October 26, 2002 at 8:39:14 PM CEST
Princess manners or Goat manners, one does have a choice. Many Europeans find Americans to be quite rude and without decent manners. How can that be? When one enters a shop in France, one always says hello first before saying "Gimme whatever" In fact, if you are speaking the language you would say "I would like ----, please?" Things seem different here. You walk into a 7-11 and grunt at the checker. You slap your item down on the counter and fork over the cash, and often don't have to say anything. I am guilty of this. I get into non-verbal modes.
I've tried to be more concious lately. I walk into the Murphy gas station to get some cigarettes. The girl behind the counter ignores me. She happens to be a different ethnicity than I am. She waits on 3 people of her own ethnicity and then looks at me with a hard eye and says "What do you want?" It's not playful banter, it borders on surly. I say, "hello, how are you today?" She looks at me, one eyebrow lifts in a querilous manner. "I'm okay," she says, "What can I get for you?" I tell her my selection, she serves me adequately, and I look her in the eye, and say "thank you very much" with a smile. I also say, "That's a cute shirt you have on." She looks very surprised, but pleased.
I go in a couple of days later. This gal is still cool, but she doesn't wait on other folks before me. She looks suspicious though. I tell her hello and inquire how she is. Today she is "fine." That could be better than okay. She pulls down my smokes and I pay and when I thank her again, she looks at me and watches me all the way to the door.
I don't know her name, but she's there 3 out of four times that I go by. I went in yesterday and when I walked in she SMILED and said "hello ma'am" before I got to the counter. I say "hello" and ask her how she's doing. Now she tells me if she's having a good day or a bad day or if she's tired or if she's about to get off and she's going to a party. She knows what I smoke now, but she's always careful to ask if I want the soft pack or the box. If she's working alone and it's busy, I'm always sure to comment that she must be working hard and they are being mean to her to leave her all alone. She seems to appreciate that. Yesterday I asked for a lighter and she picked out a powder blue one for me from behind the counter. "Nice color" I say. She grins and says "thank you." Yesterday when I left she said, "come back real soon ma'am." I need to ask her what her name is. It humanizes the situation even more.
I was out at one of those big family dinners for some occasion with all the in-laws...We often have 20 folks present. We're at El Fenix this time which I love because they are always so prompt with the fresh chips and hot sauce. I can't tell you how many times I've been full by the time my meal got there. The waiter placed a fresh basket of chips in front of me and I thanked him. My sister-in-law said "You don't have to thank him, he's just the waiter." I looked at her with incredulity and said, "My mother taught me to be polite and I intend to teach my children to be polite." Her mother witnessed this exchange and looked positively embarrassed. I never fail to tell the wait person or busperson thank you for a service rendered. I don't care if it is their job, good manners and politeness are never wrong. I had a five year old tell me once, "Good manners are never out of style." No kidding!!!!!!! I guess some folks think if they are the customer then they don't have to show common courtesy. That's probably why Colorado ski resorts hate Texans so much. I know Texans who go up there and are demanding and callous and feel that if they are spending all this money that the folks working their should kiss their ass. I've seen bumperstickers in Colorado that say "If god had meant for Texans to ski, he'd have given them mountains and snow," and "Texans GO Home."
I segue into the hallowed halls of Hillcrest. Things are loud this year. It likely has to do with too many bodies in too small a space. It's apparent that many of the kids really belong somewhere else. It's a problem to find that there are many kids lying about their address to go there. If I was going to lie about my address in order to go to a better school, I sure wouldn't act like a jackass while I was there to draw negative attention to myself. I've had more kids be downright nasty rude to me this year than ever before. I'm not paid enough to take abuse, and when I was coming up, we didn't say "boo" to teachers. I'm walking down the hall and the girl walking next to me is YELLING at her friend who is next to her. I ask her to please not yell. In a surly way she says "I wasn't yelling." I tell her that she was, and that it was my ear she was yelling in. She mouths off some more. I'm walking down the hallway and a girl walking toward me is talking back over her shoulder runs right into me. I tell her that she needs to watch where she is going and she says to me "YOU didn't say excuse me." I say "Excuse me, but YOU ran into me." She mouths off some more still walking down the hallway not looking as she hollers back at me. I can't say how many times I've had to dodge to keep some kid from just mowing me down. I think I'm gonna just stop and give them the option of walking around me or knocking me down. If they knock me down, I'll write them up for assault (that's if they are actually looking in the direction that they are walking and I know they see me.)
I do not see this behaviour as a "cultural thing" unless there is an American culture that demands rudeness from its members. I'm not aware of one outside of the ghetto. I don't go to the ghetto and I don't appreciate it coming to me. I saw a girl whack a guy on the back yesterday and told her to keep her hands to herself. There was a survey done at school and the biggest complaint was people hitting each other in the hallway. Five minutes later I saw the same girl do it again, and I corrected her again. She responded in a most disrespectful manner. Part of my job (as my superiors tell me) is to correct the students for unacceptable behavior. For the most part, the students know what is or is not acceptable, yet when corrected they act like I'm being some kind of bitch for even saying anything. It's frustrating.
My daughter was going somewhere last week and I told her to behave while she was gone. She said, "I know mom, use my princess manners," and laughed. I don't remember using that term for a while, but apparently she remembers all the times I invoked it. I hope that one will travel another generation.
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