Is it just me, or is there a decided lack of courtesy rampant in today's society?
Here are some examples:
My son and I were at a local library waiting very patiently as one librarian made a cursory (and guttural) gesture asking "are you returning books?" Another librarian was obviously too busy on the telephone and did not offer any contact, whatsoever. When I approached the "more conversant" librarian to request her search for our desired selection, the other librarian leapt into action to help someone on her own computer screen and did not hesitate to tell me "you need to move over there." I'm thinking there may be a more polite way to convey this message. Anyway, I wasn't ready to play their "stand here, speak there" compliance game so I told the less-grumpy librarian that the grumpy one seemed to be going out of her way not to help me. She offered no response except for a knowing silence....
At a recent performance of a children's theatrical performance, we were seated in the top row. Unfortunately, this was directly in front of the ushers rest area. Now, we all know it is common practice to refrain from speaking loudly at any performance, whether cinematic or a stage presentation. These ushers seemed to have not received this societal memo as they spoke very loudly and treated us to a security conference which would have put the Department of Homeland Security to shame. They continued to point out every time one of them spotted an errant flashlight or other incidental infraction in the audience and debated, quite publicly, how their mobility impairments meant they could not round-up these scofflaws.
The most ironic part of all of this was that by their loud conversations, they were causing a greater level of distraction than the one they feared would be caused by the flashlights. Isn't it sad when the children in the audience were acting in a sensitive and conscientious manner yet I would need to ask one of the ushers to "please have your friends keep their voices down; it's very distracting." Oops! Footnote: no one but the ushers seemed to care about the flashlights.
My son and I were waiting very patiently for the aforementioned show to begin. People of all ages would stroll by our seats towards their own. It didn't seem to make a difference if the person was 5 or 50, black or white or Hispanic, male or female, one parent or two or even a grandparent, the common denominator was that fewer than 10% said "excuse me" as they made their way to their seats. Then, finally, one man was walking alone and exclaimed the much hoped for phrase: "excuse me" and, as someone who was raised with proper manners, it was like music to my ears. This was a perfect "teachable moment" as I imparted to my son that it would be nice if everyone acted like that considerate gentleman. My son wholeheartedly agreed.
We went to a fast-food chicken restaurant known for their flame-broiled chicken. I had this brilliant idea that if we pick-up some chicken, Daddy wouldn't have to cook tonight. Well... things didn't go as well as planned. After waiting for 5 minutes to place our order, things were looking up as we were now in the queue to receive our much-anticipated chicken order and be on our way. Another 5 minutes passed and we were over the ten-minute mark. My son suggested that we simply ram the car ahead of us out of the way so we can get to the chicken faster (another teachable moment, as I suggested police may become involved). My son usually has some marvelous suggestions, especially within the context of his being rather youngish. Unfortunately, I had to decline that particular suggestion, but he did have another suggestion which was a bit more reasonable, which was that we should just go home and call the police and ask them to get our chicken. Police aren't that busy on Sunday afternoons, are they? Anyway, after 13 long minutes, we finally got our chicken order. The drive-through window representative did not even offer a "Thank you." In fact, this gem of an employee seems to have not passed his Customer Service 101 class as he just walked away and I wasn't even sure if the transaction was complete.
This was a very disappointing fast-food experience, but I happened to notice on the bottom of the receipt, an invitation to call and offer one's opinion on their service. Well, since they asked...
This seemed like a great opportunity to show my son some customer advocacy in action. I called the local number directly back to this store and the manager answered. I told them the problem of waiting 13 minutes only to be offered not even a "Thank you." The manager was obviously another recent dropout of Customer Service U as the only help they could provide was to simply say: "Thank you." She seemingly wore her badge of apathy like any proud yet mediocre employee would. In a valiant, yet presumably futile attempt to drive the point home, I mentioned to them that we can go to one of their other restaurants next time. I then hung-up and my son eagerly asked me: "What did they say?" I told him all they said was "Thank you." He asked most quizzically "Thank you?" Obviously the response was as unsatisfactory to him as it was for me. I had to explain to him that "unfortunately, some people just don't seem to care." I asked him what he would have liked them to say. His insights were superb, yet the desired response had also eluded me up to this point. He said they could have just said "I'm sorry!" So simple, yet so utterly brilliant. Pearls of wisdom from my son who demonstrated more business acumen than the manager and the window clerk put together.
This leads me back to my original thesis, that of the coarsening of our society. Are any of you parents out there as incensed as I am at the degradation of proper manners and overall etiquette in our world today? I think there are a lot of people who feel they are simply too busy to say "please" or "thank you?" Maybe they feel it is a sign of weakness to be kind to someone else. Maybe they feel if they are nice to another person and the other person ignores them, it will be like a rejection. Whatever the reasons, is it really that hard to treat others in a manner conducive to civilized interaction? I really don't think it is. The callous behavior some of us are modeling for our children will be the callous interaction that will be all too commonplace with their friends, relatives, and neighbors, when they grow up. However, it is not too late. Take the time to do the right thing. Take the time to live by the Golden Rule. You may have forgotten how it goes since you probably saw it last in your early years at school. It is a simple motto encouraging a conscious effort to treat people in the same way you would like to be treated:
"Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you."
Nothing more, nothing less. Again, simple, yet brilliant. Just make sure to set aside enough time the next time you go for take-out chicken.
Until next time, this is Rich Gordon reminding you that when it comes to kids, involvement counts!