A while back I had a key break while at my day job. Not a big deal. Go to management and have it replaced. I was told it would be ready the next day. Easily acceptable. The following day I walked into the front office, approached the member of management necessary with a very simple request: “Do you have the key ready yet?”
Her response utterly confused me. “And?” When I didn’t respond she went on. “And ‘please’.”
She was demanding a courtesy from me. And yet, in all the time we had worked together, that word had never passed her lips. At least, not in my hearing range. Was she trying to remind me subtly that she was management and I was figuratively beneath her, owing her courtesy? Or was it something not quite so personal, a cry for respect that a lot of people seem to feel as the years mount up behind them? Or had some disaster fractured her ego and it was demanding to be soothed. While all of these thoughts passed through my head that writer part of my mind was pondering the question of who was ruder, the person who failed to offer courtesy or the person demanding it.
I got the replacement key and went on my way. But it did get me to thinking. What’s happened to courtesy these days? I can’t recall the last time someone said “please” to me. “Thank you” is still out there, but it’s getting rarer all the time. I’d swear a clerk was totally surprised when, after getting my change, I said “have a nice day”.
The saying goes “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Now the eighties and nineties children are growing up. Kids who’ve heard repeatedly, “don’t spank the youngsters, you’ll crush their egos”. “Follow your dreams, they’re more real than reality.” “There are people who can defend you from your parents.” Minds that absorbed through countless cartoons, movies, and video games that it was possible for them to change the world.
Back when I was young, if you didn’t like some- one or place, you steered clear of it. It was that simple. When I entered the work force the lesson was clear – you put up with the people who’d been there longer because they knew their business and they were training you to do the job right. You’d get your turn, assuming you could keep up the pace. They had to retire sometime. And eventually I learned a very simple lesson – something only bothers me if I let it. Otherwise it’s all so much noise.
But times have changed. People wear their hearts on their sleeves where that purple dinosaur says they should be, exposed and waiting for someone to step on them. And when someone does they’ll do everything in their power to change their little corner of the world. Whether it’s a lawsuit, complaining to, or even complaining about management, the evil villain will be put down, preferably non-violently. (Everybody knows violence is politically incorrect. Manipulation is okay, violence bad. Unless you happen to be the government, and then it’s not really violence or a war, but a police action.)
The possibility of litigation has some companies so scared they’re afraid to tell their employees to get to work. And yet, with schools teaching to a minimum standard, young workers are expecting more guidelines than ever. Granted those naive individuals goal is do the bare minimum necessary to meet those rules.
And yes ladies, let’s not forget about the search for the sensitive man. Feel better that he’s available. Or more accurately children wearing adult bodies are everywhere waiting to be offended by a passing comment.
At home we can let our tongues wag, and our pants hang down. We can do whatever we like, save that it doesn’t do direct harm. But when we leave our homes there’s a subtler courtesy than “Please” and “Thank you”, one that’s a necessity if people are to get along. It’s what I’ve also thought of as “shared space courtesy”. It’s a good habit for the workplace, or walking down the street. It’s that desire not to do anything to terribly offensive, lest you put a damper on someone else’s day. And there’s the gray area in this particular topic. What’s “too offensive”?
Transgender is the buzzing topic right now. Let’s use that for an example. Why someone would want to dress up as, or become the opposite sex, has me totally baffled. But here’s the bottom line – nobody is asking me to do it. And I’m not about to tell someone else they shouldn’t do it because it causes no harm, except maybe a bit of confusion. It might make me a bit uncomfortable when I try to explain to my grandchildren, but I’ve been in uncomfortable situations before.
Are there some things that should offend everyone? Certainly, things like anything BDSM. Oh, wait. Men and women of a certain caliber happen to enjoy this. So who am I to tell them they shouldn’t practice these things? And that is really what it boils down to. Offensive generally means “you’re not doing things my way therefore you’re doing wrong”. As an even more generalized statement offensive often equates to confusion, or misunderstanding.
If that’s too complicated, let me explain it like this – if you expect the world to always do things your way, you’re in for a lot of disappointment.