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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A little common courtesy won’t kill you

    Alyson Hill columnist
    Alyson Hill

    This column was a bit difficult for me to write, because, as we all know, it’s rather bad manners to go about correcting the manners of others. But I’m afraid I’ve lately noticed some people so in need of guidance that I must, for a moment, serve as the university’s personal Miss Manners. Say of it what you will; I shall respond only with a hand-written note of apology on personalized stationery.

    Common courtesy, that basic respect paid to any stranger, is easily the most crucially important aspect of manners to master. It is entirely forgivable to mistakenly use one’s oyster fork on a pickle, or even, heaven forbid, to set one’s luncheon table with “”corsage bouquets”” (a transgression Emily Post can describe only as being “”in very bad taste.””) But to neglect to put forth even the slightest effort to behave kindly ð- yes, for no particular reason – is abominable. Unfortunately, self-centered impoliteness seems to be every bit as common as it is appalling.

    I have heard some people express the opinion that respect should not be given freely, but rather earned. As one might expect, those people are not terribly pleasant to be around, and I would wager (if it weren’t impolite for a lady to gamble, of course) that few others seek to “”earn”” that sacred respect.

    On the contrary, common courtesy would not be so named were it not meant to be granted to everyone. We are all members of communities, none of which could function if their members all went about being rude to one another for no apparent reason. Can you imagine, gentle reader, in what sort of mood that might leave you and your fellows? A dismal thought indeed!

    Many members of the university community and beyond seem to believe that they should be permitted to act impulsively while the rest of us accommodate their behavior. Here is an example from my own experience: This past weekend, I was about to begin some homework at a cafǸ I frequent. There is a quiet room available for study, but I generally prefer to sit in the “”regular”” area because I find it more pleasant, and the dull chatter of fellow patrons does not bother me.

    This night, however, there was a large group crowded around one table talking noisily while a pair of young men at another table sporadically made loud noises, apparently for the express purpose of distracting others. The latter group was deliberately obnoxious, but one at least expects a large group to be noisy, so I attempted to take no obvious notice of them. I couldn’t help, though, overhearing one of them declare loudly that, “”If someone wants to study, they should go upstairs!””

    Whether that comment

    It is entirely forgivable to mistakenly use one’s oyster fork on a pickle, or even, heaven forbid, to set one’s luncheon table with ‘corsage bouquets.’ … But to neglect to put forth even the slightest effort to behave kindly – yes, for no particular reason – is abominable.””

    was directed at me or not, it perfectly exemplifies the problem I’ve mentioned. Rather than acknowledge the fact that even those not doing schoolwork probably didn’t want to listen to the inane prattling of a pack of young adults, this young lady expected me and my study partners to leave if we found her noise to be an impediment to our studying. But studying, almost always a near-silent undertaking, bothers no one; socializing, almost always a noisy undertaking, is bound to bother some if left unchecked.

    Ultimately, it is all a matter of respect. The people in my example had no respect for strangers, and so deliberately continued to behave in a manner they knew to be bothersome. These sorts of people will go to a restaurant and say “”Give me a… “” or “”I want a… “” with nary a “”please”” in sight. They’ll bark questions at people without so much as an “”Excuse me”” and accept their goods and services without even a “”Thanks,”” let alone a “”Have a nice day.””

    What is it that compels so many of us to be so impolite to other members of our community? One need not even go out of one’s way to perform these small gestures of kindness, to bestow upon one’s fellows the simple respect inherently merited by every fellow human being. What reason can there be for refusing to do so, other than an obstinate insistence upon being rude and self-centered? And what good does being rude do, even for oneself? I may have been facetious about those oyster forks, but it really is appalling to me that so many people seem to believe that good manners are worthless or antiquated, that politeness is weakness.

    Etiquette exists to make the lives of others just a little bit easier or more pleasant, with the good-natured assumption that others will do the same. It is a fundamental, necessary component of a functional and happy society.

    Well, that’s enough for this installment, gentle readers. Next week, let us tackle that dreadful, campus-wide plague of open-mouthed gum chewing.

    Alyson Hill is a senior majoring in classics, German
    studies and history. She can be reached at””>

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