Is this boomer a curmudgeon, or just tired of being nice?

Are manners going out the door? To hear BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs tell it, they might not have slipped all the way through, but the door is opening wider than it used to be.

Call me a baby boomer curmudgeon, but I’m just about to stop being nice.

Not everywhere. Not most places. But what happened yesterday has been happening more and more and I’m tired of it: going in or out of a restroom or in or out of a building, I always hold the door for anyone not far behind me. Yesterday, though, is becoming the norm. I walked into a public restroom with another guy about ten feet behind me, so instead of just letting the door shut in his face, I stood for a few seconds and held it so that he too could pass through. His response? Not a word of thanks, not even eye contact.

Apparently I was the hired doorman (as if you shouldn’t bother thanking the hired doorman). And this guy was the entitled.

It’s usually the same at convenience stores and coffee shops and other such businesses when I put money in the tip jar. Not a smile of thanks, not a word of acknowledgement. It has gotten to the point where I ensure that I don’t move my money-clutching hand to the jar until I’m sure they can see exactly what I’m doing. As if it makes a difference. Most of the time, it doesn’t. True, they aren’t obliged to thank me, but think about this: I’m not obliged to tip them.

If you’re a boomer, you’re old enough to remember when people tipped servers and bellhops and cab drivers and that’s about it. Maybe we should move back in that direction.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio stands in pouring rain at Cannes, France, to hold an umbrella for a fellow actor.

I’ll admit, whether it’s the door or the tip jar, I’ve gotten to the point where sometimes I’m testing people instead of just showing goodwill. But you know what? More and more, when they’re not courteous enough to communicate a simple thank you, they fail the test.

Mind you, there are exceptions and they are encouraging. At Oh-Dark-Thirty one morning not long ago, I walked into a gas station convenience store to buy a cup of coffee. As I passed the counter for the coffee bar, I took note of the guy behind it. He was about my age, with a bushy unkempt white beard and a sour-looking face. I’d be sour too if I were in my seventies and working the dawn shift at a gas station. I expected a curmudgeon, maybe even worse than me.

But when I got in line to pay for my coffee, I found out how wrong my assessment had been. True, the man didn’t have a face that naturally smiles— I don’t either— but he was sweetness and light with the two customers ahead of me and when it was my turn, I told him how impressed I was with how he treated people because, as he agreed, these days it’s the exception to the rule. His response was, “Thank you, I sure appreciate that, the coffee’s on me.”

Thank goodness for exceptions.

The simple gesture of holding a door.

But let me put the curmudgeon back at the keyboard now, and riff about young riders passing me on my bike. Well, not about them actually passing me, but about what they say— or more to the point, what they don’t say— when they do.

Where I live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, there aren’t many flat roads to ride. So more often than not, I’m climbing anything from a hill to a mountain pass. Which means, as a leading edge baby boomer whose strength and energy are at least slightly flagging, I get passed by far more riders than I pass. And when I look over at them, the vast majority are about half my age. Or younger.

Greg Dobbs

But that doesn’t mean they can’t say hello when they go by. Am I just old-fashioned? I say it, but they don’t. Hello, good morning, good afternoon, goodbye, how ya doin’, go away, get your tired bones off this road, it doesn’t matter what, but would it hurt to offer a simple greeting, something to acknowledge that we’re two human beings, bonded in the task of climbing a steep grade on a bike, both doing something pretty darned good (especially the older guy, and with white hair spreading out beyond the edges of my helmet, they can have no doubt, I’m the older guy)?

Maybe I’m asking too much. After all, I’m so old-fashioned that I’ll still walk down an urban sidewalk or a mountain path and smile and say hello to people coming the other way. Sometimes they even say something back. Too often though, they don’t.

It’s about courtesy. It’s about civility. It’s about simply being human. Whether the restroom door, the tip jar, the greeting on the sidewalk or on the hill, I don’t want to be a curmudgeon. I want to keep being nice, I really do. But sometimes, it’s hard, when people don’t reciprocate.

15 Comments

  1. Here near Ft. Bragg, it’s easy to distinguish the soldiers from the civilians, simply because of their politeness and I have to say that when I, a white woman, do hold the door for a person of color, the surprised look on their face says it all and they do say “thank you”. To which I warmly reply, “You’re very welcome.” Those who ignore my effort get the same louder response which always stops them dead in their tracks. They don’t always say thanx but they do get it.

    As to those snotty youngsters who think they are entitled, I am overly nice and it’s fun to see their reaction. In the grocery store the other day, I smiled at a cute toddler who responded with a growl as her Momma was absorbed in her shopping. I gave her that disappointed grandmother look and said, “Don’t you be a nasty little girl!” in the sweetest voice I could find. Her mother’s jaw dropped and I just walked away.

    When I do run into a respectful young person, I go out of my way to make sure other people hear me compliment them and tell them how much further that attitude will take them in life. That makes them just glow with pride.

    The tips. I simply do what was done to us in the business years ago… Leave 2 cents!

    1. Thank you,Greg. I will continue to do as you do though I too often get no response. We can only hope that the courtesy trend, like Bell bottoms and mini-skirts, will make a comeback someday.

  2. Hi Greg, when my husband holds the door for others and they don’t offer up a “thank you” he says loudly “you welcome” which garners him stares and sometimes an expletive. I too am baffled at where manners have gone and hope that much like all the reboots lately it too will make a comeback!

  3. Ipsa quidem pretium virtus sibi
    If Google is correct that is “virtue is indeed it’s own reward” or “my hovercraft is full of eels”.

  4. Expecting a pleasant response when doing something nice seems unwarranted.

    Doing something nice is it’s own reward. If we demand a positive response in exchange, it may cheapen the action.

    Just smile internally and know that someone must be having a really bad day, or week, or year or time on earth.

    It is nice to receive something pleasant back, but, being peeved when it doesn’t materialize misses the real reason for doing something nice in the first place.

  5. Whatever it is… cultural, political, behavioral… civility lost is civilization lost. Thank you for your keen insights, Greg.

  6. “Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.” Harold S. Kushner

  7. In my humble opinion, the lack of manners, respect and sense of responsibility has partly led to the problems of today’s world… kids should be taught these things starting in the home…

  8. Greg, You have written about something I have encountered all too often in recent years. Are people that much in a hurry? Are they so preoccupied with their own concerns? Were they never taught any common courtesies or manners? One sees this from politics to everyday interactions with our fellow man. I love the picture of Leonardo DiCaprio holding the umbrella for a fellow actor. Reminds me of a time when all gentlemen, in my home state of Texas, held a door open for a lady….not that I can’t do this myself but still such a nice gesture to do for anyone regardless of sex, age, etc. In recent years, I made a trip to see a friend in Bandera and made a stop at a small convenience store in another small town. I started to open the door but a REAL cowboy and gentleman was waiting and opened it like I was the Queen of England. Gallantry, common courtesy, respect, and manners can still be found even now. Thanks for writing an insightful commentary on the current lack of good manners in our country.

  9. I hate to sound like the odd man out here, but I’m just not experiencing anything like what you wrote about. I hold doors open for people & they hold doors open for me all the time. Clerks in stores seem just as pleasant as ever. People I encounter at work seem the same. Like you (who bike with much younger folks) I sail & surf with folks both younger & older than me. I’m not noticing any decrease in civility. There’s always been a few rude folk out there, that’s nothing new. Ratio seems about the same to me. The only place I have noticed a complete lack of civility is on the internet. Snide comments and argumentive goading at sights that should be filled with pleasantries: social sites, and all over Facebook. Of course, don’t get me started on Trump’s Twitter rants … but that’s a whole different thing.

    1. yes, I agree 100%
      I just finished four months of chat on three youtube channels for a project.
      As I am retired, I still love to do computer work. I sorted all the words and slanged words through two programs.

      I had to stop the project because I was falling into some bottomless rabbit hole and became depressed.

  10. I found this a very interesting.. I hold doors for people and get a thank and other times nothing. My parents raised me to be polite and respectful of others. Trust me, I have my moments when I have said to a teenager, do you think it’s okay to speak to you an adult like that! (Usually getting a little smile from the parent) Thinking oh no where is John Quiñones? I am a 39 year old female, I grew where it wasn’t an option to use please, thank you, you’re welcome, may I, or excuse me. We were taught manners, my children were taught manners. They even write thank you cards after they get birthday cards from their grandparents. I just wish people were nicer to each other. A simple hello or how are you can change someone’s day and it takes only a little effort. How much easier life could be if everyone took just a few seconds to do that? Hope everyone has a great day!

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