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As a self-conscious iPhony, I refuse to be one of those wired zombies who shuffles head down and oblivious through crowds, jungles, epic plagues; past street-shootings; ignorant of toddlers straddling from fire escapes by their little pink fingers as flames dance through shattered windows while these special ones text absently about how bored they are.
I accept I’m part of the Apple Core™ but the idea of not paying attention to what could possibly lie ahead on the human interface we call sidewalks, is appalling. I live in one of America’s more cosmopolitan towns. San Francisco is everyone’s favorite city, unless you fear the devil, and we have the saliva to prove it.
To walk down Market Street, and I’m talking the good parts (two blocks in front of Bloomingdale’s) is an exercise in expert navigation, so as not to step on, or more accurately, slide on a slab of, bodily fluids left behind by another member of our society. Our sidewalks have been overrun by dots of spit turning our supposed crossroads of humanity into a minefield of someone else’s mucous.
If you have to, honk your precious loogies in the street before Johnny Law turns this town into Dodge City where spittin’ was a crime.
What’s the reason for the unreasonable high phlegm count these days? I say it is because of people’s lack of manners, that we live in an age of “It’s all about me!”
To expound, initially I thought manners was something you learned in childhood. For example, in my household, you could be hit for no reason and if dad for any number of reasons wasn’t present, a neighbor would lend a hand. I was allowed to be tortured physically and mentally by my older brothers, but burping wasn’t allowed at the table. To me, that was manners.
My friend, Raymond the Junker, told a story once about how in the late 60’s five single-mothers (“their old men had left them for various excuses, it was the Sixties”) that formed an informal collective day-care. Each mom would take a turn for a week watching the others’ rugrats. In the spirit of the times, these kids would be raised without having to say, “Please, thank you and I’m sorry.”
Ray was raising her son at the same time. “These kids were monsters. They would tear the playground apart. None of the other kids wanted to play with them. They’re probably politicians today. I do wonder how they turned out?”
I do think manners may start with that basic concept of what “Please, thank you and I’m sorry” really mean. But that’s only a beginning…
Opening Doors for “Chicks”
I wonder how much of what we do in the name of manners is about getting laid? I open doors for women and as I do for men. While walking with women, I do try to stay on the curbside. I’ll offer to help a woman with her bags or other heavy items, not because they’re fairer and weaker, but because that’s what I do. I do the same with guys, except the curb thing.
But my manners are more pronounced with women. Like giving up your seat on the bus to a woman whether young or old. I do not do it to be chivalrous. I like to stand when being introduced or to pay the check if it seems appropriate. I also carry a clean hanky.
I’m kind of kidding about manners being a means to get laid but is there something underlying what we want or maybe expect, from our good behavior? I try to be considerate with men as I am with women, but if it were a race, the guys would still be fighting among themselves for position while the gals are at the finish line. I’m more sensitive to women, hence more polite and a tad more aware of their presence. Sexist? As I favor women over men, is that sexist? Am I man-helping? Following unconsciously a role society has molded me into liking opening a door for a woman because my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Garvey, told our class one day, women like men who open doors for them. Could there be a sexist base to our manners? Should I worry?
As Nigel Tufnel said, “What’s wrong with being sexy?”
The more I thought about it, the common element found in “having manners” is certain regard for others. I define regard as falling somewhere between awareness and respect.
As a kid, I remember getting on a plane was still a big deal. The men were buttoned-up in their grey suits accompanied by presumably their wives, resplendent in pearls and stylish dresses. I had to wear one of those boy suits with a coat of arms on the pocket. Everyone would dress-up when they flew the Friendly Skies because etiquette of the day dictated.
Now I hate to fly. I do not have a fear of flying. I can’t stand rude people. Airports are like Roach Motel of bad manners in the way they attract the ill-mannered. I have an almost shark-week- like desire to do extreme harm to the idiots who will gingerly stop in doorways to take care of their business. Thus blocking the passage stopping the rest of humanity from getting on with their lives. I hate the people who take cuts pretending they’re lost or befuddled. The Rude Ones who when standing in lines, push and shove, unaware of those around them. Or the Dolt who shares his call from his doctor, loudly discussing the size of the polyps you know where and because he’s a moron, he has the doctor repeat the three choices of removal again. If people are going to share that kind of personal information with us, we should be allowed to vote on which procedure the Dolt should receive.
It’s not only airports; it’s anywhere the public intersects. It’s almost mathematical. People plus location times desire and want equals rudeness. We’ve replaced a quiet progression of humanity’s path forward with the limiting dramatics of an obsessed Reality TV culture that believes they’re all stars and deserve to go first. We’ve become so individualized and maybe even politicized, that we bore through the crowds shrouded with ear-buds so the awareness of someone else isn’t really our fault. We just don’t care.
Manners are a gesture of consideration for others, whether you know them or not. It doesn’t mean you’re a sap or a head-case because you’re nice to some stranger. It’s that same old story. Treat others the way you want to be treated. And of course, the word ‘treat’ really means respect.
There’s a woman in Texas who teaches executives the professional way to shake hands. She instructs on the proper way to conduct oneself in an interview. It is basically a remedial charm school for those sans couth. It’s sad to think that one will only better his or her self if it means more money, not personal pride.
Isn’t that the real meaning of possessing manners? That your behavior, the way you act is for yourself out of self-pride and we should strive to be in harmony with what surrounds us, which includes the rest of the scum we have to coexist with daily. Shouldn’t it be one’s duty to be considerate, and if not outright kind, civil to strangers and the others we meet on our path in life?
Manners are like water to arid lands. They can bridge a passing contact between strangers that seems on the surface to be momentarily arbitrary, but the effect brings out the best of who we are as people and a society. Without a word, a simple gesture can convey dignity and a sense of being here.
Manners have a restoring quality in the faith that humans aren’t all that bad. One nice act goes a long way.
“Manners have a restoring quality in the faith that humans aren’t all that bad. One nice act goes a long way.”
I would think the new modern global dream would include the hyper awareness of others. Just think of doing an act unselfishly for a stranger. Maybe not complete altruism like building a house but a nice gesture of kindness by helping opening a door or even letting them take cuts in line because of no fault of theirs, they’re running late. You help out this stranger– this human who before that moment, you never met and you may never see again. And in doing so, imagine a person standing in line who witness the interchange of kindness between two strangers. And as this person digs into his pockets for his pouch of chew, he may learn something by osmosis in the visual form of another old adage—“seeing is believing.” And maybe next time he spits…he aims in the direction of the street out of consideration for others.
Baby spats, it’s a beginning. Kindness, it’s less contagious as spit–travels farther and last longer.
They say you live in a world of your own creation.
Imagine if you could look down and see kindness.