'Excuse, me,' America

Posted: Dec 04, 2006 10:52 AM

I refuse. I simply refuse to let the ignorant and the rude beat me down. I refuse to let their exponentially growing lack of manners force me to morph into one of them.

I refuse to stop saying "excuse me." I refuse to stop saying "thank you." I refuse to stop holding doors open for strangers walking behind me. And I refuse to stop telling people, "have a nice day" when they exit the elevator.

At least in the cities I work and travel, uncivilized, crude and discourteous behavior now seems to be the rule rather than the exception -- education and position not withstanding. If anything, a case can be made that the more educated and "important" a person, the more likely they are to exhibit the ill-bred characteristics that are chipping away at civility and social interaction.

Multiple times a day, I will exit an office, store or restaurant, and hold the door for the person behind me. Often, the person will be seconds behind and I still hold the door. Rarely will that person say "thank you." Conversely, it is these same people -- again, many times, highly successful business people or high-level government employees -- who will never hold the door for me. Even when there is absolutely no doubt that I am right behind them. At best, they will shove the door wide open upon their "Elvis has left the building" departure, and assume I can scramble through before it smashes into my shoulder.

Waiting in line at the movies, the theater or a sporting event and someone brushes up against you as he or she cut through the line in front of you? It would be advisable not to hold your breath waiting for an "excuse me." It's just not going to come.

If I strike up a conversation with someone on a particularly long elevator ride who is doing that "avoid eye contact at all costs" thing, or tell them to "take care" when they get off on their floor, they look at me as if I've invaded their personal space or just simply annoyed them with my pleasantries.

What has happened to basic manners? As the world continues to spiral out of control, isn't now the most logical time to be civil to each other? I was raised in one of the most dysfunctional families of all time, but when my parents were lucid, they still taught my brother, sister and me to say "excuse me," "thank you," "yes sir" and "no ma'am."

Like the hula hoop, the Edsel and two-dollar-a-gallon gas, have good manners just gone out of style and become passé? Have we become so insular in our personal bubbles and so uninterested in our fellow humans as to simply not care what others think about us?

If I have offended the sensibilities of the rude by pointing out their boorishness, then I most humbly apologize. What I won't do however, is adopt their uncultivated mannerisms.

To do so, is to give up on the hope of people who care.