Walhydra was jarred briefly from her Rip Van Winkle slumber this morning as she left her favorite Tenbucks coffee dispensary.
It was nothing out of the ordinary, just the conventional, almost automatic action of holding the door open for the man behind her as she left. He said, "Thank you," and she felt a brief yet noticeable lift of self-regard.
"Oh," she thought. "That's what this is. It's what 'common courtesy' is all about.
"It's just a moment of signaling: 'I'm one of you. We aren't enemies'."
Wahydra marveled that she'd never made this connection before. And she realized why she has felt so very much distressed for years now, in a vague yet viscerally undeniable way, by the decline of public displays of courtesy...making eye contact and nodding to strangers on the street, walking on the right, parking carefully so as not to cross lines into an empty space, allowing someone right-of-way even though the law doesn't require it.
The decline, even, of having been brought up to know that certain behaviors are simple acts of public courtesy, acts which cost nothing yet have immeasurable value.
She chuckles about the habitual dog thing of sniffing each other's butts, recognizing that her insight puts even this odd behavior...um...in good odor.
"If I suspected you were an enemy, I wouldn't let you sniff my butt!"
"So," she concludes, "it's all just primate grooming behavior...and I miss it."
And so it is.