The death of manners

Published on December 31, 2013

Good manners are dead — or so near it that we should have a wake while there are still a few of us old fossils left who remember them.

Gone — virtually disappeared,in just a couple of generations.

When people ask for your money, does anyone say, “please”?

When you hand it to them, do they say “thank you”?

“That’ll be $1.65 please, sir” has become “Your total is one sixty five.”

“Thank you, Ma’am” has become “There you go!” or “Have a nice day.”

I don’t know about you, but likely I’ll have a nice day whether or not I have your permission. You could have a positive effect on my day, though, if I get a “please” and a “thank you.”

What kind of mindless stuff is, “have a nice day,” anyway?

For all you know, I’m going to a funeral, and just need the coffee to wash down me nerve pills.

The next generation

It’s even worse with the youngsters — but I don’t blame them. Manners are taught at home.

I remember when I was about six, an old neighbour lady came to visit. She opened up her handkerchief and doled out a pink peppermint to each of us kids. The others said thank you, however, having a weak stomach and a twisted mind (or perhaps the other way around) all I could do was wonder; did she wipe her nose on the way over?

When she left my dad said — as he cuffed my ear — “next time you forget to say thank you, I’ll be after giving you a licking you won’t be thanking me for either!”

Americans have this image of Canadians as ultra-polite. This is not so much a compliment as it is an indictment on how bad it has gotten over there. They don’t so much ask for the money as demand it.

The loss of politeness has not evenly spread across our country either. It’s spotty.

Some places, like a rural area I visit in New Brunswick, lean too far the other way.

If you offer someone as little as a cup of tea, likely as not they’ll say, “No thanks, thank you very much — but thank you for asking.” Three thanks in one sentence! But you better not offer them a case of beer for changing your flat tire, or they’ll beat you with their Bible.

If a province, or a region or even a small town would work on manners instead of paying consultants a bundle to create “a brand” for them, the effect could be dramatic.

Corporate decision?

At a donut place where I buy my morning coffee they have completely stopped saying please and thank you. I don’t blame the staff.

No doubt a company van crammed with efficiency guys from head office, bearing a bumper sticker that reads “Accountants Just Want to Have Fun,” visited a few locations and calculated the seconds they could save on each order.

After doing the math they found that each location could save one second by not saying please and 1.3 seconds by not saying thank you — on each order!

“Wow, we could put through seven more orders each day in every location!” And you know how tough it is on these coffee and donut places trying to make a living! No markup to speak of and all those benefits and big salaries to pay.

Why, they can hardly afford the expense of picking up the litter in their lot. I don’t know how they do it, at all, at all.   

It’s nothing short of a miracle that they don’t go bankrupt.

So, that’s it then. It’s all over. Manners are on their deathbed. No hope of recovery.

I might as well get out the guitar and write a dirge for their demise.

No good to be sorry, because we have all contributed to killing them.

Some of us by having poor manners. Some by accepting bad manners.

Some by not teaching our kids.

Companies? By not insisting that all employees say please and thank you each time, and every time.

Oh — and thank you so much for reading this.

However, if you just skimmed through it, well then, there you go. And have a nice day.                                                                                 

Laurie Blackwood Pike writes from Placentia.