Little Incivilities

Living in Las Vegas, a k a, “The Big Mayberry,” has disabused me of any nonsense that small burg residents conduct themselves kindlier than big city dwellers. In New York, we weren’t rude but as befitting a hustling cosmopolitan metropolis, just in a hurry.

See, there was always more to do and less time to do it.

Having pointed out those conditions to long-time Las Vegas residents or transplants just arriving from even pokier precincts, none of them fully grasped them. Of course to such people the concept of “now” means “eventually or sooner.”

And frankly, where one might think fewer people over dustier spaces should occasion more politeness, the opposite transpires here in the Mojave. “Rude New Yorkers” could take advanced lessons in incivility from any alleged salts of the earth populating this wedge of Nevada.

It would’ve been natural to believe that with inhabitants fewer and farther in between, the social compact when it could be exercised would be a more elaborate, deeper seated exchange. After all, humans are social animals. Here? Eh. On average, Gotham’s verbal shorthand conveyed greater sincerity than the windiest, wheeziest salutation so far heard in Sin City.

While the locals can bury listeners in “sirs” and “ma’am’s” with the thickness of manure covering feed lots pens, the most effective verbal grease, “please,” thank you,” and “excuse me,” get short shrift.

To my ear, hearing the above titles uttered often sound grudgingly offered. Like Dawgpatch and Texas, throughout the Intermountain West aren’t these servile tics remnants of eras that only allowed a relative few to prosper fabulously while almost everyone else who settled here got thoroughly exploited?

There may not have been master and serf relationships in the American West as existed in the Old World, or even for the longest in Latin America, however, those with the wherewithal demonstrated no compunction in taking advantage of people enriching them while making certain the same never once forgot under whose thumbs they squirmed. That sort of resentment lingers to a deep extent in the successors of the shitkickers, rock apes, and sodbusters who fulfilled Manifest Destiny and closed the American Frontier through settlement.

Let’s surmise that given the crowded conditions, the hectic paces of the East and Midwest, little civilities were offered in preventative rather than defensive doses. Proximity close there, the almost ceaseless contact demands nearly reflexive social niceties. Otherwise the continual grazing and glancing, physical and verbal, would become chafing and that’d lead to conflict, quickly rather than later.

Besides, if contrition weren’t voiced the offended party would know the injury intentional. But that inflames a whole other course of response.

Today the more technologically adept and advanced the person, the less inclined he or she is to practice much in the way of civilizing social niceties. It’s as if staring into device screens has leeched humanity from their viewers.

No. My mistake. Patience. Awareness beyond one’s own bubble. Those are the attributes which have been diminished.

Commonplace now into modern cliché, diners around a restaurant table each bathed in blue light and engrossed in his or her device rather than engaging in the humans they’re seated among seems to slowly be expanding into our wider waking world. Sometimes in Las Vegas at least the visual and ear bud immersion appears so complete their thrall exclude precautions such as looking either way before crossing streets.

More and more, though, electronics aren’t required to disregard the world outside of the self. Haven’t devices rendered many of us so numb their circuits are no longer required to create unmindful states? Daily I notice how our interactions become more callous. Actions as simple as opening doors and passing through them could be contentious.

The protocol must be instinctive. Two or several people approach a door. What determines the order of who passes first? Hasn’t it always been a gentleman holds a door to let a lady by first; someone recognizably younger permits someone older through; those burdened with bags or packages before the empty-handed; an individual before a pair or more; those exiting before any entering?

Growing as it is, Las Vegas has far to go before becoming the favorite exaggeration of long-time locals – “Bad as Los Angeles!” Take it from a former New Yorker, despite its occasional hellacious traffic jams, Los Angeles functions smoother than Las Vegas.

However, the Big Mayberry must hold the dubious distinction insofar as drivers’ disdain for their autos’ signals and responses to drivers who use them properly.

Rules Miss Daisy might’ve concocted about space allowed pedestrians crawling across, um, crossing the streets or the favored acres yawning between cars idled at red lights make such hindrances easy for transplanted Easterners to ignore. Yet truly dangerous habits regarding signaling and reacting to them occupy numerous Nevada drivers. The locals often don’t use car signals and don’t heed others’ blinking lights. This probably accounts for the majority of dumb, dumb, not just preventable, dumb, accidents which as a consequence boost insurance rates above national averages.

In the nearly five years here, what drive has there been without avoiding rear-ending or sideswiping a lane-changing vehicle whose driver didn’t even bother giving his or her turning signal at least an okey-doke? Or, being a conscientious driver, signaling far enough ahead only to have the vehicle behind accelerate thereby reducing the safety zone and possibly dissuade the intended maneuver?

Me? I don’t care. If I’m in the right I’m changing lanes. Hit my car? Wonderful! It’d make worthwhile what I’m shelling out for extortion auto insurance.

Our mannered order is gradually being overturned. The likelihood of being trampled, brushed aside, impeded grows with every foray into public. Shrugs seen from the offenders, but nary a “sorry” heard from them.

It still amazes that none of the transgressors understand they’re one day closer to the same being visited upon them. Of course they may be so oblivious by then none will notice.

The area itself nurtures a lot of this isolation.

A Sunbelt Mecca, Las Vegas attracts plenty seeking their futures and fortunes in a sunny climate. More so than other favorite destinations of inner-America migration, Sin City fuels imagination and promotes excess in ways comparatively sedate Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, and, yeah, even Los Angeles, can’t. And while there is a community here, churches, parks, schools, libraries – albeit extravagantly supplemented by 24/7 gambling and drinking as well as the easier access to licentious diversions – sweeping transience also marks Las Vegas.

Roots are shallow in the Big Mayberry. The paucity of rain in the Mojave means these lifelines are rarely watered. Annually tens of thousands new residents – long-term determined/ short-term unsure trials – besiege the city from all over the country. Most arrive unformed. Elsewhere they’d be nourished.

Instead of growing and thriving, here they may shrivel.

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