Why I Hate Almost Everyone (Part 4): Bad Manners

OK, right off the bat I just want to say that I am not one of those pedantic, painstakingly persnickety people who pontificates on the proper placement of the oyster fork (to the right of, or – my personal preference – resting with the tines in the dinner spoon on the right side of the dinner plate) or how gracefully to get rid of an olive pit that is in your mouth (if you put the olive into your mouth with a spoon, then gently spit the pit back into the spoon and place the pit on your plate).

Far be it from me to lecture people on the punctilios of proper forms of address or how best to conduct oneself in the presence of a reigning British monarch. [1]

(The Manual for Modern Manners)

There are times, though, when I simply must put on my Miss Manners millinery and lay down the law on what is to be expected of people in public.

It must be distinctly understood that dealing with the public is the price one pays for stepping out of one’s residence and venturing out into the world. Dealing with the public means putting up with a certain amount of guff from The Great Unwashed. One accepts that as part of the great social contract. One expects that there are varying degrees of education and upbringing. One expects and makes allowances for cultural differences, for example, that can account for a certain heterogeneity of behaviour.

HOWEVER [1]

(An understandable but not highly recommended approach)

When it comes to out-and-out rudeness, I have to put the old foot down, and firmly at that.

Let me be clear that I am not speaking of people who are merely ignorant. It is one thing for someone simply not to know how to behave in public. Ignorant people can learn. They can be taught. There is hope for the ignorant person.

Nor am I talking about people who are inconsiderately oblivious of the needs of others. For example, people who go to a buffet at a reception, fill their plates, and then begin eating and talking in front of the buffet table seemingly unaware of the crowd of people gathering impatiently behind them. Even the dimmest of such clued-out people can be awakened from their stupor with a well-timed cough or a gentle ‘excuse me, may I please squeeze through?’

It is quite a different thing altogether for some boor or other maleducato to act, behave or worse treat you and others rudely and with a complete lack of respect or even common decency. Sheer unvarnished rudeness is tough to take. I’ve been confronted with some pretty hard-core yobbos, oafs and philistines in my time, let me tell you. One never gets used to it, really.

(My first etiquette book!)

A truly rude, loutish barbarian of a person can quite simply take one’s breath away. The unmitigated, churlish chutzpah of the vulgarian is quite literally an affront to the senses and sensibilities of the decent among us. We recoil in shock and disgust to uncivil, uncivilized, uncultured and unmannerly people… and rightly so.

Sadly, commenting on the impoliteness or even going so far as administering a firm reprimand often makes matters worse. I can’t remember a time when an ill-mannered ruffian was brought to his senses by an acerbic criticism. I’ve lost count, however, of the times when a stinging rebuke has enraged the transgressor or has, in fact, provoked even more unseemly behavior from him.

One witnesses a bizarre almost reverse snobbery when an uncivilized plebe comes face to face with a civilized person. The stereotypical caricature of such an encounter, as played out in the popular imagination, is to have the the well-mannered person act in an aloof and superior manner, treating the ‘poor simple ordinary person’ shabbily and with a snobbish patronizing condescension. My experience is quite the opposite. In such a situation, it is the rude person who adopts the arrogant and haughty manner, looking down his nose on someone who displays good manners and knows how to behave properly in polite society. It is the ill-mannered person who becomes even more insufferably boorish in an attempt to show that he is a ‘real authentic person’ as opposed to an effete overrefined snob.

(Ma’am? You have permission to put your purse to good use!)

This is why, lately, I have curtailed many of my sorties into the public. I rarely sally forth into the wilds of urban life anymore. I simply can’t bear it. There was a time when I used to enjoy, for example, going to movie theatres. Now the mere thought of going out to see a film and having to deal with what passes today for ‘people’ makes me cringe.

I’ve tried very hard of late to make my private life, including the company of my dear friends and loved ones, a sanctuary of sorts. I don’t tolerate rudeness in those around me any more than they would tolerate it in me. I’ve surrounded myself with decent, kind, civilized people and created a refuge against what I see as a deterioration of common courtesy in life.

I do confess that part of it derives from a healthy sense of self-preservation. From what I understand, county jails are notoriously inhospitable places and, truth be told, if ever there was a festering hive of inappropriate behaviour, it is most likely a prison. I have acted on enough cases of assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm to know that Her Majesty’s government most definitely frowns on that sort of thing. A person needs to know his or her limitations and I am not fully confident that my limits extend to refraining from resorting to physical violence in the face of extreme rudeness.

I am reminded of Dr. Evil’s priceless line in reference to a support group he and his son, Scott, attended.

“I had the group liquidated. They were insolent!”

(A man who knew how to deal with churls)

Perhaps I am being too pessimistic. Perhaps one day I will turn on the television (if I had one) and watch how our political leaders show us the way by engaging in civil discourse to help solve the problems we, as a nation, face. Perhaps one day, people will realize that we should rise above our baser natures and conduct ourselves like decent people and make our society worthy of the name ‘civilization.’

Perhaps one day, the cow will jump over the moon.

___________________________________________________________

[1] Do not speak unless spoken to. If the monarch does speak to you, reply in grammatically cogent phrases with neither cloying sentimentality nor rude familiarity. In short, address the monarch with dignity and restraint. If you don’t think you can manage that, it’s quite possible that the best (and safest) course of action is for you to keep your mouth shut.

[2] Or as Pee-wee Hurman would say, “Everyone I know has a big ‘but!'”

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4 comments on “Why I Hate Almost Everyone (Part 4): Bad Manners

  1. oakfiling1 says:

    Couldn’t agree more!

  2. [...] OK, right off the bat I just want to say that I am not one of those pedantic, painstakingly persnickety people who pontificate on the proper placement of the oyster fork (to the right of, or – my personal preference – resting with the tines in the dinner spoon on the right side of the dinner plate) or how gracefully to get rid of an olive pit that is in your mouth (if you put the olive into your mouth with a spoon, then gently spit the pit back into the spoon and place the pit on your plate). …  – continue Read [...]

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