Sunday, 5 December 2010

Detoots Guide To Modern Manners

Do you ever find the palm of your hand itching with the effort of not smacking total strangers who behave badly in your presence?

I do.

Today, as I sat in the caff enjoying a coffee and a danish, I realised that my teeth were grinding due to the behaviour of a girl at the next table.

She was enjoying a full English breakfast, and, whilst she chewed, she banged her cutlery on her plate in time with her chomping jaw. The energy that it took to not swing around and pound my fists on her table was sufficient to power several eco-unfriendly light bulbs.

Then I went into Sainsburys, where I was barged out of the way by an old lady to get a shopping trolley, stood in front of, walked into, rammed, ignored, and queue-jumped. By the time I got back in the car, I was fizzing. Then the same thing happened again, on the roads of Tooting.

Is it too much to think that people might be a little bit, just a weeny bit, socially aware? Too much to hope that some people would acknowledge that everyone on the bus doesn't need to hear them shout into their phone? Too much to hope that, once in a while, someone might say, "no, no REALLY, after you..."? Too much to hope for a simple "please" and "thank you" once in a while?

On my way home, I swung 'round to a friend's house, and arrived as her two young sons were finishing their lunch. Georgie, aged five, asked, "Mummy, can I have a biscuit?" "Can you have a biscuit what?" Dutifully, he replied, "can I have a biscuit please?" The biscuit was handed over. Isaac, aged two, learning from his brother's mistake, simply held his hand out and said, "please". He's a smart kid. He knows that only one word matters.

So tell me this. At what age do you stop telling people that they need to be polite? Should I have turned around to the twenty-something cutlery banger in the caff, and said, "do we bang our cutlery? No we do not!" Should I have said to the pushy old lady, "please don't push. It's not polite." Would it be wrong to say to the shouty girl on the bus, "Shhhh. Everyone doesn't want to hear." Is this the answer? Should I simply treat them the way I would an unruly five year old?

Or is it ok to satisfy the itchy palm, and just smack anyone who's rude to me in public?


  1. Smack 'em. Another case for Nazi Darwisnism me thinks.
    Alternatively, if you do not want to get on the wrong side of the law, I do often stop people and remark on their rudeness. The look of astonishment on their faces is always worth it.

  2. Banging in time to the chomping? Who does that? That one deserves at least a smack.

  3. I have a colleague who is 23 and NEVER says please. She starts every request with, "I need..." I need you to go and see my client. I need you to show me how to do this.

    My boss and I have started saying, "What's the magic word, Jane?" You're never too old to learn manners, I think.

  4. Ooh I made the mistake of voicing my indignation at an unruly ten year old who banged into me because she was running in a shopping centre. All very well, until her mother confronted me - and I very nearly got floored. Sometimes thinking *smack* but not actually doing it, is better in rough areas in London...

  5. Sometimes people like this make me so angry that I would hit them! But instead, from now on I'll politely tell them that they should buy a book about manners and carefully read it.

  6. I think you showed remarkable restraint. Well done.

    Miss W


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