“Don’t reserve your best behavior for special occasions. You can’t have two sets of manners, two social codes – one for those you admire and want to impress, another for those whom you consider unimportant. You must be the same to all people. ”
– Lillian Eichler Watson
Yesterday I was on the bus on my way home from work, by itself a common occurrence. This particular instance I was on the phone with my mother, and the bus was a little crowded. I also had my messenger bag full of dirty uniforms from work, so it may have been a bit bulky, but I do my best keep it out of the way. Commuting on public transportation is tedious and full of thousands of miniscule annoyances, but ones that we try to navigate with some manner of grace and aplomb. There is a code of etiquette, one that applies to all interactions with other people.
So here I am, minding my own business, glad to be off of work for the day and having a pleasant conversation with my mother. As a brief aside, to lend context, I love talking to my mom. We have a great relationship, and when I was still living in Chicago I used to go visit frequently. Now that I live on the other side of the country, it’s harder to go for a visit. And because my mother has a very busy life teaching and raising my two brothers, she doesn’t get a lot of time to chat. I steal time with her whenever I can. So imagine that I’m a little pissed, getting interrupted over some rude bullshit.
I’m talking to my mom and I hear this girl behind me start running off at the mouth. She says that she is going to open my bag if I don’t get it out of her way. Hearing this, I turn around and give her the steeliest glare I can muster. I’d like to think that I have a very good angry face, but this was too no avail against the tide of ignorance. The girl (along with a handful of her teenage friends) goes off, telling me to turn back around before she kicks my ass. I curtly ask her to be quiet, since I’m on the phone. My mother tells me not to be rude, and I explain that the situation warranted the response. And then tell her I’ll call her back. Meanwhile, the idiot child is continuing to spew forth vitriol, saying that she doesn’t “give a fuck” if I’m on the phone. And while I restrained myself, I so very much wanted to backhand that foul mouth.
But I was raised better than that. I was raised to act decently towards other people, regardless of how I felt. There is that golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” In layman’s, if you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them. Sure the bus was crowded, and we were all crammed. I’m sorry my bag was in the way. But you would do better to politely ask me to get it out of your way, than to go off with a bang. I’m usually only polite until provoked. But I was also aware of my surroundings. I know that arguing with an ignorant teenager on the bus is futile, something that will only serve to cause needless aggravation. I also know from experience that keeping my mouth shut will keep me out of trouble.
When did manners fall by the wayside? I was raised to believe in kindness, honor and integrity as essential values. Add to that a lengthy career in the food service industry and I have learned that it pays to be nice. If this girl had politely asked me to move my bag, I would’ve done just that and apologized to her. We all would have felt warm and fuzzy. Now I’m sure she didn’t lose any sleep over her outburst, and it was probably long forgotten. But what happened to please and thank you? What happened to peace and common decency?
And then there are the people that listen to their music over the speakers of their phone on the bus. Why? Can’t afford headphones? Maybe if you got a job, instead of thugging around San Francisco Centre you’d be better off. There are more. There are countless things that irritate me, and I’m sure that through the course of this blog I’ll remember a few of them. For now though, feel free to weigh in on the subject of good manners in public. I welcome your comments. And remember parents, don’t let your kids grow up to be ignorant dipshits.
Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts. ~Abel Stevens