The Old Money Attribute: Awareness

I encounter all kinds of people here on the streets of Paris, from starving artists to storied aristocrats, American tourists to African taxi drivers. The clothing choices run the full spectrum: every day I arch an eyebrow (and attempt to remain non-judgmental) as I pass wardrobes exhibiting, in turns, a refined eye for elegant, discreet quality, a passion for retina-pinching color combinations, and desperate cries for sartorial help, i.e., high fashion. Such is life in this truly international metropolis.

What I see in a variety of individuals, regardless of how they present themselves, is that some have awareness and some don’t.  I’ll define awareness as how keenly one is in tune with himself (herself) and his or her surroundings. Some people are aware of how they have dressed for the day, whether it’s a bespoke suit or a pair of jeans and sneakers. They are aware of how loud they are talking, to someone else in front of them or on their phone. They are aware of how they are spending their time, and other people’s time, and make an effort to be efficient and polite.

Most casual and fleeting of these encounters, but often the most revealing, between me and other people is navigating the seemingness omnipresent construction that seems to be going on everywhere right now in Paris. Sidewalks are disaster zones, with barricades, workmen, and machinery pinching access to a good one quarter of the pedestrian walkways in the city. When two of us approach a narrow gauntlet, sometimes it’s possible to just mutually and momentarily turn a shoulder and allow the oncoming person to pass without collision or concern. Other times, it’s necessary for one person to pause and wait for the other to pass.

This small moment tells so much: some people will wait, make eye contact, and smile, offering to let the other pass through first. Some will acknowledge the generosity of the other, and murmur a ‘merci beaucoup’ as they pass by, smiling with appreciation. These are the aware, the most sterling examples of this Old Money attribute.

Others go boldly and perhaps a little rudely forward with no awareness or regard for their fellow citizens. I (quite judgmentally, I must confess) place those persons in a separate and quite unequal category. They haven’t taken the time, or been taught, to be aware of others. It’s unfortunate.

For it is only with awareness that we can evolve. If we don’t know something’s lacking, we can’t improve. We also can’t relate. We can’t connect. We can’t really communicate. We can’t empathize. We can’t make progress, individually or collectively. This awareness is the source from which courtesy, wisdom, and kindness spring.

So let’s be aware.

  • BGT

14 thoughts on “The Old Money Attribute: Awareness

  1. One of the many things I really like about living in the American South is the traffic courtesy. I can take an hour to get through a 4-way stop. All the drivers say “You go…no, you go..(wave) you go!”. It’s great!

  2. …And I thought my time in the Orient was hostile; for some manner’s are a thing of the past in 2018

    V/r K Lee George

    “…When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

    -Maya Angelou

    On Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 8:18 AM The Old Money Book wrote:

    > Byron Tully posted: “I encounter all kinds of people here on the streets > of Paris, from starving artists to storied aristocrats, American tourists > to African taxi drivers. The clothing choices run the full spectrum: every > day I arch an eyebrow (and attempt to remain non-judgm” >

  3. I have to admit, Byron, that I have sometimes been the one who blew through a door first (like it was some kind of competitive event) or cut someone off on the sidewalk. I used to think it was the “Alpha Male” in me. But I realize that those who treat others with courtesy and deference are the true “Alphas” and it was really my own insecurity that was creating that type of behavior. I will be more statesman like in public from now on, for both my own sake, as well as others.

    1. Thank you for sharing, John. I once read a quote that said something like, No man stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child. I think you’ve made the case for a parallel: No man enters a room so powerfully as when he has held the door open for someone else. Thanks again. Good for you. – BGT

  4. I have had moments of ‘road rage’ in the super market. I pause to let someone pass by me in a narrow aisle and someone behind me plows through, too impatient to wait. I have lost track of how many times I have had people cut me off while I am pushing a heavy cart through the store. They then stop right in front of me to have a conversation. It seems common courtesy is no longer taught as rigorously as it used to be, Byron.

  5. Street etiquette in general is lacking. My two pet peeves: 1) ladies and gentlemen never spit on the sidewalk or street and 2) for everyone’s safety, do not try to walk and text message unless you can maintain the speed of other pedestrians.

  6. Having worked in NYC for a long period of time has taught me a lot about situational awareness. I have experienced numerous examples of where a “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to bump into you” or “I’m very sorry excuse me” have deflated a situation that could have turned very bad. Just today I heard a news story about a tourist in NYC who was banging on car windows asking if the driver was their Uber. The tourist banged on the wrong window and the driver got out of the car and punched the tourist in the head and he died as a result. (The last thing I would do is bang on car windows anywhere).

    What I find challenging is in the burbs where the population density is not as great and some people lack the proper deportment. In order to deal with rudeness in the supermarket we found a traditional family run market and we just call our order in and pick it up or have it delivered. A lot places deliver via placing the order online. In order to deal with long lines I always have a paperback book in my bag that I can read or I take some to-do notes in my filofax. Sometimes in order to be situational aware you have to detach.

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