I couldn't believe my eyes this morning.

The old gent in the petrol station was filling his tank while leaning heavily on two crutches.  He hobbled over to the shop and was just approaching the door when Ms Corporate Snotty-Drawers coming out of the shop also reached the door on the inside.

With it being a glass door and him hardly fit to stand, I assumed she'd hold the door open while he staggered in, instead of which she opened the door, walked through and let it slam shut behind her as the two of us looked on in disbelief.

I started laughing – in despair – and he chuckled too. 

He said "no-one has any manners any more".

I said "I'm just glad I didn't meet her on the road in her car, seeing as how she's obviously completely feckin blind".

I'm not certain where I learnt my manners, learnt the art of being polite.  Partly at school, I suspect, which was private and full of very nice well-brought-up little girls (and, er, me), and very much working in my parents' business, a small supermarket, in the days when the customer was still king. 

They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.  It gave us freedom but we were everywhere in chains.  The business demanded 14 hour days, seven days a week from my parents and indeed, from their children, every weekend during term time and every day during the school holidays.  I think I went to university mainly to escape its clutches.

In return it gave them a very decent living and allowed me to chain smoke Dunhill International even as an otherwise impoverished student.

I hated "The Shop" with a vengeance much of the time.  But I didn't hate our customers.  They were our family in many ways.  We saw our regulars every day.  We gave them stuff on credit, we delivered their shopping and if it were raining, it wasn't unknown for my dad to drop them home in his Merc. 

Lots of our customers were West Indian and – at the risk of casting stereotypes – they were particularly sunny-tempered and good-humoured.  Lots of them were Barbadians and their ready laughter only encouraged my dad to flirt, tell jokes and treat them like princesses. 

We also had lots of working class elderly white customers who knew we would look after them, talk to them and give them a seat if they needed to rest their bones before trotting home with their shopping baskets.

At Christmas, my mum handed out tins of biscuits, my dad handed out ciggies (in those days you could actually smoke in a food shop!) and we poured them glasses of wine.  As I've reported here before, we even brought some of them home for Christmas lunch!

And so from a very young age – 9 or 10 – I learnt how to look after our bread-and-butter.  I learnt to talk to the Paddies from the building site , the tired West Indian mums and the crotchety old ladies with the twisted legs.  I learnt to open doors, carry their shopping home and say thank you when they handed over their hard-earnt cash.

Being polite doesn't mean being obsequious and putting yourself last.  But it does mean considering the other person and treating them as you'd like to be treated yourself.  It does mean the small acts of kindness that demonstrate that though you're a stranger, you respect your fellow man or woman.

I'm not picking on kids particularly – because it's entirely down to what they learn from us, their parents and their teachers – but when did 'please' and 'thank you' and 'sorry' disappear from their vocabularies?

Then there are the drivers.  UK drivers are more polite than their Irish counterparts, perhaps because historically UK drivers had to pass a driving test while many of the Irish never did.  Allowing people to get out of a side road or time to reverse out of a parking space takes only a few short seconds but creates a connection that says you have been acknowledged even though you're a stranger.

What do you think?  Have I turned into a grumpy old lady who is focussing only on the negative just because of a blind bird in the petrol station?  Do you think you have good manners?  Do you think in 2009 we have to let go of them in order not to be trampled upon?  Do you think we have given the younger generation completely different standards or do your kids automatically say please and thank you?

I'm interested to know what your view of the world is on the subject of manners.  And by the way, I'm not saying everyone is like this.  It's just that more and more when you ask someone "where are your manners?" they aint got a flamin clue.

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