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Where have all the manners gone?

Can anyone tell me what on earth happened to basic manners and considerate behaviour?

I realize that I’m going to sound like a hugely self-righteous curmudgeon by posting this entry, but that’s a risk I’m prepared to take in order to express the day-to-day, head-shaking amazement I experience at the lack of respect and common courtesy shown both to me and to others by so many of my fellow humans.

For example… the other day I was leaving Starbucks laden with a coffee in one hand, an umbrella in the other, a purse over my shoulder and tote bag over my arm.  Because my hands were full I used my body to push the door open, and as there were two people directly outside who wanted to get into the building (neither making a move to try to open the door for me), I maneuvered myself and my belongings so that I was out of their way while at the same time holding the door open for them.  It would have been a lot easier just to walk through the door and let them fend for themselves, of course, but that would have been rude.

So do you think I got a word of thanks for my thoughtfulness?  A smile?  A nod?  Any acknowledgment whatsoever that I’d made life a little bit easier for both of them while inconveniencing myself on a busy, rainy morning?

Nope. Nothing.  Not a word or gesture of thanks from either of them.

Of course I don’t do such things for the thanks… I do them because it’s WHAT YOU DO. It’s the way I was taught, to be thoughtful and to “do unto others” even when the “doing” is something as simple as holding a door open for a stranger.  But those two simple words – “thank you” – would have meant a lot… they would have completed a transaction, as it were, in mutual humankindness.  Instead, I made my way to work feeling vaguely irritated and disgruntled at the one-sidedness of the contact.

This incident, small as it was, illustrates my belief that we need a return to civility, to kindness, to common courtesy.  And I’m not even talking about the big things, either.  I’m talking about simple, thoughtful behaviour such as looking behind you when you walk through a door to see if someone’s there, then holding the door open for them, instead of NOT looking and just letting it slam in their face.  I’m talking about taking your tray of lunch debris to the garbage can in the food court instead of leaving it behind for someone else to clean up.  I’m talking about keeping your conversation with another person on a public bus at a reasonable volume and PG-13 level so as to allow others their privacy and comfort in a crowded place.  I’m talking about worrying less about our own “rights” and behaving in ways that demonstrate thoughtful respect towards others.

And who knows?  Maybe, just maybe, if we can all learn to be courteous in the little things, then civility and respect in the big things… political discourse, say, or religious beliefs… will follow naturally.

You think?

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous November 24, 2009

    Nicely put!

  • Laurel Regan November 24, 2009

    Thank you! 🙂

  • Mozette November 25, 2009

    You know, I would have waited for those two ungrateful people who didn't help you to have been almost inside Starbucks, then turned around and shouted as loud as I could, "You're welcome you ungrateful prats! No, don't say thank you or try to help me; seeing I had my blood hands full!" and then turned away and walked calmly out into the street. That would have left them standing in the coffee house with the people inside staring at them knowing that they did not help you with the door at all; in silent embarrassment.

  • Laurel Regan November 25, 2009

    Oh, I wish I'd had the courage to do that! I'm pretty shy, though, and never one to "make a scene" or anything. I just use my blog as an outlet for my wrath, LOL!

  • Mozette November 26, 2009

    But then again, I'm a pretty outspoken person. When "We Will Rock You" came to Australia, the audience was so tough they had to put in planters (people who are paid to act like excited audience members)to try and get us excited! And that's bad! Me? I jumped up and yahoo all on my own and the audience and let my fun and excitement come out like a kid on red cordial! On one side of me was my brother who smiled proudly as me muttering: "That's my sister."; while on the other side, a woman sunk deeper into her seat in absolute shock and embarassement! At the end of the show, I turned to her to say what a great show it was and she had bolted before the lights came up!

    I guess my out-there personality doesn't always wash with everyone. 🙂

  • Laurel Regan November 27, 2009

    Mozette – I wish I was more that way!

  • Cleokatra November 27, 2009

    Yesterday I was leaving the bank and was almost crashed into someone who was busily texting away. I had opened the exit door and jammed the end of my crutch against the bottom of the door to keep it from closing before I got through. She started to barge right through it because, yes, I'm standing here, propping the door open with a crutch to make her life easier.

    I just stopped, part way through the door, blocking her path with both my body and the crutches, and made her go around me and enter through the entrance. It was sort of passive-agressive, I guess… The thing is that I'm not that stable on my feet and sometimes the safest thing is to stop moving and let the able-bodied folk do whatever they are doing.

    Back to your topic… I pretty much never hold doors for people these days, but I would if I could. I get lots of people holding doors for me though. I try to be polite and friendly about it, because they want to feel like they are helping and that is totally cool.

  • Laurel Regan November 27, 2009

    Cleokatra – Sounds like you had a similar experience to mine, only I didn't have to deal with crutches! People can be SO thoughtless and rude. 🙁

    I wouldn't waste too much energy worrying about you not holding doors these days, LOL! 😉 That's cool, though, that people are holding doors for you… maybe all is not lost!

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