The Abc’s of Good Manners

Pardon me, would you like to have a seat? When was the last time you heard anyone offering to give up his seat? Maybe deafness put a claim on my hearing. Point of fact is, many times I have watched those octogenarians holding on to poles while riding buses and trains; I have seen them standing on long lines and waiting while their feeble bodies bent like broken twigs of a tree nearing a fall. That phrase is near extinction, to say the least. I had often heard many people use it back then.

Today, in my head the same tune seems to be playing. Plain old good manners seem to be disappearing from our modern day society. No more good mornings, no more holding doors, forget about giving up our seats to the elderly, no more I’m sorry, no more excuse me, and definitely no showing of appreciation for something that we did when we did not have to. Come on! Tell me that you don’t know what I am talking about here. The word is Thank You, and these days most of us don’t use it enough to emphasize its true meaning.

We take for granted that which our ancestors worked so hard in building. Good manners are not equivalent to the produce we hastily buy in the supermarket. They are not files, pictures or videos we can download from the Internet, and they are definitely not cheap artifacts available at the 99 cent store. They are the sum total of what we learned from our parents less whatever couldn’t stick to our brain or was lost due to peer interference.

But, then again, back in the good old days, it seems like parents were more concerned with drilling into their siblings’ heads more of the basic things and manners were always at the top of their list. Mind you, there were no “Magic Tricks” for teaching them either. There was nothing, back then, that a good slap on the mouth or a back of the hand slap across the face wouldn’t fix. Imagine what that would do to the kids of today: the ones who are so resilient to change, those who couldn’t or wouldn’t tolerate to hear the orders, let alone to comply with them. “Chew with your mouth close! No belching at the table! Don’t talk back to grandma! Sit up straight! Cover your mouth when you cough! Pull up your pants! Then again, those were the ways of our forefathers. Today, you might try an assortment of these orders. Notwithstanding, you take the risk of being scolded by your own rude bundle of joy. Ironic, isn’t it?

Back in the days, manners were taught sitting at the table, preferentially, around dinnertime, but its effects were boundless. That’s not the case nowadays. Of course, we should not condone the excessive abusive behavior of some parents. You know, no one should tie his child to a radiator because he misbehaves. No one should lock his child down in the basement, no one should put out cigarette butts on his child’s skin, and most definitely no one should be starving his child to death. Regardless, there were and still are ways to enforce and preserve those God giving moments. The ones we keep trapped in our minds and never stop telling. You know, “well my mother used to…” and so on and so forth.

Nowadays, some parents seem to be more into their next trip to the mall blindly watching their own kids shoving and pushing everybody, spilling drinks and dumping garbage all over with little or no regards whatsoever for that miracle word excuse me. Parents are fully absorbed and mostly preoccupied with trivialities. “I must check my Email.” “I forgot my iPod.” They are yapping on their cell phone as they walk, dragging their children, instead of pointing to the lesson of the day. “RESPECT.” How can these modern parents honestly expect to fix the problem? They insist in bringing some of these absurdities to the round table precisely at dinnertime. They themselves are teaching their children to confuse bad manners with multitasking.

Bottom line is that kids today are not learning their manners and a good number of us are forgetting them. Perhaps we should blame society for putting at our disposition the many technological gadgets that seem to be training and disorienting the kids of today and slowly but surely contributing to the annihilation of our not so deeply rooted values. So buckle up, keep the leash tight, and your pockets ready. The price will be hefty. Etiquettes schools are processing applications. Nonetheless, to the few needles in the hay sack who remember their manners I sincerely commend you for holding on to something priceless.

© Daniell Fedrón November 9, 2007