Friday, July 15, 2011

The Death of Manners and Etiquette

Over the last week I have traveled by plane and been in several situations where I have had many teachable moments with my children.  We have had times to wait, times to be flexible, times to show kindness, and times to compromise.  I think the thing that confuses me is that it seems that no one else in America is teaching or learning these important lessons.  I don't mean to be pessimistic.  Actually I am hoping that others feel the same way and that we can all ban together to have a resurgence of manners and etiquette and good old decency in our family at a time.

While flying this past week, I had the pleasure of sitting in front of small children who kick the seat and are not taught that it is not good manners to do that.  While pondering why their parents weren't putting a stop to it, the father proceeded to use the top back of my airline seat to brace himself each and every one of the billion times he needed to stand and stretch and sit back down again.  When he finally got settled and comfortable he began his exercise routine of tapping his foot against the bottom bar of the seat.  Suppose he was nervous?  Stressed?  I am sure he was.  The father also allowed the child to take all the magazines and airline safety cards out of the seat back pockets over and over again as a game to occupy him, all the while I had the pleasure of having my seat pulled and knocked each and every time he opened and closed the pocket.  I won't even mention the seat back trays.  I figure you get the picture.  Finally the sweet little angel settled down with his electronic device (that had never been turned off during take off) and began to play his game.....without earplugs.  Loud rhythmic sounds in the background accompanied the shots from an animated gun that had high pitched shots and bombs.   Ahhh, just what I wanted to hear as I tried to read.  Getting off a plane is always an experience.  People begin standing in the aisles in an attempt to jump ahead of anyone they can to get out as soon as possible.  Can people not learn to be patient and wait until it is their turn to exit one row at a time off the aircraft?  Wedding etiquette (which has also gone to pot) used to have ushers exiting each row one row at a time so there is not so much congestion at the door of the church.  There ARE reasons for procedures and they are often times for order and efficiency.  Moving on to the baggage claim area we found ourselves lining up for the long wait for the luggage to enter the claim area.  I stood back about two or three feet from the moving belt in order to be able to see the luggage as it would come around the corner.  A woman saw what she thought was an "opening" and jumped in front of me as quickly as she could and brought a horde of people with her.  Everyone rushed to stand with their knees touching the belt so they could lean over and try to see the luggage.  The teacher in me had to restrain myself from clapping my hands, snapping my fingers and instructing everyone:

"Stand back away from the belt so everyone will have a good view of the luggage.  When you see your luggage step forward, claim it and move aside."

It was hard.  I said it several times under my breath.  To my disappointment it was a push and shove race to see who could grab their luggage first.

My children are far from perfect.  My children have had their share of moments where I felt like I had no control.  But it seems like more and more the control is falling into the hands of the children of America just like the Wii remote.  The moments parents used to feel helpless are happening on a daily basis instead of being rare occurrences.  Children today demand instant attention and results...and for some reason parents seem to feel as if it is their obligation to answer their every whim.

Manners and etiquette are good.  Let's brush off our Emily Post books or look it up online for goodness sake.

Man your battle stations!  This is war!

1 comment:

Jean Federico said...

There is some hope. We are just finishing a 3 week tour in California. Flew from Tampa to Los Angeles, rented a car and traveled wherever... There were several times Megan and I commented "We're sure not in the South" (as men failed to hold the door for us, or something similar) but most of the time the manners weren't bad. Even in the crowded tourist areas, most people were somewhat considerate. Except...on the planes..... Somehow I felt like manners got packed in checked luggage, because they didn't get carried on the plane!