Civility Lacking

How people relate to one another in day-to-day interactions is important in society. Civility, politeness and kindness are all measures of desirable interaction. In my February column I described a local incident involving a jogger bitten by an unleashed dog that lead to worrisome hours while the jogger and his family tried to ascertain whether the dog had received rabies shots. The tense situation might have been avoided had the companion of the dog shared information about rabies vaccinations at the time of the bite. Since I wasn’t a witness to the event I can’t confidently attribute fault to the companion. In anxiety-provoking incidents we don’t always think of, or do, all the things that later come to mind.

Another local civility-related situation came to my attention, coincidently through another Villages of Urbana message board thread. It had the largest number of posts that I can recall — more than 70. The thread subject involved behavior by adult drivers waiting to pick up children at Centerville Elementary School.

Before describing what was discussed in the thread, I appreciate that the school location and access conditions are problematic. The school is located across from a section of dense housing units on one side, a large playing field on the second side, a busy state highway on the third, and a drop off in terrain on the last. To further complicate the situation, because of underestimated enrollment, the school has far more students attending than planned. These conditions provide a backdrop for numerous problems.

The message board thread began with a description of less-than-civil behavior on the part of some adult drivers who opt to pick up children at the end of the school day rather than permit the children to take school buses or walk home. The thread originator described drivers who park immediately adjacent to a stop sign, seemingly unconcerned by the impact upon drivers, not picking up children, wishing to exit the street. Another post described a driver who “sponged” into a line of vehicles that had been observing the waiting line protocol. Other posts described a snow ball fight between an alleged resident of nearby housing and the driver of an illegally parked waiting vehicle. Deputies called were reluctant to issue tickets to illegally parked vehicles. An early February meeting was scheduled between sheriff’s representatives, parents and other interested parties to discuss the traffic issue (see the front page for the story).

Among the thread posts were some humorous comments. However, it was clear that the impolite behaviors discussed were the basis for some very hard feelings, prompting uncharitable thoughts and exchanges.

Given that the school’s location complicates pickup, it is tempting to forgive some impolite exchanges. Unfortunately, in being forgiving there is a risk of condoning poor behavior. Similar situations involve people who don’t shovel snow from their sidewalks and those who don’t pick up excrement while walking dogs or who allow the animals to repeatedly “water” the same plants on yards they regularly pass.

I can imagine numerous valid reasons for picking up children at Centerville and at other schools in the Urbana area. Unfortunately, failure to behave with civility results in a negative impact on the quality of life of many people. If you are party to such behavior, give the matter some thought.

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