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Great Neck Notebook: April 18, 2012

Playing By The Rules

I was in the supermarket last week around 4 p.m. with seven items in my cart.  The lady in front of me had four items. The couple at the front of the line was having their groceries scanned. As the cashier scanned the items on the belt, the woman continued to empty items from her basket. Now I’m not an MIT graduate but I could see at a glance that they had a lot more than the “10 Items or Less” line allows.

I thought about saying something to them, but didn’t. I wasn’t in the mood for a confrontation and certainly didn’t want to start a ruckus over a matter this trivial. But I was annoyed. Everyone else in that line had obeyed the “10 Items or Less” rule. It bothered me that this couple hadn’t. Did they think the rule was for everyone else? Or maybe they had one of those “The rules don’t apply to me” passes that I see routinely used in Great Neck.

It’s a slippery slope when you start breaking the rules we’re all supposed to live by. It’s easy to rationalize your behavior.  I’ll bet those students who got caught cheating on the SAT tests had a pretty good excuse for what they did. I’ll also wager that their parents knew what their kids were doing and either looked the other way or thought it was a cool way to beat the system. They all probably had a “The rules don’t apply to me card.”

Let’s talk about stop signs. It’s a well known fact - though rarely spoken of in public - that stop signs in Great Neck are optional.  I plead guilty to this one myself and even have a traffic ticket to show for it. My observation has been that if there are no other cars in the intersection, it’s okay to roll through a stop sign.  Of course, you have to slow down as you approach the intersection and you have to look like you were thinking of stopping, but then it’s fine to roll on through.

I read in the Great Neck Record last week that someone complained about a lack of “neighborliness.” It had to do with the family that wanted to keep chickens as pets. Well, they were right of course. Being a good neighbor is a dying art—it went out with holding doors for women and teaching our children to say, “May I be excused,” when they leave the dinner table.

I believe that when you move into a community, there’s an implied social contract. There are rules we all agree to follow. We also agree that the rules apply evenly to everyone. We recognize that when you start ignoring the rules, the quality of life we all treasure suffers.

It may be terribly old-fashioned—like saying please and thank you—but it’s worth the effort.  I wonder if there are refresher courses available to remind us all about the “golden rule.” No, I’m not talking about CD rates at the local bank, I’m talking about how we need to treat each other:  with respect, and kindness, and consideration.