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Politeness and the dodo bird

By: By Brian Bachynski

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 06:00 am

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It doesn’t take much effort to be polite. But you’d never know it travelling around in these parts.

Around here, politeness – the act of being courteous to others – is about as scarce as a reasonable speed limit in a city laden with photo radar. I am, admittedly, supersensitive to poor service and crappy attitudes. In fact, one insolent encounter can easily raise my blood pressure by 20 points or more.

Why should I care if the person behind the counter is nice to me? After all, I’m just there to buy something, not make a life-long friend. Well, I consider rudeness to be a fundamental character flaw. People who are rude, in my books anyway, are detached individuals who are ignorant of their surroundings and have little regard for anyone but themselves. They simply don’t care and obviously have no pride in their job. If they can’t even put in a little effort to be courteous, imagine what kind of employees they must be.

As I make my way to various establishments throughout our fine city, I am constantly reminded that the word “polite” is not part of the lexicon of many of today’s generation. Just last week I made a purchase at a convenience store. The two early-20-something girls didn’t lose a beat in their conversation as they took my money. Not one “thank you,” or “have a nice day.” They didn’t even make eye contact. Reminding myself to watch my blood pressure, I did their job for them. “Thank you. You’re welcome. Have a nice day,” I sarcastically said to them. I showed them. I bet they were so embarrassed they had trouble sleeping that night.

I probably have two or three such encounters every week. I was in another store and the clerk continued his conversation on the phone as he took my money. I embarrassed the hell out of him too.

It’s not just in the stores where I run into impolite behaviour. I’d say it’s 50-50 that someone says “thank you” when I hold the door open for them. I have a snappy line for them too: “You’re welcome!” Gets ’em every time.

I’m convinced that today’s mannerless behaviour is technology driven. Look at how many people walk around in a zombie-like state, staring down at their smartphones, completely oblivious to their surroundings. What are they doing on their phones? I can assure you they’re not reading about Afghanistan on the New York Times mobile site. No, they’re on Facebook or Twitter, telling all of their friends what they had for lunch.

Ironically, the smartphone is the ultimate social media tool, but there’s nothing “social” about it. There is no face-to-face interaction. There’s no learning and practicing manners. It’s just too easy to be an impudent jerk on the Internet. This is, sadly, today’s accepted social norm.

Brian Bachynski is publisher of the St. Albert Gazette.


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