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COLUMNS

Opinion: We need a tutorial in manners

Steve King
Suburbanite correspondent

We don't say the words "please" and "thank you" anymore, but otherwise, we can't quit talking.

It's all part of the manners crisis in this country.

Steve King

A manners crisis?

Yes,there is an ongoing crisis about manners – good ones, that. If you want to draw attention to a troubling situation in these modern times, you don't call it "a problem" or "an issue." Those words aren't strong enough. They are so 1960s (problem) and 1990s (issue).

So instead, you grab a megaphone, climb to the highest mountain and proclaim over the hills and dales that there is "a crisis." Come on, that's what all the politicians do. I heard it thousands of times in the campaigning heading into the recent election. It makes it so much more serious, as if some dastardly person from the opposition had injected rat poison into the food supply when in fact it was really only a shortage of lids for the fountain drink cups at the local fast-food restaurant.

You won't necessarily flip your own lid over a shortage of them, but it will nonetheless get your attention right away because you've been told that it's a crisis and the world will teeter on destruction if it's not addressed immediately.

So, then, yes, there is a manners crisis.

You're laughing. So you don't think so, huh?

OK, when's the last time you heard someone say "please" and "thank you" in the same thought, as in, "Could I please have a lid for my fountain drink? Thank you."? You can't remember, can you? That's because it hasn't happened since the Eisenhower administration. That was the 1950s when Donna Reed and Beaver Cleaver were regularly on our TV screens. It was a more polite time indeed.

I work a side job in a convenience store. It's a great study in people. All the time, people walk in, storm up to the counter and beller, "I need ..." or "I want" ... or, "Gimme....". Or they will not use any precursor, warm-up or introductory language at all, saying only what they would like to purchase: "Two lottery tickets," "Red shorts (a type of cigarette)," or, "Ten on six ($10 of gas on pump No. 6)."

There are too many people who think they are owed everything, and that the world needs to cater to them, handling their every want and desire when and where they want it and how they want it. In short, they think they're better than everyone else

But the worst of all are the people who walk in while having a conversation on their cell -phone – on speaker-phone, no less, at the highest volume level and with a trail of obscenities from here to to about Columbus being uttered by both parties. The Big Bad Word is used all the time, as a noun, adjective, adverb, pronoun and verb. To be sure, with that word, one size really does fit all. I'm not a prude, but I don't need to hear that word uttered in a public setting, especially with children nearby

They are "too cool for school," as it were, to have any kind of communication with anyone else because they are completely tied up with this all-important call. I don't care what they're talking about -- I really don't -- and whatever it is, I don't want to hear it. Finish up your conversation before you come into the store, and if your phone rings while you're in the store, just let it ring and go into voicemail. We'll get along much better that way.

Rude, indignant, selfish, pompous? Yup, and a lot more.

When cell phone guy or cell phone lady walks in and gets to the counter, I do everything I can to interrupt their conversation by asking them – in my own loud voice – all the requisite questions for a customer: "How are you this afternoon?," "Will this be cash or credit card?," and "Do you need a bag for that?" And as they walk away, I thank them, tell them to please have a good rest of their day and to be safe, all in the same loud voice.

Perhaps that's a bit rude, too, on my part, but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

And, after all, I did say, "Please" and "Thank you."