It happened on a train platform, the same old, boring train platform that carries millions of commuters every day. I was waiting for a merciful tube to finally get me home. As I stood there, tired and irritated, trying to read my book, a group of three old ladies gathered around me. The platform wasn’t crowded; it was not one of those rush-hours when no one can move, it was a pretty average, some would even say quiet night. But they were cramming me, their elbows almost brushing my thighs. I didn’t understand why they were standing so closely. I moved nonetheless, not uttering the slightest reproach.
When the train got there and we were ready to board, they rushed like furies, claws and handbags out, willing to fight whomever to get a seat. I was baffled: Why the need to push? To shove? To invade my private space? When there was plenty of space for everyone; after all, we weren’t running for our lives.
I sat opposite them and listened as they took the carriage hostage by transforming it into their own little tea party and blatantly blabbing on about their day. I shook my head discreetly and spent most of the ride trying to blot them out, my head buried between the pages of my book.
A few stations later, someone, walking down the carriage, bumped into my leg. He carried on without the slightest apology or even the decency of a look back while I, silly Brit, naturally apologized.
Finally home free, I stopped by my corner shop to get something to eat. Someone jumped the queue, someone else brushed past me and the cashier did not say hello nor goodbye to me. Where had manners gone? And how had I not noticed this before?
As days went by, I started to pay close attention to people’s behavior or their lack of. Those who walk right into you, almost pushing you out of the way, without an ounce of remorse. Others: standing, beer in hand, in front of your building, blocking you from entering your home, that move oh so slightly, not acknowledging your presence, making you feel as though you’re the one disturbing them and you, silly silly you, genuinely apologize for the inconvenience. Asking for a light, of all things, to someone you don’t know should be an act of humility done with a certain courtesy but you would be lucky to get even a nod of gratification! People demand rather than politely ask and an overwhelming amount are just plain rude with absolutely no sense of inappropriateness. Saying thank you or please doesn’t even think to cross their mind. It’s “give me this” and “give me that”; no decorum, no courtliness, no etiquette…just plain barbarism.
I don’t pride myself of much but I was raised right and told the importance of manners, saying please and thank you and “may I have” are burnt into the very fabric of me. There are rules, a code of conduct for a society to thrive and live peacefully and jumping queues, shoving, not saying please and thank you or sorry can only lead to savagery. And I, for one, will not stand for it! Have some fucking manners, people!