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Courtesy and Manners: Extinct?

I wasn't brought up to necessarily be "courteous" to people. Manners weren't beat into my head or anything; they were simply expected. Awareness and thoughtfulness weren't mandates, but rather part of "standard operating procedure."

I used to think the lack of common courtesy and manners was a younger generation issue, but lately I'm not so sure. Holding doors for people entering a store, hugging the left side of a lane at an intersection so someone can make a right turn on red, walking a bit more quickly when crossing from a store to the parking lot while a car waits… those sorts of things.

No, the people not doing these things are my peers, so it's not a generational thing as I thought before. People simply seem to be less thoughtful now than they were 20 years ago… less aware of their surroundings and their literal place in the world and its impact on those immediately around them.

I admit to not knowing the most proper way to send a thank you letter (is scented paper wise or just tacky?), but I try to be aware of people around me. I hold doors, I don't cut people off in traffic, I don't jump to the new open line at the supermarket if I'm fourth in my current line, etc.


5 Responses to "Courtesy and Manners: Extinct?"

  1. It's a lack of interaction, IMO. Think about it. Most people go from their home bubble to the car bubble to the work bubble. Two of those are tightly controlled, population - wise. The work bubble, while not as controlled, can still be a place of limited to no interaction outside of a specific group.

    You then reverse the process. that's what...9, 10 hours of your day, five days a week. If you work from home, it's potentially worse.

    People complain that iPods isolate us, but that's really quite minor when you think about it. The less direct interaction you have with the public at large, the less you think about anyone but yourself when you're out in public. It is literally, thoughtlessness, not maliciousness that you're seeing.

    It's one reason why I'm against home schooling. Kids need to learn, early on, that they have to deal with people who are different, who may even intensely dislike them for no logical reason. Yet they still have to figure out how to work with such people. The younger you learn, the better off you are in the work place. Spending the first 18 years of your life in a bubble of family may allow for greater intellectual stimulation, but it's going to put you two decades behind in the kinds of interpersonal skills you need to deal with a world that is, to be blunt, apathetic about your existence, your feelings, and your self-esteem.

    That's why I like mass transit. It puts me into contact with people I'd never otherwise meet, and over the years, I've made a few friends because we all ride the same bus together. Or train. Or whatever. There's no way anyone can learn to be thoughtful of others if they're never AROUND "others".

  2. Erik & John -- excellent thoughts. I hadn't really considered the public transit/human interaction aspect.

    Here in San Francisco, the locals do a couple of things: on escalators, you stand right, walk left. You are quickly corrected if you don't do this (particularly if you don't look like a tourist). SF locals also make lines. It's very strange, in a way, but you see the locals queued up all over the place. If it's in a touristy sort of place, the tourists often try to bypass the line, and are successful if the line wasn't all that serious. Then again, I've definitely seen locals trying to shove their way onto a subway train before anyone could get off, which just makes no sense to me at all.

    In Pittsburgh, there's a thing called the "Pittsburgh Left" -- there aren't quite enough left turn arrows where there should be, so generally if you are the first person waiting in the left turn lane and the light turns green, you are expected to go (cutting infront of the oncoming traffic).

    Overall, I think I've seen a lot of people getting to stop thinking about other people-- and that's largely what manners and courtesy is about. Realizing that there are other people around you, and doing little thing that don't necessarily affect what you are doing, but certainly makes their life easier.

  3. I find that I get really annoyed when people don't display at least a modicum of courtesy, whether it be at the supermarket or in traffic, etc.

    Mind you, in Canada, save for some of the largest urban centers, some people are just too nice. It's not uncommon to hear apologies from both parties when they bump into each other, or a standstill at a 4 way stop while people wave each other by.

  4. It may be a regional thing. I'm from the South and went to the North for school. The North was much less polite. It worked out well for me, though. After the initial distrust of Yankee women, they responded very well to my good manners.

  5. [...] stunned. Not a peep from them despite the fairly obvious scratch. This goes above and beyond my "Courtesy and Manners" post. [...]