Mind your P's and Q's
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Arizona Daily Wildcat
Every culture is a living, breathing, active being and therefore evolves. Over time, some cultural aspects gradually appear, while some are tossed away like a Terence Trent D'Arby record.
For instance, we've managed to pick up cyberspace and interstates, but the practice of calling lunch 'dinner' and dinner 'supper' has long since fallen by the wayside.
Among these lost practices is the art of being polite. Pleases and thank yous. Opening doors and holding elevators. I suppose it's to be expected in this instant-rice, express-lane, order-by-number world, but it is a darn shame that we've let this part of ourselves slip away.
The politeness that we've lost is more than just forgetting to write a thank-you card to your aunt for the sweater given to you on your birthday. We've lost the ability to be kind to strangers on the street. Now, I'm not professing that you necessarily need to help little old ladies cross the street every day to be a worthwhile person. The world was never really like Leave It To Beaver, and we shouldn't expect it to be. But we certainly have lost respect for each other.
It doesn't really take all that much effort to be nice to your fellow human. Except, of course, when driving - then it's every man, woman and child for themselves.
Nowhere is this lack of courtesy and respect more blatantly manifested than in that mecca of American culture, the fast food restaurant.
The entire fast food industry is based on the principles of speed, efficiency and greasy, low quality, deep-fried, Grade Triple-Z beef.
The company takes just enough time to cook the meat to the point where it won't kill small children, and the customer takes just enough time to bark out his order and pay for the gruel he's about to consume.
No time for a "please" or a "thank you."
Truly, would it take that much more time to say, "I'd like a number three with no pickles,
please?" Certainly not. But based on observation, most people do not use the magic word.
They dehumanize anyone wearing a stupid, brightly colored hat, and treat them like a french fry-serving robot of sorts. They somehow get the false idea that the employees are there to serve their every 99 cent whim like a slave. It's somehow so easy to forget that they are people too.
For the most part, people aren't very polite on the phone either. Perhaps I was raised by a
compulsive politeness freak, but I was taught to ask for someone on the phone by saying, "May I please speak to so-and-so?" I guess the rest of the world was taught to say, "Hey. Lemme talk to so-and-so, OK?"
Sure, there are worse things that you could say. And sure, the world will go on, even if nobody acts like Mister Rogers. The sun will still rise in the east, taxes will still be paid, and the music industry will still suck. Babies will still be born, and old people will still die. But wouldn't a little bit of kindness and respect make all the time in-between a more enjoyable?
Perhaps we should all make a New Year's resolution right now. Rather than picking the resolution you normally choose, and fail to keep every year - like start exercising or stop smoking - let's choose something more worthwhile. Let's all try for a more polite 1999, keeping in mind all those manners that Mom taught you when you were a wee lad or lass.
When you're racking your brain to think of what you're thankful for this Thursday, keep your fellow person in mind. Along with thanking God (provided that you believe in one), your family and your friends, don't forget to thank the stranger who held the door open for you or the lady who took your order of greasy french fries.
Ryan Chirnomas is a molecular and cellular biology senior and can be reached via e-mail at Ryan.Chirnomas@wildcat.arizona.edu. His column, In Hasselhoff We Trust, appears every Monday.