Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 159, November 2018Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
The Down to Earth Woodworker
By Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This Month's Column:

• Civil Refuge In An Uncivil World
Down The Rabbit Hole – Starting The Wooden Countertop Project
The Festool Sysrock

My Civil Refuge In An Uncivil World

For the most part, woodworkers are a kind and civil bunch of people. It makes me wish I could create my own town and populate it with only woodworkers.

The clerk at the clothing store where my wife bought an inordinate amount of clothing today was not rude… she was completely indifferent to the presence of another human being, who, by the way, was handing over money that surely helps keep her employed. There was no smile, no conversation, not even a perfunctory "thank you." It was like being attended to by an emotionless, speechless robot. Better, I suppose, than the girl at the hardware store, who, after checking out, said to me, "Thank you for your money."

While taking my daily walk, I had to cross a rather busy street. I waited until there was a small gap in the traffic and started to trot across. An elderly lady was approaching in the opposite lane, and she slowed to allow me to cross without running. Nice. Unfortunately, she was rewarded by honking cars from behind and one driver who angrily shot around her on the shoulder whilst giving her a universally recognized crude hand sign and almost running me down in the process.

Figure 1 - The faces of incivility
The employee at the grocery store was struggling to push a long batch of shopping carts into the store and the cart in front got hung up on the edge of the sliding electric door. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and lifted the front cart and slid it toward the center of the opening so the carts could continue to roll. Did the employee thank me? No, instead what I got was a snarling, "I can do this myself!"

A fight almost broke out at the quick-gas-market combo, where I was standing in line to buy a bottle of iced tea. A millennial customer cut in line and the person in front of me objected… politely. But the situation quickly escalated when the line-cutter said, "I'm in a hurry!" The person standing in front of me said, "So am I." Next thing you know, they were in each other's face, shouting obscenities. Worked out for me, though… I just went around them and got right up to the checkout.

What is driving all this incivility? Is it impatience, a general lack of training in the social graces, or the self-obsessed "I am the center of the universe" attitude that so many seem to have today? Perhaps a little of all three things. But at the core, it just seems to me that there is a lot of unhappiness. And it defies my ability to understand.

By contrast, I made the half-day trek to my closest woodworking store last week. I don't go there but maybe once a year because I order what I need from Highland Woodworking, but on that specific day the store had a Festool Regional Sales Representative on hand for demonstrations, and I wanted to pull him aside and ask a few quiet questions.

Throughout the store there was a level of courtesy, politeness, and civility amongst the customers and staff that stood in vivid and stark contrast to everything out in the "real" world. There was laughter, there was pleasant conversation, and there were smiles… lots of smiles. People looked happy. The common bond of woodworking.

Yep, I really wish I could live in a town occupied only by woodworkers.

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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis (although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his adult life). Steven can be reached directly via email at sjohnson@downtoearthwoodworking.com

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