Where Have all the Manners Gone?

Jul 13, 2015 by

Where Have all the Manners Gone?

“Be polite,” my mother always told me. “If you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t say anything at all. Please and Thank You go a long way. If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it. Be honest. Be kind. Mind your manners.”

Where have all the manners gone? It seems like they’re disappearing. Am I noticing this simply because I’m getting older? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Lately it seems as if manners don’t matter as much as they used to. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about ‘rules’ like a man holding a door open for a woman (I frequently open doors for my husband and others, and I’m sure you do, too). I’m talking about the lack of common courtesy.

Where have all the manners gone?

Recently, a professional I’d been working with left my publisher. I don’t know the details behind her departure, which was abrupt, totally unexpected, and left me in a horrible bind. Yet she never even bothered to contact me, or shoot me a quick email to tell me she was leaving. I found it all very frustrating. Even more frustrating was the manner in which she chose NOT to handle the situation. She simply broke all contact, even blocking me from her Twitter account.

Where have all the manners gone?Phone App for Respect

Here’s another example that happened to me a few weeks ago (maybe you’ve experienced something similar?). A friend and I were chatting when her smart phone buzzed. She halted the conversation (with me mid-sentence) to check her phone. She then start texting, even as she encouraged me to finish what I’d been saying. “Don’t worry,” she said (without even lifting her eyes to offer an apologetic gaze), “I’m great at multi-tasking.”

Maybe she is, but I’m not. And it appears I’m not the only one. Tony-winning actress Patti LuPone made headlines last week for her outrage at an audience member who was texting on a cell phone during LuPone’s live performance at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. LuPone put up with it for only so long. Finally she’d had enough. Still on stage, she reached down and grabbed the phone from the person’s hand.

“We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones,” LuPone said. “They cannot put them down. When a phone goes off or when a LED screen can be seen in the dark it ruins the experience for everyone else.” In 2009, LuPone actually stopped her Broadway Show (“GYPSY”) to chastise an audience member taking pictures. The audience had been warned before the show and again during intermission that photos were not allowed. “Who do you think you are?” LuPone challenged the rude theater patron. “Get him out,” she demanded, and refused to continue her performance until the person was removed. “We have forgotten our public manners,” she lamented from the stage. Only after the person was escorted from the theater did she finally finish the show.

Where have all the manners gone? Road rage is on the rise. Some drivers don’t even bother stopping for Stop signs anymore, but simply demand  other drivers yield to them. And when it comes to clothes, some people now seem to find it the norm to wear obscene t-shirts in public. I’m not a prude, but I don’t believe that a shirt with the word “F*ck” or other offensive words or quotes belongs on public display. What’s the point? To try and shock others? To make a statement? There’s a time and place for everything. When did people start being so crude?Ignore Rude People Kathleen Irene Paterka

I live in a small resort town which is bustling with people during the summer months. Yesterday, a local storekeeper commented on the rudeness she’s encountered this year. “It’s getting worse,” she said. “Lots of people think that their questions, their needs, should take precedence over whatever I’m doing – even when I’m waiting on another customer. People interrupt, they demand, they insist… and if I don’t respond fast enough, they walk out.”

Where have all the manners gone? When did we, as a society, begin to think that it’s okay to be rude? To shove our way to the front of the line, to insist that we deserve special attention? As Patti LuPone challenged the theater patron taking photos: “Who do you think you are?” Who do WE think we are? Each of us is a special person to the people we love… but we’re also part of the human experience, of the great society.  Do you think it’s possible for us to learn how to get along (even with those we don’t like)? Do you think it’s possible we can still find our way back to being respectful of others? To show some common courtesy? Or have things gone too far? Is it too late?

I hope not. I really hope not.

Rant over. Thank you for listening.

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  1. Catherine-Caldwell Phelps

    Very well said!

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Thank you, Catherine-Caldwell Phelps! ‘Lack of common courtesy’ is a subject I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now.

  2. Deb Lerew

    So very true. I too have dealt with some “professionals” who have acted less than professionally, let alone courteously, ignoring messages, not responding to questions or requests to know if they’re still on the same page. Honestly, I get irritated when friends and family don’t respect our relationship enough to be polite, but it really galls me when it’s a professional relationship.

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Deb, the ‘professional’ I referred to is not a ‘professional’ in my book. Anyone that acts like that is ill-mannered, and has no clue what ‘business manners’ (or personal manners) are all about. Good riddance!

  3. Very well said. I remember when I was in college, my friends would call me Mom because I’d be the one to tell them to watch their language, be polite, and for goodness, sake, you have a fork, use it and NOT your fingers while eating! Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I agree that there’s a time and a place for everything. Save the swearing for when you step on a Lego, forgo silverware when you’re eating ethnic food, and treat others the way you want them to treat you.

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Becky, thanks for sharing how you feel. I’m right there with you when it comes to ‘playing Mom’ (although now I really AM a Mom! LOL). Maybe it’s because I attended Catholic school, and the nuns were formidable. You did NOT mess with the nuns, believe me. And again, I’m no prude. I’ve been known to let loose with the best of them if I’ve burned or hurt myself. But never in public. Which leads me to another thought… every single piece of ‘whatever’ we post on social media (including vulgarity) is ‘out there’ identifying us forever. We’re branded. I wonder if ME people have also forgotten about that when they let loose with one of their tirades?

  4. Ugh, that “it’s ALL about me” and “the rules don’t apply to ME” mentality make me nuts. Hopefully the manners aren’t gone for good. (And, you go, Patti Lupone! Put those people in their places!)

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Jackie, YES! I totally agree re: Patti LuPone! She rocked the house when she refused to continue her performance until the ushers removed the rude patron… and the audience gave her a standing ovation. We need more people like Patti LuPone. We need more ‘WE’ people, rather than ‘ME’ people.

  5. Wonderful post, Kathleen, although I am sorry you had to write it at all. Did you hear about the person who tried to charge her phone using a FAKE outlet in a theater? It was a prop for the show, but even if it wasn’t – who goes to a show and charges their phone?? Bravo to Patti Lupone.

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Meredith, thank you! Your response actually made me laugh (over the person trying to charge her phone using a FAKE ‘prop’ outlet). Some people. SIGH. Yes, the situation with the ‘so-called’ professional leaving my publisher was very frustrating, but I’m looking at it in a positive light: at least our business relationship didn’t get too involved before she broke it off. Good riddance, and I’m glad to be done working with the person involved. My new heroine? Patti LuPone!