Rude awakening – An Irishman’s Diary on minding your manners
Aren’t manners going out of fashion? Photograph: iStock
Manners are, for some people, more important than anything else. Is has taken a display of bad manners, for example, to knock Brexit and Prince Andrew’s ties with Jeffrey Epstein of the front pages of UK newspapers.
Those bad manners were displayed by former British prime minister David Cameron when he revealed, in his book, details of conversations he had with Queen Elizabeth and the bad manners of Boris Johnson in misleading her over the prorogation of parliament.
David Cameron’s calling a referendum, which has resulted in Britain being more divided than ever, political instability which looks like continuing for some time and billions being wiped off the value of British companies on the stock exchange, is nothing compared to his display of bad manners.
But then, aren’t manners going out of fashion?
For example, when I was leaving the Brown Thomas store on Grafton Street the other day, I noticed a lady approaching the door.
I did the gentlemanly thing and held it open for her.
Did I get a “thank you”? No. I got daggers, the kind of stare which made me think that, had she been armed, I was a dead man.
I know what the problem is. I’m out of touch. I like The Beatles. I still laugh at Tommy Cooper. I like shopping in shops. And I like CDs.
I am a bit like Oliver Goldsmith who said: I like everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.
I am sure the lady who gave me that hateful stare thought what I was doing was demeaning to women, misogynistic, sexist and insulting or something else so new that I haven’t even heard of it.
She might even have told friends later about the “rude condescending man who held a door open for me”.
But for me, it was as the rock singer Lemmy said: “I always hold a door open for women, it’s just good manners.” It was Lemmy from Motorhead who said that. Really.
I used to like the days when, if you let another motorist into a line of traffic, they would acknowledge you with a wave and maybe even a smile instead of, today, just staring ahead and ignoring your gesture.
I used to like it when you gave a child some sweets or an ice cream and they said thank you.
I used to like it when supermarket workers didn’t push you out of the way without a word so they could restock a shelf, something that has happened to me more than once. I remember when the phrase “after you” was considered to be polite. When “excuse me” was said if someone coughed or, if they wanted to get past you in a crowd. And I liked it when people said “sorry” if they bumped into you and when offering a seat on a bus or train to an elderly person or, and I’m almost afraid to say this, a woman, was considered to be good behaviour and simply part of normal etiquette.
And then there’s eating.
Go to a restaurant and watch people stuffing too much food into their mouths and then joining the conversation while little bits of food decorate the table. Holding a knife and fork correctly is a skill lost on a generation. You will also see the person first served tucking in before his or her companions are presented with their food. They may even click fingers looking for attention and have no idea how to leave their knife and fork when they’ve finished the main course.
At bus stops, a few queue – while others linger in the background before launching what is tantamount to an assault when the bus arrives, pushing those who queued out of the way. And no, they don’t say “excuse me”.
And at checkouts in supermarkets, there are many who refuse to start packing until they have paid the bill or who rummage for the exact change while people queue behind them.
Outside, there will be unaccompanied adults parked in parent and child spaces, men who clearly aren’t pregnant in spaces marked as reserved for pregnant women and of course those who park in the spaces reserved for disabled drivers because “I’ll only be a minute.”
It’s the fault of the older generation and always was when children behave in an unmannerly way.
Fred Astaire spotted it a long time ago and said: “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”
Mind you, I’m not sure Oscar Wilde was right when it comes to manners.
Because he said: “Bad manners make a journalist.”
There are exceptions.
So thank you for reading this.