It’s a familiar scene: You take your seat in a theater. The room quiets as the flickering light from the projector pierces the darkness. And just as the film is set to begin, the inevitable happens: You hear the grating, stabbing resonance of a cell phone.
But it doesn’t end there. Rather than turn the phone off or leave the theater, the owner assaults your patience further by shamelessly carrying on the conversation while remaining seated.
MasterCard should tackle the rudeness epidemic in its next commercial: Movie ticket: $9.00. Popcorn and soft drink: $8. Going two hours without being offended by rudeness: Priceless…and highly unlikely.
There was a time when good manners were commonplace. Young adults answered with the customary “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir,” gentlemen tipped their hats and neighbors banded together to welcome new families.
We were gracious in conduct and courteous in demeanor, contributing a thread of gentility to our societal tapestry. Sadly, I had to watch old episodes of Leave It to Beaver to come across manners like that. Welcome to 2011.
We are different today—an era of fast cars, fast food, fast computers and dwindling tolerance. But civility seems doomed to extinction. It should have its own glass case alongside Archie Bunker’s chair in the Smithsonian. We have become a society where blatant disrespect is everyday: a surly bunch of unchaperoned schoolchildren with full reign of the classroom.
Take our behavior behind the wheel, for example. Remember the days when a car ride was a pleasant event? Neither do I. Our daily commute can be as treacherous as the Indy 500.
And God help us if traffic is at a standstill. The language floating around the deadlocked cars should be rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. It’s fouler than the fumes in the air.
We should think twice before tailgating the car in front of us or employing profanity whenever the mood hits. Let’s shut off our cell phones and pagers during Mass and make a concerted effort to be kind to those around us.
Simply put, it is a question of sides. Those who favor a well-mannered society will make an effort to stifle their rudeness. Those of a more apathetic temperament will allow these ills of our society to fester. They are the conspirators in the quickening demise of civility and respect.
But each generation holds new promise. If children learn by example, take advantage of it. Show them that rudeness and incivility have no place in our homes, our workplaces or our society. Teach them that respect for others will mean the death of rudeness.
It is a timeless lesson.