By Joe Piccininni

There are so many ways to be polite in this day and age, and most acts of politeness do not require speaking, thinking or solving complex mathematical equations (let’s hope not).

But although we can hope not, the chances that our conscious will be forced to solve an algebraic equation next time we enter the realm of polite acts is quite steep.

If you’re a naturally happy-go-lucky person like myself, you already have the ability to show politeness effectively. It’s the act of RECEIVING other’s acts of politeness that can lead to a catastrophic bout of anxiety, thus abolishing any of your politeness skills.

Picture this: you’re approaching the Union and trekking behind a small happy Asian woman.

You’re about 50 feet behind her.

Miraculously, without even making that split-second-eye-contact, she proceeds to hold the door for you. You’re awe-inspired and filled with adrenaline because you want to show gratitude but are too far away to do so. To make matters worse, the door she’s holding is one of those ultra-heavy handicap ones.

“She can’t be holding that for me – I’m light years away!,” you think to yourself. So, you try to ignore the nice gesture by diverting your eyes down to the ground or focusing them toward the door on the opposite side.  But something about those bubbly little Asian-woman-intentions tug at your heartstrings. Sure, you could take a full thirty seconds to walk to the door, but you must really be a jerk to knowingly extend a premature act of kindness from a small Asian woman.

Without time or options to spare, you now say aloud, “aw, shit,” and harness this ultra-rare adrenaline boost to run to the door as fast as an Asian woman who’s late for class.

Now, exhausted, you reach the door and try to show gratitude, but what comes out of your mouth (CO2, coughs, saliva) shadows any audible language. Now the happy Asian woman thinks you’re either on your last breath, or severely appalled by her (which you are, but you can’t let it seem that way because you’re not an asshole, right?)

Your conscious interpreted this as an imposition to hurry the fuck up, as if that little Asian woman had spawned (from her mind) a running bull behind you. And, what looked like a polite act of kindness, turned out to be a pure act of EVIL.

Because I feel this a common occurrence, I have coined a term for it. I call it “Over-Polite Action Anxiety,” or OAA (not to be confused with the Opticians Association of America).

Although I believe the above scenario constitutes for all of the aspects of OAA, it simply cannot be the only possible instance. I challenge you to use this new awareness as a tool — first, to recognize OAA in your day-to-day life, and then, to combat it. Next, you can enlighten others with your findings. With community involvement, we may finally be able to end this serious epidemic.


Arielle is a News Editor at the Stony Brook Press. She enjoys tea.

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