Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why is common courtesy surprising?

I was raised to respect everyone, regardless of sex, race, creed and anything else that makes people individuals. Sure, we learned a lot of jokes that you would consider racial and/or discriminatory, but we also learned that there's a time and a place, and no real malice should be intended.

We were also taught manners: please, thank you, may I be excused from the table?, and so on.

So why is it that when you display those good manners and do things like holding a door for someone, you are greeted with surprise, albeit pleasant surprise?

Case in point from today: I had an appointment for a tuberculosis test, in connection with some volunteer work I'm planning to do at a hospital. There was an accident on the Queensway, so I called from my cellphone, and left voicemail saying that I might be a bit late, and apologizing for it. When I did arrive about ten minutes late, the nurse who gave me the test immediately thanked me, expressing delight that someone would be so thoughtful. I hope it didn't show how surprised I was, that she would be so surprised.

Another time, when I was still living in Timmins, I met Little Bro Dan, his mom and sister at the mall ("The Square" as it's known locally -- official name, Timmins Square) after work one Friday night. The guy at New York Fries thought that both Dan and Chantal were my kids, and told me how mannerly they were, always saying please and thank you, and how rare it is in kids. Rather than the entire explanation that they weren't my kids, I just thanked him for saying so, and passed along the word to their mom, who was even prouder of them than I was.

Common courtesy and the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I guess it is a rare commodity. Sad.



Oh ya - I could do an entire novelette on this topic. I think maybe we should get together and write and etiquette book for the new millenium.. whaddya say?

Meaghan said...

Hi Bob,

I'm a long-time silent reader from N@Land. I don't usually comment on people's posts, even Nat's, but this one struck a chord. I was raised the same way. Manners and respect always, regardless of the person you are speaking to. Being 23, these seem to be some qualities that lack in my generation as well as the ones coming up. Not everyone, but many. There are two things that I try to model my life after: The Golden Rule, as you already mentioned, and Desiderata. My dad gave me a copy of this when I was about 10 or 11. He told me that he tries to follow it and that I should do the same. It didn't mean very much to me then, but as I grew older and understood it better, I try my best to live it every day. It was written in 1952 by a man named Max Ehrmann. I just wanted to share this with you in case you never heard of it. I don't know how popular it is. The world would be such a better place if everyone could be kind, respectful and courteous!!

Have a good one,

Misster Kitty said...

Don't even get me started!

I just commented on N@'s Poo Post and where I'd fling it...

Newsguy Bob said...

Hey, Meaghan!
Nice to hear from you.
Your dad is obviously part of my generation.
I am familiar with Desiderata. A lot of teenagers had it on a parchment poster on their bedroom walls back in the day.
I don't remember the exact words so I'll Google it, but I do remember the spirit of it.
I'm proud of young people like you, Little Bro Dan and his sister. Good manners and courtesy should never go out of style; and no one should ever be embarrassed to use them.
Y'all come back now, y'hear?

JB said...

Of course, Meaghan, for us old-guy radio types, there was also a recorded version of the Desiderata, the verses of which were read between a (sung) chorus which went something like this:
"You are a child of the universe
No less than the trees and the stars
You have a right to be here
And whether or not it is clear to you
No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
I'm too old and grumpy to write all the problems I have with the way things have deteriorated socially for us humans, but all we can do - and this is the hard part, because we have to somehow convince everyone else to do it - is to raise our children to possess the social skills and "manners" - more like common decency, actually - so that they will be the kind of people our parents would be proud of.

Newsguy Bob said...

JB, you just jogged my memory. In my old age, I had forgotten the song. Who sang it?

JB said...

Here - Let me provide you with the whole rather interesting story:
Although a respected television and radio host throughout the late '50s and '60s, Les Crane will perhaps best be noted for this - which garnered the voice over talent a Grammy for "best spoken word recording" in 1971. "Desiderata" was not penned by Crane, however, and its' origins have been the subject of much erroneously perpetuated mythology. While space prohibits the complete account, the author of the text is Indiana native Max Ehrmann (1972 — 1945) who, in addition to being a poet, was also a barrister. In his surviving diary, Ehrmann prefaced his version with the words, "I should like, if I could, to leave a humble gift — a bit of chaste prose that had caught up some noble moods." It was not until 1959 when the Reverend Fredrick Kates — rector of St. Paul's Church in Baltimore, Maryland — included "Desiderata" in a compilation of sacred devotionals gathered for his parishioners. It was here that the text was erroneously dated as being penned circa 1692 — which was - in actuality - when his church was founded, rather than the date of the text. Crane's dulcet toned reading became an anthem for those wishing to perpetuate the message of peace and love that had seemingly been abandoned in the wake of the '60s. Joining the proceedings throughout this long player are an unusual gathering of noted studio musicians under the collective moniker of the "Crane Gang".
These include Jim Horn (flute), Joe Porcaro (percussion) {Joe's sons Steve and Jeff were members of the rock group, Toto - ed.}, Louie Shelton (guitar), Michel Rubini (keyboards) and Emil Richards (percussion). Equally seasoned vocalists Evangeline Carmichael and Carol Carmichael lend their efforts as well — with the former being the soloist on the title track. All said, Crane's Desiderata is an inspired timepiece with an ageless message, rather than the one-hit wonder novelty that history will undoubtedly remember it as.

Maria said...

well said Bobby