Obituary: The demise of ‘good manners’

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Once upon a time, not really all that long ago, there was a thing called good manners. It transcended status, class and age and was the glue that kept human interaction flowing. In 2017 ‘good manners’ have seemingly become the stuff of legend – the kind that are always mentioned with a sense of nostalgia and regret. How and why did good manners roll over and die? Is it because life whizzes by so fast, that nobody seems to bother anymore?

A long time ago children were brought up to be respectful of their elders and rudeness in any shape or form was frowned upon, but nowadays it’s not children who are the worst offenders. Try walking into a shop these days and watch the reaction of the shop assistant who is supposed to be serving you; a smile and a greeting are as rare as bees’ knees and if you do manage to somehow catch their attention, unless they’re holding a life or death conversation on their mobile phone (in which case you might as well forget it) you can rest assured that the next few minutes will develop into a sort of battle of wills. It usually ends up with the customer trying to summon some kind of response while the shop assistant replies in bored monosyllables. Why is this? Is it not a given, that basic good manners make for good business? Is it not part of one’s duty especially for those who work in retail or services to at least appear kind and hospitable or at the very least interested?

How many times on public transport, have ‘young’ and able-bodied people occupied the reserved seats at the front without even trying to get off their sorry asses once an elderly or disabled person boards the bus? Have we become so immune to others’ needs that we only care that we get to our destination in relative comfort and to hell with the rest? On any given day the list of offenses seems endless; doors slammed in your face, bumped in the street without so much as ‘I’m sorry’ and on it goes.

But the selfish, manic behaviour that surely takes the ‘bad manners award’ each and every time, is that of the delusional ‘I own the road’ drivers. Drive through any major traffic artery on this hallowed island on any given day and for sure you’ll meet with a good number of double parked cars, causing unnecessary traffic jams all over. And why? Mostly because the driver couldn’t be bothered to find a parking space somewhere in the vicinity while he or she gets the papers/milk/bread, conveniently parking in front of the shop/vendor of their choice, as God forbid they’d have to walk an extra few metres. Who cares if cars are queuing up by the second…It’s only for a few minutes, no?

How many times have you sat there in your seat fuming, as the driver in front of you discovers a long-lost relative in the oncoming traffic and decides to share with them his or her life story there and then, while they both treat the drivers behind them as dumb jackasses…Heaven forbid if any of the waiting drivers dare to honk their horns at the unnecessary diversion; holding a lengthy conversation in the middle of the road is a God given right!

But no one quite takes the biscuit like a few sorry excuses for serving staff in some eateries; they are not only lacking in good manners but at times their behaviour borders on downright rudeness. Some leave you with the strange sensation that they’re actually doing you a favour serving you and that your custom is not really all that welcome. For heaven’s sake, why are these people left to run riot in certain establishments? Thousands of Euros in renovations and refurbishments and top notch food do not make up for rude, or at best, lukewarm service. It’s about time proprietors woke up to this sad reality and bear this in mind when employing new staff.

The list goes on and on…Has the demise of good manners and the rise of rudeness and selfishness become our latest national plight? Is it so difficult to utter the magical ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘excuse me’, or to be kind and friendly? Does it take a lot to simply smile at someone? Has it never crossed our collective minds that really and truly it could be the only kindness that that someone might experience all day?