I’ve been told so many times that chivalry is dead. And, honestly? I started to believe it. I decided to conduct an experiment to test my theory that chivalry in society is a thing of the past.
For one day, I would embarrass myself in countless different ways—spilling food on myself, falling on the stairs, having food in my teeth, and dropping my papers everywhere. I would do anything that would publicly humiliate me in the worst way possible. The hope was that I would either be proved right or wrong—either everyone would walk past and leave me in my humiliation, or they would try to help me.
I started out my day with the usual; I dropped my papers everywhere. I was walking in the College Center, at about 9:30 a.m., and the building was bustling. I decided to make my debut in front of the Office of Student Life, where I was sure there would be a multitude of people. I was not surprised when, in the wake of spilling my English papers across the span of the floor, no one lent a helping hand. I was left to hastily collecting my papers alone with a red face and having people step over my hands.
I decided to give the good people of the College Center one more chance to redeem themselves. After leaving the Office of Student Life, I walked down the long staircase that leads to the dining commons. I went and bought myself a water bottle at the vending machines, and then circled around back to the staircase. There must have been seven or eight people on the stairs when I made my second move. I dramatically and clumsily fell up the stairs, hitting my knee and abdomen in the process. I was pleasantly surprised when not only did two girls stop and ask me if I was okay, but a young gentleman stooped to his knees and helped me up. He didn’t say much, but I was touched that he would stop and help me.
The rest of my day was composed of other humiliating displays. I ate my lunch alone in the dining commons, sitting next to a loud and rowdy group. None of them mentioned the food in my teeth when I conversed with them, but a girl I didn’t know quietly mentioned that I had spilled ketchup on my sleeve, thus ending my food based humiliation tactics.
I decided to make my final display for the Humiliation 101 handbook. As embarrassing as it was, I knew it was one that those around me could not ignore- the classic toilet-paper-on-the-shoe spectacle. Surely someone would tell me. I was determined to walk around the school with it on my shoe until someone told me. To ensure that I would not be walking around toilet paper-less, I took a minuscule piece of tape and attached the sanitary device to my sandal. Though I had been disappointed a few times throughout the day so far, I was sure that someone would help me this time. My belief in chivalry was being revived, slowly but surely.
Only to be killed again.
I walked around the school for 32 minutes before a boy was oh-so-kind enough to grace me with his kindness in ungluing his eyes from his phone for one minute to point at my shoe and continue walking. I was not even granted the dignity of him taking out his earphones.
I took a few days to digest what had happened before I sat down to write this. I think my view on chivalry has changed, which is a surprise even to me. Yes, I was disappointed and let down by the actions, or lack thereof, from my fellow students. I was not helped when I needed it, in some instances.
But, then again, I was. I didn’t expect anyone to help me, and there were little things I noticed throughout the day, things I wasn’t looking for. I noticed the boy who held the door open for me. I noticed the girl who lent me her pen in my ASL class. Things like this surprised me, and I was happy to see that people were more attentive than I thought they were.
I started this experiment thinking that chivalry was dying. And while I still think it’s in the process of losing itself, I don’t think it’s so far gone that it can’t be restored.
There’s still a small rumble of hope, somewhere, that wants to be chivalrous. That wants to help people. And I think, if we try hard enough, we can turn that rumble into a battle cry.
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