Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Musings- Manners? We don't need no stinking manners.....

Do manners count for anything in this modern world of ours? It certainly doesn't seem like it. Now, while I can never proclaim myself to be a paragon of virtue, I do like to think of myself as a generally well-mannered person. Yes, I have an explosive temper and have been known to make sailors blush at the drop of a hat, but I also know and understand how to behave in polite society. The problem is, polite society no longer seems to exist.

I was raised to say please and thank you, yes ma'am/sir, and no ma'am/sir. I was also told not to address adults/elders simply by first name, it was always with an honorific of some sort. Aunt Julie, Mrs. Harvey, Mr. Davis, Uncle Larry, or in some cases where a woman wasn't a relative, but too close to be entirely formal with, Miss Your-name-here. I also confess to holding doors for the elderly, saying excuse me when trying to pass someone in a close space (even if they're the one who should be saying it) or if I'm interrupting a conversation, and offering assistance to someone struggling with packages/doors/etc. I also try not to cut in front of people who are obviously waiting in line for something. This is one of my biggest pet peeves- I wait in line for 15 minutes only to have some self-important fathead walk up to the counter in front of me? I don't think so. I will tell someone where to go in a heartbeat...politely, of least the first time. It gets ugly when I have to repeat myself. Most people will hang their heads, possibly apologize, and scurry to the back of the line. Once in a while you get that jackass who says something like "Well, I'm in a hurry." Do you think I'm standing here for fun? I might need to be somewhere else too, but I still waited my turn.
One friend told me it was because I was raised in the South. (I'm from North Carolina) While Southerners do seem to gravitate a little more to the polite side, I must point out that my mother is from the Midwest (Iowa) and was not about to have me running amok. HER mother taught her how to behave and she expected no less from me.

So why do so many people ignore these little niceties now? When did they stop becoming a second nature? I am constantly saddened and amazed at the reactions I get in grocery stores when I say thank you to the person who bagged my groceries if I've given up on trying to use the U-scan. One lady stared at me blankly for a moment and then offered me a tentative "You're welcome?" Or at the $tarbuck$ closest to my office- it's near the university and the children that work there are always amused when I order. I've heard, on more than one occasion, "Hey, it's the please & thank you lady!" On the other hand, my general politeness to them has earned me more than one upsized or free drink. Come to think of it, I don't get being rude to anyone in food service. Why would you antagonize someone who will be handling your food/drink?

Some of my friends have children and don't seem to care how they speak to other adults. (Just for the record, most of them do and I've witnessed more than one "apologize to that person for your behavior right now!" moment) I've been part of conversations that were frequently interrupted for  "Want gummi bears now!" or "I'm bored, whatcha talking bout in here?" Being told that my opinion on something is stupid by a 14 year old was a moment that totally reinforced my desire to never have children. One of the guilty parents told me that she has to pick her battles and she doesn't think manners are relevant enough to fight over. Really?

Personally, I think that society's dependence on computers is partly to blame. (Yes, I do see the irony here) Go on just about any blog, visit a chat room, and you will find people being rude and argumentative. Something as innocuous as "The sky is a pretty shade of blue today" can trigger more hostility and obnoxious reactions than anything I've ever seen. People will say things online that they would never dream of saying in a face to face conversation, mostly because they feel invincible in their relative anonymity. (We'll save my rants about the decline of spelling and grammar for another post) I try not to post anything that I wouldn't be willing to say to someone's face.

I could carry on on this subject, but I feel my blood pressure starting to rise. So rather than get myself out of sorts, I'm going to go have some chocolate and settle down for a bit. What are your thoughts on manners in the modern world?

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