Sunday, September 29, 2013

Etiquette: A Lost Art Form?

Just the other day I took my mom to a local hospital for some routine blood work. I was pushing her in a wheelchair to eliminate a lengthy walk to the lab. When leaving the admittance desk I pushed her wheelchair away from the desk and immediately put the guest chairs back in their proper place. The admittance clerk responded with, 'That's so nice of you to put the chairs back. Most people don't even bother.' I replied, 'My mom taught me when I was growing up to always put things back the way I found them.' I guess it always stuck with me. I laughed and told my mom, 'Ha! And you thought I didn't listen to you.' It made her smile.

Growing up, my mom always insisted we learn and practice the most common forms of etiquette. We should say 'please' and 'thank you', never leave the dinner table until we'd either finished our meal or at least asked permission, and always try to write a hand written thank you note whenever possible. She used to say that if someone went to the trouble to pick out and give you a special gift for your birthday, then you should always acknowledge their effort with a proper thank you, otherwise she would say you were acting as though you thought it was owed to you.

More often than not I look around now and wonder if proper etiquette has become a lost art form. On a daily basis I witness people speeding through my subdivision at unbelievable speeds, people swearing in public, people zipping from lane to lane on the freeway without ever bothering to use a turn signal (as if we should all just get out of their way and read their minds about where they're going to choose to go next), and people vandalizing other people's personal property with graffiti. Don't even get me started about young guys wearing their pants down so low it's a miracle they don't trip themselves ... seriously I REALLY don't want to know or care about what boxers you're wearing.

Today my husband and I went for a leisurely lunch at a restaurant after church to watch the Lions football game. It was to be our hour to unwind, eat some lunch, and watch some football. Unfortunately the 2 ladies in the next booth carried on a conversation with voices so loud we could no longer hear the TV, much less concentrate on the game. My husband and I just looked at each other in disbelief. At one point one of the ladies was talking about something and saying, 'I just can't remember the name of the place. Gosh that bothers me. WHAT IS the name of that place?' It took every ounce of restraint for us not to get up and walk over to their booth to tell them the name of THAT place. There should be some proper level of volume that's considered acceptable in a public place, don't you think?

All is not lost though. Just when I think no one remembers what proper etiquette is I'll walk through a door that is being held open by a 10 year old boy with freckles on his face. I'll say, 'Thank you very much.' and he'll say, 'My pleasure.'
What do you think? Is etiquette a thing of the past or can it be salvaged for future generations to come?

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