It all gets down to manners


I recently heard a fellow say that old age begins when the world no longer makes sense to you. By that standard, I entered my Golden Years when I was nine.

The remark came as part of a talk on technology, which I’ll admit rules our lives in ways we couldn’t begin to imagine 20, 10 or even five years ago. But just because I can’t figure out how to program my new phone doesn’t mean I’m old.

Oh, phones. They are a boon to mankind and a bane to our existence, aren’t they? They allow us to do a zillion things, including staying in touch with one another, while simultaneously eroding the bedrock of a civilized society.

It all gets down to manners.

I was raised to understand that a person’s telephone conversation is privileged, and that a polite person leaves the room when someone takes a call. Also, a polite person doesn’t take a call when he or she is engaged in conversation with an actual live human being-type person in the room.

As a kid, I actually found this very confusing: Leave the room when someone’s on the phone, but don’t answer the phone when someone’s in the room? Huh?

Today, telephonic portability has rendered the old rules useless, and what used to be seen as intolerably rude – people feeling free to make and take calls or texts regardless of where they are, who they’re with or what they’re doing – is normal. You don’t even get a chance to be polite.

As usual, I blame my generation, the Baby Boomers®. We might have been raised with manners but that doesn’t mean we’ve passed them along.

We are so weird. We’ll spend hundreds of dollars on eBay trying to recapture our kidhoods by buying the toys we lost. But when it comes to something from the olden days that could actually be useful – using some manners, not to mention some common sense, where phones are concerned – well, we sort of let that one slide.

I realize I sound a bit cranky, and I suppose that is another way to say old. But I’m not, really. I just believe that our lives could all be improved if we remembered our manners and thought about someone other than ourselves once in a while.

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