I work out of a home office, and usually let the home phone go to voice mail when it rings. But when it rang at 8am yesterday, I picked it up immediately, thinking it could be an emergency. After all, no one calls before 9am unless it’s really important, right? Wrong. It was a telemarketer. Setting aside the fact that this particular one was violating my do-not-call registration, it was just plain bad manners.
The second event was a funeral I attended for the father of a friend, who was 92. One of the key qualities that everyone who spoke made certain to mention was his unfailing courtesy and consideration for everyone he met.
Do manners count for much anymore?
Who cares if I carry on a loud, one-sided cell-phone conversation in a public space? I have a right to self-expression, and I want to be productive every single minute we can.
Who cares if I use a little profanity now and then in my presentation or my blog? If it makes me edgy and genuine and emphasizes my point, you should not be offended.
So what if I don’t send thank you notes? Didn’t I say thanks when I got the gift?
So what if I show up at work looking like I just rolled out of bed? I’m more productive when I’m dressed this way.
So what if I act impatient when you ask me if you can change your seat? Surely you realize that 17 other people have already asked than in the past five minutes.
You can always find a reason for bad manners, but there is no real excuse.
When I refer to good manners, I’m not referring to arcane rules governing the direction of your spoon while eating soup. The use of rules like these by snobs to filter out the unworthy is bad manners in itself. What I am referring to are the written and unwritten rules of personal interactions which show a respect for the other party.
Good manners are right because they’re right, but they’re also good business. When I switched to ATT U-verse, the installer put on plastic covers over his shoes every time he came in and out of the house. It was probably unnecessary from a practical point of view, but it certainly made a good impression on me.
Good manners are a guide to behavior even in uncertain situations. Ritz Carlton’s motto is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”, and that credo replaces a thick handbook of rules for all situations.
So next time a telemarketer intrudes on your privacy in the early morning hours, make sure you tell them, “Please do not call me again.”
 How old do you have to be to graduate from “jerk” to “curmudgeon”?