Do people say “thanks” more in November? A methodologically questionable study.
The average number of thanks received per hour of picking up litter for August through October was 0.4. This means that, on average, someone would notice and thank me once every 2.5 hours.
In the month-by-month breakdown, the rates were 0.63 thanks per hour in August, 0.25 thanks per hour in September, and 0.44 thanks per hour in October. It seemed I was getting caught all the time in August, the first (partial) month, whereas in September there was a two-week stretch where no one said a thing to me. October fell somewhere between these two extremes.
Again, though, the overall rate for August through October was 0.4 thanks per hour. So that’s the number we would need to improve upon in November to show that the month had been at least above average in terms of people saying thanks.
And the November result is…
14 thanks received in 30 hours of picking, for an overall rate of 0.47 thanks per hour, or one thanks every 2.14 hours. A bit better than average.
That’s not the whole story, though. Actually, the November result was exactly 0.4 thanks per hour up until about one hour ago. That seemed perfect to me. I already had a version of this post written in my head: “No change whatsoever for November!” And then one young couple caught me picking up broken glass on a bridge. Both smiled and said “thanks.” Up went the average, and away went the post I was all prepared to write.
Maybe this was the best possible finding for a methodologically questionable study built on an absurdly small, anecdotal sample: November might be a bit better than the average month for thankfulness, but it will come down to the actions of just one or two people. If this is the case, what you do matters.
Thank you, kind couple.
Any number greater than 0 is a big number
In all honesty, I’m impressed that anyone at all notices what I’m doing or thanks me.
I operate in a manner that could hardly be more calibrated to escape notice. I am not part of a group doing an organized cleanup; I’m just a guy. I have no signage. I do not wear bright colors. I move through areas quickly, not wanting to be mistaken for a loiterer. I am not prone to smile toothily or strike up conversations with strangers. I specifically avoid picking up litter near people just so I won’t cause offense or provoke a confrontation if they were the ones who produced it.
For anyone to notice I’m there, notice what I’m doing, and thank me before I’m gone, they sort of have to be hyper-aware of their surroundings and prepared to pop out of a bush and surprise me before I run away. It’s a wonder I get any thanks at all.
Sometimes I’ll get a “thanks” yelled out of a car window at me, by someone who has sized up the situation and acted on impulse that quickly, and I’ll think “I wouldn’t have thought to do that until like two weeks from now, if ever. Also, attempting to roll down a car window and yell something coherent out of it at a moment’s notice, while keeping speed and remaining in my lane, would have certainly resulted in a fiery crash in my case.” So, people amaze me.
Tomorrow marks two years since a dear aunt of mine passed away. Here is some free verse I wrote for her at the time.
Christmas time’s a-comin’
We returned from Thanksgiving travel last night to find that our neighborhood is already racing toward Christmas with the yard decor. This has me, frankly, too exhausted to think of pithy things to say. So, here is a photo of me in a garbage can to tide you over until next week.