Manners

It never fails to amaze me how keen people are to celebrate the birth of someone they don’t believe in.  The eyes of even the most anti-religious of people light up at the idea of getting really good presents for Christmas.

Government bans God and Jesus from public schools then makes the birthday of this persona-non-gratis a nation wide holiday.  They wouldn’t dream of banning this cash cow.  If they did all the businesses would be up in arms.

People rush out to buy gifts for each other in what is supposed to be an outpouring of generosity and good-will but all I see is money changing hands.

Christmas shopping crowds grow ruder and more self-absorbed each year.  Many years ago it was a pleasure to go Christmas shopping.  The smiles people gave me would leave their mark on the upturned corners of my own mouth.  I would come home laden with my purchases and my ears would be ringing with the things total strangers had said to me.

“Pardon me.”

“Sorry.”

“Excuse me.”

“Thank you.”

“After you.”

“You can go first since you only have one item.”

“Merry Christmas.”

Now the faces are focussed, concentrating, calculating and those words are rarely spoken these days.

People bump into you and pretend it wasn’t them.  They rush to beat you into the line and, worst of all, if you do anything nice for them they pretend you didn’t!

I squeezed up against the clothing rack for the pram to get past and the mother did not even LOOK at me let alone say thank you.

The man I let into the line ahead of me didn’t look at me either and there was not even a grateful smile as he stepped in front of me.

When I stepped back and allowed the old lady to enter the aisle ahead of me she walked past without so much as a nod.

It’s not my imagination.  You can see tis the season of bad manners on the faces of the people serving in every store.

The eyes of the sales girl held pain.  I would have known someone had hurt her even if I had not heard him call her stupid.  When she wished him Merry Christmas and he ignored her it was like watching him add insult to injury.

As she greeted me with her wooden smile and robot “How are you today” I caught her eye.  I said “I’m obviously having a better day than that Scrooge Mc Rude you just served” and I smiled at her sympathetically.

It was lovely to watch her reaction.  She lifted her head, she straightened her spine, her shoulders went back and a genuine smile appeared on her face.  The hurt in her eyes vanished like magic.

We wished each other Merry Christmas and meant it.

In another store the salespeople looked more angry than hurt.  They took their anger out on me in the form of poor service.  They didn’t want to help me and they didn’t.

It was not unexpected.  I had stood in line.  I saw how they were treated by all the customers they had to serve before it was my turn.  They were treated like servile robots with no feelings and no importance and my smile couldn’t dent the armor they had donned to ward off the curdled milk of human unkindness.

Everyone was in a hurry.  All the sales people were stressed and under pressure.  It was a vicious cycle.  Rude customers left angry staff behind them.  Angry staff took it out on the next customer.  That customer got annoyed and was rude to the next person who served them.

Good manners used to be one of the things parents aimed to instill in their children.  If your children were rude people would say you were a bad parent.  It was incentive to tell your children if they did not say please they would not get what they asked for.  If they failed to say thank you it would be taken back off them.

“What’s the magic word?” adults would say to children before giving them what they asked for.  Children would reply with “Please” or “Thank you”.

Good manners have been called “social oil” and there is a reason for that.  If you are bumped by someone who says “sorry” the incident slides off you.  If you are bumped by someone who does not apologise the incident grates on your nerves.

Parents are no longer teaching the magic words to their children or forcing them to use them if they do.  Adults are discarding their own good manners in the face of other people’s bad manners and it makes being in a crowd absolute torture.

I’m sorely tempted to take things into my own hands and start shining a spotlight on bad manners publicly to encourage people to use good manners.  It would work.  If I did it I would leave a nagging fear of it happening again in people and they would be more inclined to use their manners in future.

I’m old enough to get away with it.  All I would have to do is treat people like I treated my children – demand good manners.

When the mother passed me without looking I could have loudly demanded “Say thank you!”  She would have looked around to see who I was talking to then said it hehe.

When the man stepped in front of me without a word I could have tapped him on the shoulder, smiled at him and said “A thank you would be appreciated”.  He would most likely have said it.

I just might start doing it so beware.  The next person you fail to say sorry, thank you, pardon me or please to might be me.  Do you really want your bad manners to be loudly commented on in public?

I will have to give the idea a bit more thought though.  Telling adults to use the magic words might be considered bad manners.  I may have to wait until I am old enough to get away with being “eccentric”.

4 thoughts on “Manners

  1. After reading this entry I tried out my own version and being a big burly bloke I did get a lot of excuse me’s and thank you’s and also one very sorry mate when this teen bumped into me by accident , so maybe its also about the look of the person if they are bigger and uglier then maybe people respond with manners if your meek and mild mannered people try to step on you? Don’t know it was just my experience.

  2. Meek? Mild mannered? Me? I object!

    I think I’m plenty big enough and ugly enough to strike fear in people hehehe

    The little old lady I stepped aside for was positively miniature!

  3. Yes but you probably didn’t strike enough fear into her. Maybe you should have growled at her like I did and then she would have been much more compliant.

  4. You could be right. Maybe people only show good manners to people they’re afraid to be rude to these days but that only proves my point. The social oil of good manners appears to be drying up these days. 🙁

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