Saturday, July 30, 2005

Please, Thank You, & When to Hush

Common courtesy is a lost art in much of modern society.

First of all, why do I call it an art? Please don't take this as my definitive definition of "art," but courtesy shares something with the arts as a whole because it is a communication between two people, which is made manifest by some sort of universal (or at least wide-spread) sign, and it contains an element of effortless grace (ask the perfect Renaissance man/woman about the cultivation of that skill.) Like any social or fine art, courtesy is something that requires observation of the masters, practice, practice, general adaptation of the basics as a matter of habit, and then more practice in pursuit of perfection.

Why is this art being forgotten? It's hard to pinpoint a particular "rudeness virus" but it probably has something to do with our culture's love of laziness (eg: going out of one's way to hold a door for an elderly person), lack of education (eg: it's easier for a parent to just let the kid talk with their mouth full and then leave the table without thanking the cook than to insist yet again on these rudimentary manners), and loss of respect for others (if we're all so darn equal anyways why should I recognize the presence of a lady or older person with any particular attention to my behavior).

Just yesterday, I stopped by the bank during my lunch break, only to find myself at the end of a fairly long line of people. Those around me we're cursing the line (only one was actually talking to another person on a cell--the others were just spouting), blaspheming God for no particular reason, and scowling at each other. If it wasn't for the obvious age difference, I'd think I was in a line of immature 4 year olds waiting for the icecream truck. I don't think these poor people had ever heard of self-restraint. In sharp contrast, the older man at the teller counter was all politeness and very helpful. Yes, he even smiled (so few bother to do so in public these days). When I left, he wished me a pleasant rest of the day in a cheery voice that couldn't have arisen merely from a company mandate to make customers happy.

Perhaps courtesy is not completely doomed after all, but please do remember to smile.
It makes such a difference.


Blogger Filia Dei said...

Very thoughtfully put. I've always thought part of the problem was that we don't trust each other: its sometimes taking a risk to help a crabby old lady or wait to let the guy open the door, even when you know it's the right way to love them.

Funny related story: when you follow a British lad around to the car door, be sure you are on the right side! In my own aquantence, the one chink in a certain young man's chivalry is his car door opening: anything else you must learn to enter first, but with the car you wind up standing abandoned in the street. And it took me forever to figure out why I was following him around to the driver side to no purpose. Ah me, I think you are right about it being an art; on in which we all could use some lessons! ;-)

8/01/2005 8:35 AM  
Blogger Kelly Jo said...

:) It took me a while to get used to the left/right transportation switch over there too.

8/01/2005 12:43 PM  

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