The Pleasantries Of Politeness

"When a society abandons its ideals just because most people can't live up to them, behavior gets very ugly indeed." ~ Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

Last week Courtney asked for a blogpost regarding politeness and manners. Her request came after a busy lunch hour. We have wonderful customers at W. D. Deli. Wonderful. Many have become good friends, and some are even like family. But sometimes, once in a while, someone will walk toward the deli counter while in deep conversation on his/her cell phone, and after a while, look up, squint at the menu boards, and start barking his/her order, "Let me have a turkey club and throw some potato salad on there," and continue the cell phone conversation. Like I said, it only happens once in a while. And because it’s not the "norm," those kinds of incidents stand out. And we usually tell each other about them later in the day. "Venting," I believe they call it.

Another perspective would be that we are all much busier than ever before. Too many balls in the air. Too much on our plates. Too many plates spinning. (You get the idea.) We feel the need to make the most of every minute. Texting, making phone calls, checking messages and emails - filling every "spare" minute with "productive" behavior. And in the rush, sometimes, we sacrifice the pleasantries of politeness. I’m always happily surprised when someone (anyone) takes the time to make eye contact and smile and greet me before conducting any real business. Both as a business owner and as a customer. I like the feeling it gives me. I need to remember to do that more often myself.

In a related story, I turned 54 this past Monday. It was a great birthday. I got some really, really thoughtful cards and phone calls and facebook posts. I got some cool gifts, too: that Gary Sweeney postcard book, a massage, gift cards, money, nice stuff. But the messages that were handwritten on the cards were the sweetest. The facebook posts were awesome. Those things meant that someone had taken the time to stop. And write. Or type. A message. Especially to me.

I need to remember how good (and special and important) those things made me feel. So that I can do something similar on your birthday.


  1. I agree that it is in the simple human-human interactions that our lives and their meaning is defined. When did people decide it is ok to walk up to a counter at a convenience store, and in response to the clerk's "good morning" or "how are you" saying only "give me 3 of the Texas Hold Ems" or maybe even worse, just wordlessly setting the item to be purchased on the counter, paying and stalking out - all without so much as an iota of eye contact and certainly not a please or thank you. I always wonder when I see people doing that what is so incredibly important in their heads that they can't emerge for a moment to greet the person in front of them. This violates my basic values and I suppose, my spirituality when it gets right down to it. thanks for writing about this - I notice it all the time and it bugs me.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts