Something strange is going on. People seem to have lost their manners (did they leave them at their Nana’s?) and I have to say, one is not impressed. I was raised by parents who thought it important that children were polite, courteous and respectful – and it’s something my partner and I continue to teach our children. That they should be respectful of everyone, not just their elders. It seems, however, we may be in the minority.
One of my Mum’s favourite stories of me as a very young child was of how the women at the corner shop would always say to her, “Your Kate speaks so beautifully Jackie, she’s just so polite.” She would beam proudly as she regaled this story, as if, at 5 years old, I had reached the pinnacle of my life. She would go on to spoil it, however, by saying how everything changed when I started school. Dropping my ‘t’s’ was akin to dropping my trousers in public – not the done thing.
I digress. An incident in a café yesterday prompted me to ask myself, where have everyone’s manners gone? Before I explain, I must point something out. On the whole, I like the older generation. There are pensioners I talk to every day who are interesting, thoughtful and nothing but sweet and kind. They would probably keep schtum if they were in crippling pain. The ‘never moan’ brigade who are at the other end of the spectrum. I just need to point out that I’m not bashing all old people – metaphorically speaking, that is. Just so we’re straight.
So, I’m sat waiting for my friend, and an old man approached and asked if he could have my spare chair. He’d already begun to take it before I stopped him and said, politely, “Oh I’m sorry, I need that chair today.” Medusa herself would have been proud of the dirty look he gave me.
Before I’d had a chance to explain I was waiting for a friend, he snatched the chair on the table next to me, banging into everyone on his way back to his wife, muttering obscenities under his breath as he went. When he got back to her, he told her I was the spawn of the Devil and she joined in the evil staring competition until they forgot why they didn’t like me and went back to their teacakes.
Now, don’t get me wrong, in the scheme of things, this was petty. It was a chair. He was old and a bit doddery, but his sense of entitlement and ensuing arsey attitude really got to me and I thought, here I am, teaching my children to respect their elders and there they were, acting like three year olds.
This lack of politeness has even spread to the roads. Unless I’m late for the school run (again), I’ll generally give way to other drivers on the road and all I ask for is a little raise of the hand to say thank you. Hell, I’ll even accept a nod of the head. But nowadays I’m lucky if I get the finger.
As some people get older, how is it that they feel that they have earnt the right to dismiss politeness? Like they have said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ enough in their lifetime to warrant belligerence in later life?
It’s so hypocritical to expect politeness from the younger generation if they are not prepared to be polite themselves.
My friend turned up ten minutes later and as she sat her very pregnant self down, I looked over at the old couple to see their reaction. To be fair, at least they had the decency to look embarrassed and shortly after, got up and left, making sure they walked in the opposite direction.
I know that as I get older, my patience can wear a little thin on occasion. I can get a little cranky in the mornings (OK, a lot) and I’m not always bouncing around like Tigger on acid. But is it really too much to ask for us all just to be a little nicer to each other? Young and old.
With life being so tough these days, a smile, a thank-you or a wave of the hand (not the finger) means so much more.