Where are the manners?

Every now and then an email comes in that’s the exact right email for what’s going on in my life. That happened Friday. I’d had an incident earlier in the day that had me seething with rage, and his email hit right home. So, first, the email, then I’ll tell you what happened, and then you’ll get my two cents. Sounds like a plan, no?

I was wondering if there was a certain age where teenagers or adults realise that manners are important and can learn to appreciate them? Because I’ve been trying my whole life (I’m still a teenager, but still) to be a gentleman (opening doors for others, asking if the elderly need help, speaking politely, etc.) and to be helpful as much as possible, but it seems that it is not appreciated at all. So far throughout a few years of high school, I’ve tried to help others boost their marks with assistance on their homework, but they can’t seem to understand that others have morals and won’t cheat for them. (again, turning into a rant i suppose..)

I guess I’m really just sending this email to ask another’s opinion about manners and whether or not it is truly appreciated in today’s society. I’ve asked a few teenage girl friends and they say that it is good to have manners and it’s something important they look for, yet I see them going out with lowlife guys who are despicable and need to learn manners. Is this just a teenage thing to do that you overcome later on and realise it’s importance and learn to be grateful for it? Or is it completely dependant on the people’s standards they’ve set.

Now, what happened to me the other day was when I was riding over to my brother’s place. He and I live in absolute opposite ends of the city — he in the most northeastern section, I in the most northwestern section. I work smack dab in the middle, downtown, and between there and my brother’s is 30-square blocks of what’s essentially some of the poorest and most underprivileged in Canada. If you know where to avoid, you can go without ever seeing any of these people.

I don’t try to avoid it, I just go through. I always see really tragic things when I do and it keeps me appreciating the little I have. This time, though, I was stopped at a light and this old guy, about 70, was in a wheelchair, completely unable to use his hands, and could only pull himself forward using the toes on his right foot. He was literally moving about 2 feet a minute. Naturally, the light turned red with him in the middle of the street, and I got a solid green light to go. Meanwhile, he’s stopped, looks like he’s about to cry from exhaustion, just can’t go any further, and all these fucking people are walking past, ignoring him.

I was in a RAGE. I pulled my scooter over, got off, cursed, “You people ought to fucking help! Where the hell are manners gone?” Then I leaned over to the man and said, “May I push you across the street, sir?” And he went soft with relief. He just sighed, “Please?”

I had a bit of an argument with a couple punks on the corner after that, who seemed to think I was flaming them, and yeah, you know, I was. Just fucking standing there, doing nothing.

When I got over to my brother’s place, I saw my nephew standing there, and I sat him down. I said, “If you ever see a little old lady or a little old man who can’t get across the street or they’re taking too long, you HELP them. You hear me?”

I made sure he knew the distinction between “stranger danger” and helping a senior citizen who really does need the help. After all, that’s how I was taught.

In MY world, I was raised to help people. I was raised to give a hand and do the right thing. I was taught to say please and thank you, and I was told to hold doors open for others.

And I KNOW life moves fast, and I KNOW people are more rushed than they used to be. You know what? I don’t give a fuck. *I* find the time to still be polite. I find the time to thank people and make pleasant small talk. Why the hell don’t they?

So, kid, I say keep going. The thing about being a polite person and not behaving politely just because you’re not getting it in return is that you start to get bitter about it. It changes you. Cynicism finds you and apathy makes a home in you. Stay true to the person you are. Help others, be polite. You’ll one day be surrounded by a better class of people, by people who appreciate that in who you are. It will be a deciding factor on the kinds of engagements you’re invited to and the kinds of experiences you have. You’re still a kid, you’re in high school, and you’re stuck in a social world you have little say in. In a few years, that all changes.

I know I will not date a man who has no manners. I will watch how he behaves and treats others, and I’ll note whether he expresses gratitude for the little things I say and do for him, and if I don’t like what I see, I will walk.

Life’s too short to be with people who just don’t understand basic human decency. I figure that eliminates about 60% of the world from eligibility for my bed, but whatever. I’m fine with having high standards. Are you?