COLUMNS

DeWayne's World: What happened to manners?

DeWayne Bartels

Recently, while on vacation, I did a Web search with the question, “Are manners passé in 2009?”

I came across an interesting post at thinkingethics.typepad.com. A Jan. 13, 2009, post was right on target.

“The term ‘manners’ seems to be passé — but the concept of ‘social skills’ is hot,” the post said.

“Why wait to be coached? Manners are taught by parents, even if they seem out of favor. Nearly everyone is complaining about the lack of civility and rise of violence. It starts at home: children are naturally selfish and the center of the family universe. They need to be taught that not everything is about their needs, but that other people have feelings, too. Let’s bring back manners!”

Amen.

As a result of being on vacation, I was out in the real world more. It stinks, manners-wise, out here. And, I have to admit after being exposed to so many manner-less people, I’m no angel myself.

I watched people run stop signs, and treat stop lights like a mere suggestion.

I can’t count how many people I was behind on a two-lane residential street who did not hesitate to just stop and talk to people in the street or in a yard and wave me around. I got nasty stares, and much worse, when I went around and reminded them they are on a street, not a parking lot.

I fell in behind a guy driving toward downtown on Knoxville in a pickup. He was carrying on a conversation with another guy in a tow truck pulling a vehicle.

The guy in the pickup sped up to get around me and then slowed down in front of me to talk to him while they were driving and taking up both lanes.

It was one of those situations where I wanted to speed up and play demolition derby. But, of course, I drive a Geo Metro. I’d total my car and do about $11 damage to his truck.

But, the real kicker has been the grocery store.

It’s not bad enough you go to the store and wait in line for 30 minutes because there are 300 people there and one lane open.

Or, that you go to the self-checkout and wait your turn in the middle so you can go to either side and some teenage jerk goes up right behind someone ready to check out and stands there like they didn’t notice you were waiting in the middle.

No, that’s not the worst.

The most aggravating new trend I’ve been seeing is adults going in the out door.

I went to the store to get marshmallows for roasting over my fire pit.

Some friends and I were having a wienie and marshmallow roast at my house for the neighborhood.

I get my marshmallows and start out the door when an older woman with a baby in her cart almost runs me over coming in the out door.

She gave me a dirty look because I refused to yield for her. I stood my ground and she backed up and went around me, mumbling something.

She probably thought I was a jerk.

Let me clue you in, sweetheart, I sure can be when I’m in the right.

But, as I thought about it, I felt sorry for her and the other jerks I’ve been describing.

Perhaps in their pitiful little lives they have to find ways to rebel against the rules by parking in the middle of the street and going in the out door at the grocery store.

I should feel sorry for these folks. Obviously, they have not been able to get past that teen rebellion stage I left behind at about 16.

Anyway, a few hours later, I was sweating over a hot grill blackening hotdogs.

From behind me, I heard a voice.

“Bailey’s dad, can I have a Pepsi?”

It was one of my son’s teenage friends.

“Sure,” I said.

I turned to go back to the hotdogs.

I heard the front screen door open and then I heard, “Oh, thank you.”

That young man’s father, sitting a few feet from me on my front steps, turned to face his son.

“That’s better,” he said, “I was just about to come down on you, boy.”

I had to smile. 

Perhaps there is hope.