The Death of Social Etiquette

A mother is approaching a normal, manually opened door whilst pushing her pram. She will have difficulty with the logistics of such an operation without the help of a selfless passer by. Here’s where I step in. She moves to open the door and I rush forward and lend a hand. I stand there open the door and smile at her as she passes through the doorway. Then as I wait for her to sing my praises, she gives me a look as if I had told her I’d just French kissed her dead mother. Pure contempt. I honestly felt lucky she didn’t stab me, let alone say thank you.

At this point I think I reserved the right to feel a little bit irritated. I just wanted to get on with my journey home and preferably not have to interact with another human being for at least a twenty-four hour window. Unfortunately I got caught up holding the door open for a further seven ungrateful and hateful plebeians, none of whom tried to utter a variation on the concept of thanks. It probably wasn’t their fault, I’m sure they just hadn’t evolved far enough to have developed fully functioning vocal chords yet. They should consider themselves lucky to have opposable thumbs.

But it got me thinking. When did social etiquette die?

If somebody does you a good turn, it really doesn’t take too much effort to utter a few syllables of appreciation. You could even just nod and smile in their general direction.

As somebody who has worked in both a bar and a shop, I have felt the full brunt of societies quite obvious flaws. Just because I’m being paid to help you doesn’t mean that common courtesy isn’t required. Just remember, you may be the customer, but this does not automatically grant you the moral high ground. And speaking from experience, the customer isn’t always right. They can be very wrong at times so bear that in mind.

I worked in a Sony Centre. You know that place filled with televisions and MP3 players? Once upon a time, in a Sony Centre far away, a gentleman asked me where we kept our automatic garage doors and fridge freezers. When I politely told him that Sony didn’t make those products, he ended up ranting and shouting at me and telling me “not to take him for an idiot”. I probably don’t have to tell you, but the man was an idiot of epic proportions, yet I still had to be polite to him and take the torrent of vitriol he spewed in my direction. Hardly fair in my opinion.

But there are still bastions of hope in this world. The kind of person who will order a Big Mac and say please and thank you, pay with the correct change and then afterwards, wish you a nice day. The kind of person who walks down a crowded street smiling, who everybody else thinks is a raving lunatic. I miss the days when you would walk down the street and pass by somebody you’ve never met before and wish them a good morning and they would more than happily reciprocate the gesture.

I don’t really know how the situation will improve. Unfortunately I despair at youth culture. Role models are thin on the ground these days. The most obvious role models for young boys are footballers, and it seems that most of them aren’t exactly the best role models if we are to believe what we read in the newspapers. And who can girls look up to as role models? Katie Price, Amy Winehouse or Paris Hilton? Like I said, thin on the ground. I know there are others, but I’m trying to make a point.

I’m sure there is a solution but I’m too blind to see it in this social climate. But everyone can make a difference. Politeness is unlikely to kill you any time soon, so just try to exercise it with others and maybe eventually people can change. As soon as they develop their vocal chords, naturally.

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6 responses to “The Death of Social Etiquette

  1. AMEN!! People are just so rude!! And trust me I’ve gone from working in retail to working partially in a reception type capacity…I totally get where you’re coming from!!

  2. Another true view of the country we live in, i am sure the pram woman probably has multiple children by many different fathers and does not speak English very well, a stereotype i know, but a sign of the times. Lets move to Switzerland much nicer and polite people there and a reliable public transport system that does not ground to a halt at the first sign of snow!

  3. Love it cos its so even true – and as a part time bartender I can just with every word of it. Plus I also miss the days when you can just walk around smiling and wish every stranger you meet a happy day – I mean WTF is wrong with doing it, I would also talk to the stranger next to me in public transportation if they wouldnt give me a stupid look when I take the free seat besides them – mad world. *smiles and wishes you a happy day* 😉

    • You understood my point perfectly. People are scared to do nice things now because of the likelihood of a negative reaction you will receive. Bartenders do get a bad time from people don’t they? *smiles right back and wishes you a happy day too* 🙂

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