People can be dirtbags. We’ve all had the jerk who cuts in line, takes up several seats on the bus, or thinks the entire sidewalk belongs to no one else. It’s annoying, disheartening, and a bummer to see. Our consolation is generally little more than a c’est –la-vie-sort of smile shared with the decent strangers about us. But, at the risk of being redundant in two languages, such is life.
It’s really not all bad. In the worst-case scenario, we have a few more minutes added on to our wait, a slightly more uncomfortable ride (or, a fun chat), or an elbow into someone’s side. While the manners vagrant hasn’t exactly made our day through self-centred actions, nothing has really been affected either. In the grand scheme of things, the short-term unpleasantness means nothing. No animals were harmed in the making of these decidedly un-Kodak moments.
These moments are typically the worst we ever see of people. Your average acquaintance hasn’t gone to prison for a vicious crime, clubbed a baby seal, or been publicly racist. People aren’t that bad. In fact, most are quite far from being the worst. Last time an elderly person needed a place to sit, did they get it? Last time someone in a wheelchair needed help to get through a door, did someone help? Heck, how many times will a car wait for the pedestrian to cross at a quiet intersection? People are inherently good, and it’s important to remember that.
Case in point, Halloween. It’s the sort of thing that you marvel at. In a world where even playground equipment regularly gets the “make sure it’s safe” shakedown and future generations are increasingly made aware of the dangers of the Internet, we allow a prime opportunity for less-than-savoury characters to seize the moment. Millions upon millions of children, some with no supervision, wandering up and down every street and knocking on every single door that offers even the slightest hope of a sweet morsel. And all done after nightfall. Given neither context nor the incredibly safe history of the occasion, I’m fairly certain I’d be against trick-or-treating.
But nothing happens. Ever. The popular myth of poisoned candy and razor blades being inserted into chocolate bars is just that: a myth. Every year, a few sensationalized stories come out about children falling victim to such malicious deeds… only to be quietly debunked shortly after—after the expected panicked uproar has already taken place.
Various sources have confirmed the utter ridiculousness of Halloween poisonings, such as snopes.com, which even cited an interview from Joel Best, a professor of sociology at California State University. Part of Best’s research involved checking major newspapers from across the country over a 30-year period. His work revealed that there were 78 cases, 2 deaths, and no actual incidents. The deaths were attempts to use Halloween as the scapegoat (one case involved a father trying to cash in on his son’s life insurance policy), while the majority of the other cases were either teenagers trying to stir up trouble, or misrepresentations of what actually occurred.
Of course, none of this is to say people can’t be bad. There are awful souls out there who do intend to do harm to others. Crime is a real thing. Jails exist for a reason. Don’t be an all-trusting sucker. As with anything, use your judgement. Find the proper balance. But there’s no need to go about stealing side-glances at the fast food worker who accidentally stiffed you a nickel.
People can be annoying and tiresome. But for the most part, we’re all just trying to get by.