Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The lost art of manners

This past Friday, while making the trip home from Truro, I came upon a fatal accident that had just happened. The highway was immediately closed. They eventually re-routed us, and due to the addition of rush hour traffic, we ended up in a traffic jam like none I have ever seen.

I waited in four kilometers of traffic for over an hour, only to be turned around and wait in four more. This was just to get to an exit where the old highway was backed up from Enfield to Halifax. It was a nightmare and it took me over four and half hours to get home.

But I was patient, as were many around me. I wasn’t going to complain because, universe willing, I was at least going to get home, while two others were not.

I cried three times on that drive home. Partially from exhaustion, and partially because I felt for these two people and their families that I didn’t even know. 

But the polite, respectful behavior, and even a few smiles, from the people around me made the drive more bearable. Not so much once I got back to the city.

When I finally did make it back to the city I was drained. Emotionally and physically.

But I needed a new cell phone. Mine was dead to the world and I have no home phone. I knew it was Black Friday, I knew the mall would be insane. But I decided to brave it. Even though I hate holiday time at the mall because people can be assholes. It seems to come out more during the “season of giving”.

I braced myself when I was cut off in the parking lot and someone took the spot I was headed for. I held it together when twice a door was shut in my face instead of held for me when I was two steps behind. I responded with only a “you’re welcome” when the people that I held the door open for barged through without a “thank you”.

I stood in line for 35 minutes to talk to someone. That’s fine. I expected this. It’s Black Friday. I watched the two girls working get run off their feet. I watched various people push their way to the counter and demand that they get served without waiting in line. I listened to 35 minutes of complaining, bitching and moaning from the line behind me. I had several people push through the line without an “excuse me”.

Here is a hint to those who like to loudly complain: I did not want to be waiting in line either. I had a long day. I would have preferred to have been anywhere else. Listening to you complain, does not make the wait any easier. For you, or anyone around you.  If you do not want to wait, avoid the mall from perhaps October to February. Especially on Black Friday. The people working are not your bitches. They are people, trying to do the best they can with what they have.

Do us all a favor and shop online.

But I digress. Sort of.

When it was my turn, I gave the girl behind the counter a big smile and made a joke about the cranky people behind me. She looked at me warily and finally laughed when she realized I was actually making a joke. She looked beaten down.

When everything was said and done, she ended up upgrading some of my services without my asking. Simply because I wasn’t an asshole. I have worked in customer service and I know how much a smile or a kind word can mean from someone on a busy day.

It ended up being a decent experience because I chose to be friendly and polite. I never once lost my smile, even to the rudest people.

I will not get dragged to the bitter dark side. 

So I propose that during this holiday season, and maybe even all year round (gasp), we re-investigate the art of manners. The art of kindness. The art of patience. Because all three are tied together. The world does not revolve around any of us as individuals, none of us is more important than the other. Your actions affect countless others around you. It’s time we remembered this and became aware of it again.

Hold the door. Say “excuse me”, “please” and “thank you”. Smile at the cranky girl or guy at the cash register because maybe they have had a bad day. Maybe they are on the defensive for a reason. If someone is rude, smile and be polite back. If you find you have a long wait, sing a song, plan your grocery list. Or even take a few deep breaths and just be.

Sometimes it just nice to smile at a stranger for no reason. Maybe that’s all they needed that day.

The funny thing is, the kinder you are, the better it will make your day, not just someone else’s.


  1. It's humbling to be reminded that I'm no more important than Carrot Top but I loved your rant.

    As a "road warrior", I depend on those humbly paid and harried service workers at car rental kiosks, airport check-ins, and hotel desks. As you observe, a smile and a thank you is often valued by them more than their paycheque - and they certainly can make your life on the road a bit more comfortable.

    So, yes be polite and patient if only for reasons of self gain but always remember your manners - unlike Carrot Top. Thank you for the reminder. :)

  2. Couldn't have said it better myself :) .... I have found that if you choose to be patient you end up in a far better position when you are in the position of "client".... I too, have worked in the service industry and I know how people can try to take their frustrations out on you. I am presently having my computer fixed for free (despite the fact that it is technically 2 weeks outside of the warranty). I was on hold on the phone a long time (probably close to 2 hours) but I pulled out my ninja manners and tried to be as kind as humanly possible to the harried people on the phone. All told the repairs will probably amount to more than 800$.
    I had a wonderful conversation with a young man from the Philippines a few weeks back (pre-typhoon) when I called about my (!@#$%$#) Telus internet connection. The last thing he said to me was "I am so happy ... thank you for talking to me". If we all try just a bit harder to be kind we can...even though it isn't easy ... especially on Black Friday!

  3. In the spirit of manners, thank you both so much for commenting ;) good to know there are still polite people out there!

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