Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | February 19, 2003

Missing manners

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” – Etiquette Expert Emily Post.

Lately I’ve been noticing a disturbing lack of civility in our little South Valley corner of the world.

I’m not talking about using the correct fork or serving high tea correctly; rather, it’s the shocking lack of a basic awareness – or concern – that one’s actions affect others that’s dismaying me.

While at the Platinum Theaters in Gilroy last weekend to watch the eminently missable “Daredevil,” I was overwhelmed by the talking and walking that went on during the movie. Apparently, most people can’t tell the difference between their own living rooms and a movie theater full of strangers. You might think the pricey tickets and expensive snack food would clue them in, but you’d be wrong.

The unchaperoned gaggle of preteens sitting next to me had to get up at least four times during the movie. If they really have to visit the restroom that frequently in any 102-minute period, I suggest their parents have them tested for diabetes or urinary tract infections – something’s wrong. If those tests are negative, then an urgent infusion of manners is sorely needed.

The parents in the family of six – mom, dad, and kids whose ages I’ll estimate at 7, 3, 2 and 6 months – that watched the PG-13-rated “Daredevil” should have realized that not only was the film completely inappropriate for such young children, but that the real possibility that they’d be inflicting a crying infant on the rest of the paying audience was just plain rude. Why management allows patrons to bring infants to any film rated more than G is beyond me.

It’s a sad but inescapable fact that management enforcement is required, because many parents refuse to give their children an object lesson in consideration for other people. How powerful it would be if a parent told a child, “No, we can’t take baby to the movie because he’s likely to cry and bother the other customers.” Instead, most kids probably overhear something like, “The baby gets in free and a babysitter costs money, so I don’t care if he cries during the show, we’re taking him.”

That just doesn’t square with the Golden Rule they’re trying to pound into the little darlings, now does it?

Children with these kinds of parents will grow up, no doubt, to be the type of adults who think nothing of tossing soiled disposable diapers on the ground of a shopping center parking lot – something I’ve seen twice in recent months in South Valley.

They’ll grow up to assume traffic laws don’t apply to them if they’re in a hurry. They’ll feel free to roll through a stop sign or red light, to speed, tailgate and pass in no-passing zones, regardless of the safety of others, if they want to get somewhere fast. Sadly, I see this behavior daily, even in the school zone near our home.

Poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.” Don’t people care what their rude behavior says about them, and even more, what it teaches their children? If I allow myself to dwell on it, the missing manners make me frightened for our future.

Until there’s a civility revolution – which one would have thought the events of Sept. 11 might have sparked – I’ll have to remember the words of Author H. Jackson Brown, Jr.: “Good manners sometimes mean simply putting up with other people’s bad manners.”

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