The Washington Times - May 30, 2008, 12:25PM

I bet if you asked the average Washingtonian if they considered themselves to be polite and civil, they would probably respond with an emphatic “yes.” That’s really not a surprise is it?  But what is a surprise is how that supposed politeness and civility disappears during a certain time of day that I call “The Ugly Hours.”

Now you might be asking yourself what are “The Ugly Hours.”  Well it’s not a designated time of day where people take off their fine clothes or make up. It’s certainly not a time of day when those whom the fashion magazines would dub as not so attractive emerge en masse.  So let me tell you what “The Ugly Hours” are. They happen twice a day five days a week year round. We commonly refer to them as the morning and evening commutes.


It’s a time when I feel that many of the folks who populate The Washington Metro Region feel entitled not to be polite or civil. They shelve some of the standard traditions and practices that make life more bearable and pleasant. The traditions that I am referring to are simple things like saying “Good Morning” with a heartfelt smile and meaning it. Or, how about an “Excuse me” when you bump into someone, step on their shoes accidentally or abruptly jump in front of them in the subway.  Oh! Let’s not forget the ones who flip you the finger from their cars and cut you off in traffic. Yes, I am saying that many of our commuters are rude and angry!

Let me tell you about my recent adventure into “The Ugly Hours.”  Earlier this week, I took the subway to downtown Washington. When I exited at Metro Center, which is the major station on the system, I felt like an NFL running back trying to punch the ball through a tough defensive line.  I was rudely and roughly bumped into at least five times that I remember, and my new shoes that I just got the night before from DSW, were stepped on at least three times. No one said, “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me.” So I started getting angry.

Yes, I know, the guy who does T’ai Chi and meditates, and tells people not to be bothered by the negativity around them and be more positive. I even wrote a book on this stuff?  Maybe I should practice what I preach, because for a minute I started to assimilate into the culture of “The Ugly Hours” and became a little rude and irritated myself. So I had to quickly calm myself down because I did not want that negative state to spillover into the rest of my interactions that day.

You know that’s the point of this discussion, like many of you I try very hard to bring a polite and civil presence into my community and all of my interactions each day. Yet during “The Ugly Hours”, no matter how polite and civil we try to be, it’s easy for a few self-entitled, rude, detached and unaware commuters to ruin our day and shift our normal positive state to a negative one if we let them.

When this happens that negativity travels with us the rest of the day. We even pass it on to others we encounter and it seeps into all of our activities. It has a polluting and toxic effect on the entire community. I ask you to not let this happen. Do what ever you have to do to stay calm, polite and civil during your commute. Let’s make a real effort to put a kinder and more civil face on “The Ugly Hours.” We can even ask Metro and The Metropolitan Council of Goverments to do their share and consider a “Polite Commuter Campaign.”

What are your thoughts on the “The Ugly Hours”?



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You can learn more about me at .  And be sure to buy my new book, “Harmonious Day.”

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