Common Courtesy, Where Did You Go?

By Celeste DeCamps | General

Jan 04

I would like to say, in the nicest way possible, what the hell is wrong with everybody? No, not you, I mean everyone else. I’m walking down the street and the person walking towards me is looking down at his phone. Will he look up in time to avoid a collision with me or do I need to install a horn on my hip? Actually, this is not a bad idea considering this is an everyday occurrence. I’m at the laundromat taking my clothes out from the bottom dryer and almost get whacked in the head. This is because a woman decided to open the dryer door right above me. She’s completely oblivious of me standing there. I hold the door open for a line of of people coming into the store and not one person looks up at me to say thank you.

Maybe I have the power of invisibility and I don’t realize it. The sad truth is we don’t seem to value politeness anymore.

I know we can all relate to feeling that good manners are falling by the wayside. I’ve talked about this with many people and the consensus is always the same; what happened to common courtesy? Why won’t people RSVP? Why won’t people maintain a semblance of eye contact? Why won’t people call you instead of texting when you specifically ask for a phone call? (Yes, one of my pet peeves).

Can we blame technology? Hey, we all know those cat videos aren’t going to watch themselves. Can we blame our parents?  Why not, we blame them for everything else. Or do we face the horror of blaming ourselves?

I will admit that I have looked at an incoming text while walking and almost ran into someone. Luckily, she didn’t notice because she was also looking at her phone. (Damn those cat videos). It would be easy to make technology the reason we are so unaware but that really is not the case. I think we have gotten away from being present. We don’t always take the time to be in the here and now. We are too busy being distracted and not completely focused on what’s in front of us.

I was riding the subway and an elderly man got on. He was leaning on his cane and there were no empty seats. I immediately got up and offered him mine. He was surprised and smiled his thanks. I looked around and everyone was lost in a book or on their phone. No one noticed the man at all. I want to believe that if they did, more people would’ve given up their seat as well. I understand, the subway is boring to ride and everyone does their best not to make eye contact. It’s a courtesy though, to notice if someone needs help. 

Do we need to bring back Emily Post? For those of you who may not know about this wonderful author, she wrote several books including Etiquette in Society in Business in Politics and at Home. She became the voice of good manners in the roaring 20’s. 

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners,              no matter what fork you use.”- Emily Post

I think that quote sums it up nicely. We should all strive to have more empathy, sympathy and compassion for each other. I realize that I can only control my own actions. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they are not choosing to be courteous. I also have to remember not to take any of it personally. I don’t know what is happening in their life that is causing them to be distracted. For me it’s a reminder to stay mindful and be observant of what is happening in front of me. 

Plus it feels good to do something nice for someone. I am happy to give up my seat for anyone. Even though I may not get a thank you, I will still hold the door for others. I will try to wait till I’m not walking to watch my favorite cat videos on my phone. I still think wearing a horn on my hip is a great idea just in case I really am invisible. 

About the Author

Celeste DeCamps has a B.A. in Communications from the University of Miami. She worked in radio and television, was a professional belly dancer, drummer, percussionist, nightclub owner, and a sales rep for Southern Wine and Spirits for 12 years. Throughout her different career moves, speaking to and teaching women how to be more confident is Celeste's most fulfilling job.