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« Dogslide | Main | Local blogging »

Jan 15, 2006

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Tony Plutonium

Ed, I don't disagree with you (you didn't even get around to the epidemic of rude driving) but attempts to do something about it seem to focus on the things that are a particular person or group's pet peeve. Which will make Tony Blair's Orwellian anti-yob campaign interesting to watch, as there is encouragement for people to turn in their neighbors for all manner of offenses.

For Queen and Country

Tony Blair's Orwellian anti-yob campaign interesting to watch, as there is encouragement for people to turn in their neighbors for all manner of offenses.* non Orwellian animal farm supporter

Tony has taken to it a whole new level now! He has purpose that members of the House of Commons phones be bug by M-15 in the war against terrorism. One can assume that Tony is the Queen and nost likely got the idea from Bush. Monkey see! Monkey do!

Jon Lowder

Ed,

I was stuck in GSO for six hours last week when my flight was delayed/cancelled and so I was able to watch all manner of bad manners. The best was a soldier who was using his Nextel direct-connect with his volume set at what had to be maximum and was shouting into it for what seemed like hours. It's bad enough hearing one side of these conversations but when you can hear both of them dropping f-bombs and discussing their latest sexual conquests it goes to a whole other level.

On the other hand about 10 years ago I was at a mall and I held the door open for a woman who proceeded to give me a tongue lashing because I assumed she was not able to do it herself. That was a fine thank you.

Anyway, I'm f-ing with you on this whole old fogey thing.

Joe Killian

My griflriend and I have had a number of conversations about when, where and how it's all right to curse in public. Her position, as a southern girl born and raised in NC, is NEVER.

I wouldn't go that far. Generally I feel like any word that's in the Bible can be said in a reasonable tone in public

For me Target has sort of become a laboratory in which I can watch the results of and experiment with social niceties. It's a place where I have both been given the hairy eye for saying the word "Hell" in front of what looked to be middle school kids and seen a woman smack her small child full across the face with her open palm, stopping all conversation in the aisles, and then treat the rest of us as though we were rude for staring.

Which is, you know, one of the lesser reasons I no longer shop at Wal-Mart. It's like a carnival of poorly behaved kids and the parents who made that inevitable.

But worlds are colliding just about everywhere you go...

Randall

Great column Ed -- right on the money. Regarding manners, it's really a matter of respect for others and our society does not put an emphasis on that as much as in years past. Manners are a sign of a civilized society and it seems like sometimes our culture has taken a step back or two in that department.

I really think a lot of it has to do with the way parents have been raising their children in the past 20 or 30 years. There is that whole parenting philosophy that children should be able to do whatever they want and to correct them will harm their self-esteem. They should be allowed to scream at the top of their lungs in public since that is "natural" and to stop them would stunt their development. We can't be surprised when kids with no rules grow up and don't have any manners as adults.

People I know in the teaching profession also say that the parents are to blame. One teacher commented that long ago when a child got in trouble the parent would side with the teacher and tell them that the problem would be corrected at home. Now, when a child gets in trouble, the teacher gets the blame because it couldn't possibly be the child's fault (or the fault of the parent).

Growing up, our parents were quick to let us know when we acted up in public or at home that there was going to be repercussions as a result of our actions. Kids these days seem to run wild with no concept of normal behavior. If the kids don't learn it from their parents, they are certainly not going to learn it from their surrogate parent --watching TV for 7 hours a day.

By the way, on being an "old fogey", at least old fogeys are generally polite even if they drive really slow in the fast lane. :)

Lisa Williams

As someone who was born and has lived within 20 miles of Boston her whole life, I think that the general presumption that people from New England are rude comes from a misconception of our culture.

I live in a town that is four square miles -- and has 33,000 people in it. That's 8,250 people per square mile. Our public culture is in large part a response to density. I was taught -- drilled -- that addressing strangers all the time was invasive and self-aggrandizing (look at me!).

Things that Bostonians do to be polite that people from other regions don't recognize as etiquette:
-- If someone's not addressing you, avert your gaze and let them read their book. If you sit down next to them on a train or bus, don't disturb them unless they speak to you first.
-- Don't be a human traffic cone. Never sit or stand near or (god forbid IN) a doorway, hallway, or any other area of pedestrian traffic.
--Exit an elevator rapidly.
--If you're using the crosswalk and a car has stopped for you, show your concern for their time by speeding up to a trot if you're able.
-- Don't idly chitchat with clerks, people are in line behind you, and the clerk is evaluated on their efficiency.
--If you are talking on your phone in the checkout line and delay others with your inattention, we will display our displeasure by -- staring.

We may be respecting your privacy and space by not looking at you or striking up a conversation, but we are not tuned-out iPod wearers: we are most definitely paying attention.

You can imagine my surprise at going to other parts of the country and being addressed by ten strangers walking down two blocks of Main Street. Of course, I adapt to it and enjoy it while I'm there, because it is an expression of politeness towards me. It's rarely the case, however, that visitors adapt to (or even pick up on) the fundamentals of dense-place etiquette.

The rap against Bostonians is that we are hurried and unfriendly, but the purpose of our behavior is to make an extroardinarily dense place livable and functional. Think Japan.

Cara Michele

I don't want to live in a community where you can't chat with folks around you, whether it's a clerk or a person in line near you or someone seated next to you. Folks can and do let you know when they'd prefer not to converse, and that's perfectly fine. Many times I've been told "Thank you" or "I needed that today" after choosing to speak to a stranger. A smile, a few words can impact another's life. We never know what the other is going through that day, but kindness shown can be a blessing which lightens a burden.

Those who don't want to be approached usually make it quite clear with body language, and if not, can politely forestall pleasantries, and manners dictate that we respect those boundaries, always. However, community also requires that we interact with and care about one another, even strangers, as the situation allows and seems appropriate.

My family has lived in the Southern United States for more than 350 years. There's nothing "phony" about Southern politeness. It is a part of our heritage in which we can take pride, and which we hopefully will not lose.

Cara Michele

Sorry, Lisa, that wasn't meant as an attack on Boston etiquette, and certainly not meant to disparage you or your post, it's just an affirmation that I'm living in the right place! ;)

We have lots of communities all over the world, with lots of ways of living and doing and being, and there's a place for everyone.

Lisa Williams

Cara,

I didn't think it was! It's just something I notice a lot. BTW, there are plenty of places where freer interaction is allowed and encouraged. There's nothing quite as lively as a Boston coffeeshop, or, for that matter, an Irish bar in Boston.

Lisa

Lisa Williams

Oh, and I agree with you: it's not phony; Southern politeness is a genuine expression of personal and cultural sentiment, and it's delightful.

I have to admit, that living and growing up in the same place for all those years meant that until I was in my twenties I was a mass of parochial attitudes about other regions of the states. People from the South were the butt of jokes implying that they weren't too smart, people from the west coast were flakes, people from the midwest boring, don't even get us started on Texas or Appalachia.

I feel very grateful that I had a job that required a lot of travel to different regions of the States, which quickly filed off the crust of bad attitudes and made me realize that A) Americans are really nice in general and B) America is practically littered with smart people. It would have been a shame to be stuck with those attitudes my whole life.

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