“It’s okay. You go ahead.”
“You’re very kind, but I just wouldn’t feel right about it. Please. You go.”
“Well, if you’re certain.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Have a lovely day.”
“No. You have a lovely day.”
It’s just the way we roll here. Space is abundant and no one is in any particular hurry.
Each year on the Fourth of July the Rotary Club sponsors a fireworks display in a field beside the Catholic mission for the locals. On this occasion, I come down off my mountain top and, along with a friend, venture into town to a small, normally sparsely-filled parking lot where we have scoped out the perfect place from which to view the festivities. We get there early, set out our lawn chairs in front of the organic food store and open a nice bottle of Pinot, as is our tradition. It’s all very laid back.
This year that was not the case. This year this was the case.
We could not figure out who all these people were, where they had come from or how they had discovered our place. And nobody was polite. When space is limited, people will fight each other for it like hungry rats over a mold-covered crust of bread. Some woman persisted in coughing on me for an entire hour. Not the polite, mouth-covered cough either, but a phlegm-filled hack that, upon returning home, had me checking to see if all my inoculations were up to date.
I realized something last night. Much like Jean-Paul Sartre, originator of the title of this post, I like people. I truly do. It’s humanity I can’t stand.