September 15, 2009

Civility Disobedience

On the front page of USA Today, er, today, the big headline read, "What happened to civility?". For those of you unaware, and there are probably few of you by now, this question was raised in response to the very rude antics of Kanye West at the MTV VMAs on Sunday night.

Taylor Swift, a 19 year-old country singer, had just won for "Best Video". In the middle of her speech, which was tearful and heartfelt, Mr. West came up onstage and grabbed the mic right out of her hand. He then said that "I'm sorry, Taylor, I'm gonna let you finish your speech, but Beyonce had the best video of the year!". Poor Taylor (and the rest of the crowd, especially Beyonce herself) was completely flummoxed. Beyonce mended everything by allowing Taylor to finish her speech when SHE won her award.

Also this week was the whole "YOU LIE!" incident, which I'm sure needs no explaining. I'm still really upset about this one. This is the epitome of rudeness. Mr. Wilson should be ashamed of himself.
But let's get back to where civility went. It went bye-bye. Call me old (or old-fashioned), but since when has everyone started caring more about themselves than anyone or anything else? When we answer that question, then we can possibly start regaining the civility that's so important in a society.

Some people think that the beginning of the end was when children stopped addressing their elders with titles, and started calling them by their first name. Actually, almost everyone called other people by a title until the person being addressed gave the okay to use a first name. When I was a newly-engaged 22 year-old, I called my future in-laws Mr. and Mrs. B until we got married, and then I called them by their first names. My first boss at the Press-Gazette was Mr. Miller until he told me that was his dad's name. So even into my 20's I was still using titles. It wasn't until my late 30's, and more of a peer to most adults, that I stopped.

I was in Radio Shack today, and while I was waiting for the clerk to come out of the back room with my scanner I was purchasing, the other clerk began his small talk by telling me how badly he wanted to go home. Really? Since when is this rude behavior okay? I've always hated this practice, but it's getting more and more prevalent. I'm sure everyone reading this has had their meal interrupted by a waiter/waitress who launches into some diatribe about how bad her day is, or some other customer who upset her, etc. Do these people ever think that maybe not everyone really cares what a crappy day you're having? Oh, and where the hell is my mayonnaise, by the way?

Rule #1 in the Jones household growing up: DO NOT IMPOSE YOURSELF ON OTHERS. My dad was so strict on this. If you're speaking to someone, don't snap your gum, interrupt, talk about yourself too much, or use foul language. If you're going to someone's house, always call first to let them know you're arriving, always follow the rules of their household, never overstay your welcome, and bestow many thanks for the invitation. If you are dining with other people (yes, even your own family), keep your elbows off the table, never slurp your soup, NEVER burp or belch, never sing at the table, keep the conversation light, speak when spoken to, use your utensils the right way, keep your fingers out of your mouth, clean your plate and always offer to help with the dishes.

Seem like a lot of rules? Yeah, I thought so too. But Dad was totally right, and I'm really glad he taught me these things. These little rules of civility help in nearly every social situation, and they made me a better person, I believe. I never have to worry about how to act, anywhere. I am at ease in any setting. Thanks for that, Mom and Dad!

So if we start with the little things, could it possibly change the way we feel about everything? If everyone started showing little courtesies to those around them (not butting in line, getting off your phone in the checkout line, shutting up at movies, saying 'please' and 'thank you' more often, or at all), wouldn't the world be a lot nicer place?

I say it's high time we get back to that place. Let's start tomorrow.


  1. You said what a lot of people are thinking these days, Mel. Common courtesy is not a bit common anymore and it's a real shame. Some people even seem to take pride in their rudeness.

    It's hard not to judge a person based on how they show respect to others in little ways - it's usually a good indication of what to expect from them overall. When I was hiring employees that was one of the biggest reasons I passed someone up. They might have certain skills but you can't go back and teach them how to get along well with others in the workplace.


  2. I think you're absolutely right, Eileen! I'd much rather work with someone who's 90% efficient but a wonderful person, than someone who never makes mistakes but is a total witch. Attitude is SO important!!