Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Gentlemanly Arts: Basic Manners

When I was a kid, my grandmother had an expression she used a lot.  "There's no excuse for bad manners."  She'd usually say this as the back of your hand was still stinging from being slapped really hard for reaching across the table instead of asking for the green beans to be passed to you.

Of course back then, we were all taught manners and expected to use them.  We didn't always, and were sharply reminded when we failed to do so.  It wasn't that many years ago, because I'm not that old.

The problem today is that many kids are never taught manners to begin with.  So I thought I'd run through just a few of the basics that will help you navigate in a more gentlemanly manner through your everyday life. 

1.) Stairways are not as complicated as people make them.  If they are divided, you go up on your right, and you go down on the right.  If they are not divided, it's the same rule.  It keeps people from crashing into one another.  I work on a college campus, so I should probably add that it's a good idea to take your skates off before you go down the stairs or your likely to wind up where you're going a lot faster than you expected, and with a lot of really angry people tangle up with you at the bottom of the stairwell.

2.) Elevators.  If you are standing next to the panel, ask people getting on the elevator what floor, and push the button for them so they don't have to try and reach around you for the button.  Also, when the door opens, the people on the elevator get off first, then the people waiting for the elevator get on after they are out.  If you're staying on the elevator and standing next to the door, hold it for those getting off and getting on.  And going back to the college campus thing--if you had a bean burrito the size of your head for lunch, take the stairs please.

3.) Doorways.  They work much the same way as elevators.  Always remember, those coming in from outside go first--that's so if it's raining or snowing they can get in out of the weather.  Doorways are not a good place to have conversations, they are entrances and exits and you should never block people trying to come and go.  If somebody is exiting behind you, hold the door for them, or at the least hold it until they have it so it doesn't swing shut in their face.  Also hold the door going either way for a woman, an elderly person, or somebody in a wheelchair or similiarly disabled.  You'll know you're doing it right if somebody says "thank you."

4.) Don't talk in a movie theater.  Period.  And certainly not on the phone.  That's rude.  And if you're over 80, it's perfectly acceptable to slap the phone out of that person's hand and chuckle as it clatters down the aisle.  By the way, that old man was applauded by the other patrons in the theater who had listened to that twit for half and hour on his phone.

5.) It is never appropriate to park in a handicapped spot if you aren't handicapped.  Not for one minute while you run in real fast even if there are ten spots and they are all empty.  It's wrong.  And it's wrong to park in a handicapped space even with the proper plate or proper tag if that tag isn't for you.  There is no law that says you have to park in a handicapped spot if you have a handicapped sticker or tag.  Just because you're borrowing grandpa's car doesn't mean you are entitled to use his credentials to park in those spaces.  That's not only wrong, it's dishonest.

6.) When they play the National Anthem, you stand, you remove your hat, and you put your hand on your heart.  You don't sit there eating nachos and texting while you're waiting for the game to start.  That's disrespectful to your country, and to those who sacrificed on your behalf.  Stand up.

7.) Always say "please" when making a request.  Always say "thank you" when the request is granted.  My six year old knows this one--they are the "magic words" and things don't happen for her until she uses them.  A woman at the store the other day told her she was very polite, and it made her whole day. 

These are just a few.  But manners aren't really that difficult to figure out on your own.  It merely requires you to pay attention, and be mindful of other people.  It also helps to think about what you consider rude, and make sure you don't do it to other people. 

For instance, do you like it when people reach across your face when you're eating? That's why you ask for things to be passed to you.  Have you even broken your ankle, and had to cross a huge parking lot on your crutches because a couple yahoos parked in the handicapped spots?  Ever had a door swing shut in your face because some dolt didn't hold it open on a windy day?  Every time you run across one of these instances, add it to your list of things to be mindful of when you are in that same situation.

If you want to learn more about proper gentlemanly conduct, there's actually several places that are teaching men the things parents (especially fathers) used to teach young boys.  One of my favorite places that touch on the gentlemanly arts is The Art of Manliness.  It's one of my favorite websites, and they have great pieces on everything from proper manners, to how a suit should fit.  Lots of interesting and entertaining reading.  Check it out. 


Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014.

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