Have you noticed lately that it seems manners are a thing of the past? One of my biggest pet peeves, to date, is the collective rudeness of society. What’s worse is that the blatant disregard of social etiquette seems to be hereditary. When that person walks through the door you’ve been holding for them without saying ‘thank you’, chances are that their child in tow, whom you would assume is old enough to acknowledge a good deed, will also walk through and say nothing. To those people I usually utter “you’re welcome”, which isn’t worth it because if they do turn around to shoot me a dirty look, it’s only a fraction of the time. Mostly they just keep on walking and I find myself wondering what has happened to people, and when did basic manners become so rare. I’ve always said that, without a doubt, my kids will be raised knowing the importance of politeness. What I didn’t expect is this simple practice, which is obviously a learned behaviour, will undoubtedly result in my children becoming minorities. I can’t help but picture the next generation forming a society of Neanderthals, grunting at each other in lieu of please, thank you, and may I. I know that’s a really dramatic way of looking at it, but it is truly disconcerting to imagine a culture of impoliteness.
One thing I’ve always found to be particularly annoying were those who simply answer “good” or “fine” when asked how they are doing. You know what? Scratch that, annoying isn’t a good enough word to use. It grates my nerves when these people, mouth-breathing into the phone, don’t have the decency to ask in return how I am. Since we’re being real I'll tell you right now, I’m not actually asking because I need to know how this person’s day is going. I will likely never talk to them again so really it makes no difference to me whether or not they’re doing well. I ask because it sets the tone to the conversation and is basically acknowledging that the faceless individual who is about to transfer my call is actually a person and deserves a little bit of respect. I ask because it’s polite. While the majority of communication with strangers is all business, it’s nice to know that by asking “how are you” the element of humanity, often missing, is somewhat maintained. Those who fail to return said question in a face-to-face setting is an interesting breed altogether (I say interesting because I’m being polite). Last week while shopping I conducted a little self-indulgent social study. I asked every salesperson I happened upon how they were doing. Of twelve, only three bothered to return the question. The rest answered, and then offered me a chilly stare which basically said “now what the hell do you want?” Apparently the older I get the less I care about how I come across (ok, so not the most mature of acquired traits) and to those people I said “OK………..” We then participated in a slightly longer than necessary staring contest. Instead of creating awareness of their lack of manners, which I suppose was the whole point of my little experiment, I ended up just sharing several very awkward and seemingly pointless moments with otherwise clueless sales staff. I wish I had the audacity to say something snide like “yeah, I’m fine too – thanks!”, but I probably would have felt bad for making them feel bad. Chalk it up to my manners, I guess. Maybe I need to clock a few more years before my filter is worn thin enough to get away with something like that and not feel guilty afterwards. At this point all I can do is educate my kids and hope that some of it sticks.