Monday, September 3, 2007

I Beg Your Pardon, Do You Have A Moment?

❍Litter: It's just a symptom of a mannerless age

I remember, as a child, being told to put sweet wrappers into my pocket, rather than throw them on the street. I did. I learned the lesson. And as a result, generally speaking, I have the dirtiest car in Christendom.
I remember being told to say “yes thank you,” or “no thank you.”
I was taught to say ‘please.”
I was taught to leave seats for my elders. I was taught to open doors for ladies.
I was taught not to speak until I was spoken to.
I was, in short, taught manners.
What, oh what, has happened?

It is my generation, and most likely, the one that has followed, which has failed utterly to pass on any sense of decorum to the children and teenagers of today.
God, it makes me feel 100 years old – thank God there are 46 years to go until I reach that landmark – but I despair of the ignorance, rudeness, lack of sensibility, total disdain for etiquette and complete contempt for manners of today’s young people.
They will barge past you as you enter a shop. Worse still, they will barge past an elderly lady as she enters a shop.
They will grab what’s on offer without a by your leave.
They will roar, often obscenities, at each other on thestreet, in shops, on public transport.
They will sit, on the bus or train, in the seat reserved for the handicapped, regardless of whether or not it is needed by someone infirm.
In their cars, they speed noisily through urban areas. They rarely if ever show any knowledge of drivers’ etiquette or road manners.
They throw their litter on the street outside shops, out of car windows – anywhere but into a waste bin.
During what we had of a summer, Connie and I sat in Merrion Square with Charlotte, hoping to spend a nice, quiet sunny afternoon there.
Not a hope.
A gang of youngsters invaded the park, chucking empty beer bottles around, playing football and shouting obscenities at their children to ensure, I presume, that yet another generation will grow up lacking manners.
Bus queues? They went out of fashion with black and white television. It’s everyone for him or herself, these days. And tough luck on the elderly woman who was first in the queue but wasn’t on quick enough to get a seat.
The thing about manners is, they’re not difficult.
If everybody had them, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live.
If shop assistants, for example, could put their mobile phone calls on hold for just a minute, if they could just resist chewing gum while they’re at work, if they could manage to abstain from talking to their fellow workers while there are customers in the shop and if they could turn down the damned music for a while, shopping would be something to enjoy.
If youngsters driving down your road at night, when you’ve just managed to get the baby to go to sleep, could turn the music down a little – just so they can’t hear it ten streets away - it would be nice.
If young men could have the courage to do something on their own, something brave like get on a bus, walk down the street, go to a shopping centre, wouldn’t it make a nice change from seeing gangs of them, hoodies up, menacing old women?
And what if children answered their parents with other than a caveman like “ugh”, what if they had the manners to actually talk to them, would the world be a better place?
I think it would.
The sad thing is, as I have said, that it is my generation which has failed to pass on the message.
It’s not just parents, it’s business and politics too. Their disdain for environment, for culture, for heritage and for the ordinary things of life which make it worth living, set the kind of example that kids all too eagerly follow.
Which is a pity.
Oh. And by the way.
Thank you for reading this.

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