Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili, 2002
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners.” Emily Post
Over these last few weeks, I’ve begun writing a number of blog articles all castigating the many, many instances of thoughtlessness I was encountering on any given day. Shocked as I’ve been by the complete lack of the barest minimum of civility, I felt compelled to appeal to such offenders to correct their misguided, discourteous ways. However, I was unable to complete any of the articles, as the next act of jackassery would present itself as soon as pen hit paper, and I’d be off on the next rant. My Hello Kitty notebook was overflowing with pink scribbles on what might best be described as a series of things that were pissing me off.
Much of what has been so offensive to me in recent weeks, boils down to one thing: an increasing disregard for simple politeness. In the early days of Rachealizations, I mentioned that I hold a high bar for consideration and good manners. I grew up believing—because I had a good mother—that manners matter. That treating others well is intrinsically a good thing. And I’m not referring to place settings or calling cards. No one really cares which fork you use, anymore, so long as you’re not stabbing them with it. I’m talking about thoughtfulness and how we interact with our fellow planet dwellers on a day-to-day basis. Over the last few years, I’ve observed an alarming social degradation, which begins with a failure to say “please,” and continues along a rudeness spectrum that ends in outright cruelty. But whatever the infraction, it is all a symbol of a “me culture” gone viral, and it needs to be cured.
I don’t really know when the competition for the “Biggest Asshole Award” began, but people seem to be hip-checking each other to earn the title. I don’t think it’s fair to blame it on our younger generation…they learned it somewhere, after all. Plus, I’ve encountered a fair share of Boomer shitheads, too. But somewhere along the line, we’ve gone from “do unto others,” to an entitled, self-absorbed “back to me” mentality and each day this is made more evident when some schmuck lets a door slam in my face or cuts me off in traffic.
My annoyance with this rampant discourteousness finally came to a head last week when I took Little Man to our local amusement park for a day of roller coasters and funnel cakes. What should have been a day of thrills, fats and sugars was, instead, a lesson in how rudeness evidently has become cool. To illustrate this point, this particular amusement park has codified narcissism and boorishness via something called the “Fast Lane,” where, for an extra $60-$80 per ticket, Fast Lane pass holders may go straight to the front of the line, regardless of how long everyone else has been waiting. Now, I learned the importance of fairness and of waiting for my turn before I reached Kindergarten. Were I to cut in line then, my Twinkie snack would be revoked. But here, it’s rewarded.
The great irony? The Fast Lane wait for a popular roller coaster was 15 minutes. Gotta love Karma.
I’m not sure why good manners have fallen out of fashion. They certainly make the world a more pleasant place. And basic etiquette is not stuffy or elitist or esoteric. Ettiquette is nothing more than being gracious. It is simple good manners, and is within reach of everyone. However, we seem to have replaced good manners with a systematic preferential treatment of spoiled, self-important asshats. Batshit rude has become the new black, and is used as a marketing tool for everything from t-shirts to politicians. Our society has become more concerned with texting and barking rude emails at people than with enjoying the art of conversation. Our children often have to focus more on navigating bullies, than on learning math and science. In a world where selfies and instant gratification rule, niceness has become a sign of weakness.
While it’s not my style to meet rudeness with rudeness (because, you know…manners), I do think it’s time we start requiring more of one another with respect to civility. That, in the interest of living in a better world, we stop allowing others to get away with the unapologetic hedonism that should have been corrected by middle school. I will always first try to model by example and, if that doesn’t work, politely point out a social transgression. But when that doesn’t work, I feel other recourse is needed. Our societal glue is melting, and we need to repair it.
As a writer, my tools for highlighting what I perceive as a social ill are my thoughts made concrete with pen and paper. While my words may not reach as many as I might hope, and likely will impact even fewer than that, I feel that I have an ethical obligation to my fellow humans to address outer limits rudeness. Harsh? Perhaps. Embarrasing to those on the receiving end? Probably. But, I figure, if you’re going to put on a show, then you’d better expect that people will be watching.
Generally speaking, I don’t care for blogs with lists. But in the interest of fairness to those who may be unaware that they are being dickheads, I thought I could offer a few simple pointers for appropriate behavior when living amongst other humans.
1. Don’t be a dick.
2. Don’t be late.
3. Hold the door open for others who are right behind you. Especially if they are carrying large or heavy items.
4. Say “please.”
5. Say “you’re welcome.”
6. Say “thank you.”
7. Compose emails as if you were talking with someone face-to-face…unless you are a dick when you’re face-to-face. In that case compose emails that include “Hello,” “would you please,” “thank you” and “sincerely.”
8. Don’t stare.
9. Don’t text or take phone calls when you are having a conversation with someone else.
10. Take turns.
11. Don’t cut in line.
12. Ignore your call-waiting.
13. Don’t interrupt.
14. Don’t bully, intimidate, threaten, harass, coerce or strike anyone. Especially children. Ever.
15. Chew, swallow then talk.
16. Don’t be a bigot.
17. If it’s not yours, don’t take it without asking.
18. If you borrow something, return it.
19. Shut the hell up in the library.
20. Return phone calls and emails.
22. If you need to talk on the phone in public or in the office, either leave the area or close your door.
23. Don’t take credit for ideas that aren’t yours or work you didn’t do.
24. When you’ve been a shithead, don’t justify your shitheadedness. Apologize.
25. Don’t be a shithead.
26. Follow through on your promises.
27. If you’re walking down a busy sidewalk or other public space and need to talk/look at something/figure out where you are/pick your nose, please move to the side.
28. Don’t treat the streets like your own personal game of Frogger.
29. Don’t exploit others in any way. Ever. Ever.
30. Be kind to animals. If you don’t like them, then just don’t be a dick to them.
31. If you’re waiting to get on an elevator/train/bus/etc., let the others off first.
32. If you are walking across a busy intersection, please do not slow down your pace.
33. If you are in line and need to pay for something, please pull out your checkbook/credit card/magic dust before your items are bagged and carted.
34. Don’t presume on another person’s time by being late/stopping by unannounced/hanging out in their office when they’re clearly busy….
35. Leash your dogs.
36. Don’t talk to people like they’re stupid. It may surprise you to know that maybe you’re the one who’s stupid.
37. Don’t lie.
38. Don’t cheat.
39. If you’re driving through a busy intersection, do not clog up the center of the intersection—consequently blocking traffic when the light turns—just because you don’t want to wait through another light.
40. Don’t correct another person’s grammar/pronunciation unless it’s important and never publicly. Your condescension is far more offensive than their split infinitive.
41. If you’re at a coffeehouse, or, God forbid, a restaurant where the menu is on the wall, and are not familiar with the menu options, please wait and make your choice before jumping ahead of people who are actually ready to order.
42. Teach your children not to be assholes.
43. Clean up your language. Vulgarities are best used as exclamation points to thoughts, not as general themes.
44. Write thank-you notes.
Oh, and by the way…welcome to my blog, please forgive my rant, please feel welcome to comment and thank you for reading! © Racheal Lee Bradford