Rudeness thrives, and so dies this great nation
”Are Americans becoming ruder?” this newspaper asked on Thursday’s front page. And is it a serious problem?
Well, yeah, and yeah. And we weren’t that polite to begin with, y’know, revolting and all.
But at least back in 1776, our founding fathers probably had the decency to put on a new pot of coffee when they drained the old one. Not that I’m pointing fingers at any of my co-workers. I’m sure the coffee gnomes are to blame.
It absolutely boggles my mind that anyone can seriously wonder why there’s so much crime today, so many juvenile delinquents, all these school shootings, for crying out loud – and then not hold the door open for somebody else.
Or say please. Man, that is the worst. I don’t care how nicely you ask for something. It doesn’t matter if you use the subjunctive – i.e., “Would you?” as opposed to “Will you?” The word “please” takes all of an extra syllable’s worth of your time, but it makes a world of difference. And it’s fallen into disuse. Listen for it sometime, and you’ll see.
(I mean, the coffee comes in pre-measured packets, people. The filters are right there. You just have to add the water. Please.)
How about handshakes? The other day, I shook two hands – a woman’s and a man’s – and I was shocked and moved nearly to tears by how good both of them were at it. Which is a sad commentary on our society, because hands are built to fit together. That spot – groove, even – between your thumb and your index finger? When two hands meet, they should meet at that spot.
But all too often, you put your hand out and end up holding onto someone’s fingers, like they’re trying to do some dainty, 19th century lady-in-waiting thing. The last time I pulled that, I was about 10, meeting a business associate of my dad’s, and you can bet I got slapped upside the head later that day.
Thank God. Otherwise I’d be one of those people with a shirking handshake – and I’m not going to name names, but at least one of our county supervisors is among that group, as I learned firsthand – no pun intended – last weekend. I don’t think it’s uncalled for to question why I should trust him with my tax dollars if he can’t get a handshake right. It’s an indicator of integrity.
(I mean, would you like it if you went into the breakroom for a cup of coffee and there wasn’t any? You wouldn’t, but you don’t know how that feels, because I would never do that to you.)
So seriously, just hold those doors for other people. And teach your kids to, as well.
Are these small things? Is it absurd to correlate fewer manners with, say, more violent crime?
I think not. Believe me, I don’t mean that an increased attention to saying “Gesundheit” on the part of the American people is going to bring about world peace – but it’s a matter of how respectfully we treat each other on a daily basis.
Most of us don’t get the chance to, like, save lives publicly. So we have to settle for the little things if we want to demonstrate virtue. We can’t on the one hand tell our kids it’s their job to make the world a better place and on the other hand let them watch us cut in front of somebody else who was waiting at the four-way stop first.
We can, however, teach our kids to make a fresh pot after they drink the last of the coffee. And I firmly believe we should.
Josh Wimmer works on the copy desk at The Union. His column appears every other Friday. Call him at 477-4239, or e-mail him at
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