I was shopping at a crowded grocery store this weekend. Usually when I go out in public (maybe like most people), I am in my own shopping bubble thinking of aisles and things to get and what my chores are and such ... people are just, there, sometimes in the way, sometimes amusing. If I walk in front of someone while they're staring/deciding about something in an aisle, I'll say excuse me, but other than that, sometimes I can get into the, "you're in my way" mode ... not rudely, I don't think, but, people are dehumanized, just another obstacle.
In two different incidents, at this grocery store this weekend, and on the road yesterday, I had a refreshing wake up call. At the store, I was tooling along with my cart in the main thoroughfare, and a teenager was coming my way. Then we got into the will-I-go-left-or-right and what-will-you-do mode, while still wheeling away. We both made our decision and didn't run into each other, and he passes me by and says, "excuse me". We kept going. That caused me to pause mentally and smile and want to be a more in-the-present type more often and remember my outward manners.
Then on the road yesterday, there's a pesky off ramp onto a 2nd freeway that is always a merging nighmare. I merge in sometimes, and most times I take the previous exit onto the feeder road and then get back on, so that I don't have to merge. If I do merge, I make sure to do the hand wave to the person behind me as a thank you. I don't turn around, and it's with half my brain on the task, but, a wave nonetheless. When people merge in front of me, sometimes I get the wave, and sometimes I don't. Yesterday, a car merges in front of me, and it was full of college-age boys, and it was still light outside. The passenger in the back, turns around and waves their thanks and makes eye contact with me. .... Then goofy me starts thinking, I'm not worthy of the thanks, I was not even paying attention, and the space opened up because I was slow (not that I would have been all jerky and NOT let them in, but more that I would have been elsewhere in my mind and not paying THAT much attention).
So now (and hopefully it will last, and I can make others aware, and we can spread a wave of manners around), I want to be more focused and outwardly polite in public situations. ... And a big thanks to the parents of these boys who taught them manners.