Thursday, September 10, 2009

Manners Maketh the Man and Woman

Maybe it is being a 'certain age' - all policemen have looked way too young to be carrying guns to me for some time now. Maybe it's the please and thank you gene that was implanted in me at a very early age or maybe I'm just a grouch! Whatever the reason I am more often struck by a lack of courtesy , absence of just plain good manners than ever before.

At my local Starbucks this morning (and I admit to being more judgmental before a double espresso) two women , I'd say they were early fifties, held up the line one of them taking a phone call in the midst of giving her order, barking at her friend to "call J right now" and then the two of them carried on loud conversations while the young barista stood by waiting to complete the order. Coffee in hand they moved from the counter, not one please or thank you for the service, and continued with the phone calls. As I left, I held the door for two young women - neither of them expressed gratitude, not even a simple nod of the head in acknowledgment of a small courtesy offered them.

The recent town hall meetings that have seen mobs (no other word for it) screaming at one another across a room; the congressman who "acted spontaneously" during the President's address last night. The folded arms and closed minded opposition to another parties proposals, not on rational, well thought out grounds but in the name of "ideology - it's all part of this not dumbing down of America but "rudening", making crude our society.

What's wrong with an acknowledgment of someone's existence; of a slowing down in the lane to let someone else move in; of a nod of the head or quick smile to show you've seen someone as a person, not an object. I don't know about you all but I was raised to leave the last cookie or candy for someone else; to offer my seat on public transportation to someone older (and I still find myself doing that!) ; to say please and thank you. I'm not big on artificial etiquette, rules that no longer make sense; I'm not offended by an e mail invitation and a quick e mail to say "thank you for dinner" is fine by me. I'm not arguing for going back to the laborious note writing days but I have to say that when a year goes by without a thank you after you give a wedding gift to a young couple and the mother of the bride sends out notes because "Patsy is too busy" - mother is encouraging bad manners. I find it equally offensive to receive a wedding invitation that reads "cash preferred, you don't know our taste" ...that was one wedding invitation I declined.

It is so much less stressful to be civil to one another, to smile rather than scowl, to hold a door rather than let it slam, to listen rather than talk over. And in business too, what's wrong with treating the plumber, carpenter, handyman, cleaning crew as human beings - people providing a service that you need. I was on the fringe of a conversation recently where a couple who had just closed on a foreclosed house were loudly extolling the virtues of "making a killing". The subject moved onto necessary work at the house and the male tossed back his drink and announced that he was going to talk to a well known landscaper. He speculated this professional to be so "hungry for work" that he could "screw him to the wall and then some". I left. Where's the milk of human kindness, respect for one another? Maybe I am getting old!


  1. I am with you on this. Kindness, regardless of the circumstance, is better received than rudeness. Fortunately I still find more good than bad out there.

  2. Agree that there is a lot of good out there which in a way makes startling examples of rudeness more shocking. This morning someone held the door for me at the gym - nice way to start the day.

  3. Has anyone been following recent commentaries on this subject of rudeness? The following link is to a really perceptive article on the subject in CNN on-line today.


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