By Christopher A. Pape
(I’m beginning to feel like Mr. Cellophane)
I’m twenty-eight years old but grew up with my significantly older father (he recently passed away at eighty-one) and my maternal grandmother (closing in on ninety and going strong). I feel connected to them in a way that I believe much of my generation is not. From music and art to reading preferences I have always had one foot firmly planted in the past. Even technology does not stir a passion within me, as it does for my peers (friends have even called me a Luddite).
One aspect of being rooted in the early twentieth century is the ability to appreciate and put into practice manners and social etiquette which is sorely missing today. For example, when is the last time anyone held a door for another? Or perhaps given up a seat for an elderly woman or a man of religion on the subway? Why have these instances of goodwill gone out of fashion like black and white television?
For all the faults of my grandmother’s and father’s generation (and there were many) they at least knew how to be polite and considerate to others. And I try to follow their example – holding doors, giving my elders the right of way and speaking politely to acquaintances and strangers alike.
Our society has become too self-centered, too self-absorbed to notice anyone but ourselves. Especially here in the city, we never take a moment’s pause, look at our surroundings and ask how can I act differently? With time constraints and the pressure of making money, it can be difficult, but I believe it’s certainly worth it.
Allow me to give you another example of what I mean of behavior that irks me. Has anyone gone shopping lately - I’m sure you have with the holiday season upon us - so let me ask you, what happened to the customer is always right? Why is it that store associates or clerks give us attitude, when just thirty years ago that would have been thought of as unthinkable? And why is it that the luxury (or up-market as the parlance is now) sector is the last bastion of good manners? We’ve become a society where money is king and only that can buy you momentary relief from the sickening and distressing behavior of the masses.
I’m reminded of the song from the musical Chicago, Mr. Cellophane. For those of you not fortunate to have seen the play or movie, the male singer believes himself to be invisible to the outside world – no one caring about his needs or desires. In this topsy-turvy world where the individual is praised at all costs, mostly at the detriment of the collective, I can certainly understand how he feels.
In the final analysis, wouldn’t it be swell if we were all polite to each other for this holiday season? Have we not learned our lesson through centuries of fighting and discrimination? Try it on for the holiday season. Like a new baseball glove it may take time to break in, but after awhile you may not even realize how politer (some might say more polite – both are correct) you’ve become!