What's So Wrong With Being Nice?

A recent final of the TV talent show X Factor, featured a young duo - a brother and sister known as Same Difference. Most people loved them because they were so nice. Yet a few others loathed them for the same reason. So I'm wondering - what's so awful about being nice?
You might think that nice people are appreciated. But nice, it seems, is an underrated concept. Abhorred rather than applauded, nice people are uncool. If they're so nice and happy, there must be something wrong with them, right?
Of course, that's not the case - these lucky people just happen to see the positive side of life more clearly than the negative one. Some people even think that all this likeability is some sort of deliberate facade, hiding an almost Machiavellian heart. But while we avidly listen to the latest bulletins from the gossips, wouldn't we rather it were only the nice people who talked about us?
I remember at school being told never to use the word nice because it was too vanilla, too non-specific.As if it weren't a description in itself, and yet it is. It encapsulates something that no other single word does. So why does nice go hand-in-hand with bland? Why does something, or someone, have to have a dark edge to be taken seriously? How often do we hear someone say they don't like a person simply because they're too nice? What's that all about? How can someone be too nice? Can it really be that we are all so cynical that we simply can't trust anyone else to be genuinely pleasant? Have we so lost touch with the kindness within us that we can't bear to witness it in someone else?
I don't think either is true, and neither do I think that happy, nice people are born that way - I think they make a choice to be nice and to see the good in others, and I think it's a choice we could all stand to make.
The advantages of encountering such a person were brought home to me the day I ruptured my ankle ligaments. Having been told by the friendly A & E doctor that what I had done was probably worse than breaking my ankle, I was astonished to be told by the nurse who strapped my injury that I wouldn't be getting any of her NHS crutches because the best thing for me was to walk on it straight away. If only I could have. Now, I understand that such things are in short supply because many people don't bother to return their loaned hospital equipment, but surely a woman who needs a wheelchair to take her to the car is entitled to some sort of sticks or something? Apparently not.
After several abortive attempts to get into the house unaided, I sank to the floor and shuffled over the front step and up the hall on my derriere. Clearly, I was going to need help, whether that nurse thought it necessary or not, and a family member was dispatched to purchase for me my very own set of elbow-crutches.
Several days' enforced house confinement eventually left me in serious need of some retail therapy, so I set off for town. Now, admittedly testing out my new hobbling-with-elbow-crutches skills on a Saturday afternoon was probably not the most sensible plan, but amid the thousands of people flocking into Derby that day, you might have imagined that one or two of them would have noticed my predicament and made some allowances. Not a chance. Sympathy? You must be kidding! I was bustled, nudged and shoved. I had doors dropped back into my face while I tottered about on my sticks. I had car drivers tooting their horns because I wasn't fast enough across the road. I couldn't even get into one store because I got caught between two sets of heavy doors, unable to push my way in or out, and only released from my glass prison when another customer needed to use the doorway. And no, even they weren't sympathetic, but tutted at my dithering. Did they think I was wobbling around for fun?
It was a sudden and shocking realisation of how someone with a permanent mobility problem must find life - I don't know how they have the patience, or the will.
I was on my way home before I encountered my first Good Samaritan and the restoration of my faith in humanity. A fellow bus passenger took pity on me and offered me her seat at the front. She must have been well into her 80s, and none too steady on her own feet. I think she must have been one of those nice people.

(Originally blogged December 07)