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.
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.
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.
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.