Manners: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Winner of the Red Room Blogging Contest (the week of September 1, 2009)

You remember everything you were taught as a child, don’t you?  No elbows on the table.  Sit up straight.  Don’t chew with your mouth open.  Say thank you when someone does something nice for you. Begin every sentence with “May I please …?” especially when you are hungry for more mashed potatoes at the dinner table.


Last week when I headed to the grocery store, another driver cut in front of me without signaling. “It’s okay,” I said to myself, “He’s probably on his way to meet his child for lunch in the school cafeteria and doesn’t want to be late.” When I arrived at the store, I could hear someone walking closely behind me.  In fact, I felt her breath on the back of my neck as I held the door open and smiled at her.  She said nothing.  “That’s okay,” I said to myself, “She’s probably just lost in thought.”


As I pushed my cart through the produce aisle, a man talked loudly on his cell phone as he blocked my access to the lettuce, “I’M NOT KIDDING YOU.  AUNT BERTHA DEFINITELY HAD SIXTY-FIVE GALLSTONES REMOVED.  I HEAR SHE’S SAVING THEM IN A PLASTIC BAG IN HER REFRIGERATOR IF THE DOCTOR WILL LET HER.”


“Excuse me,” I said quietly as I stood behind him.




“ExxxxxxCUSE ME!” I said louder this time. At this rate, the bananas in my cart would be so ripe they’d be ready for banana bread by the time I made it out of this aisle.


The man turned to look at me, obviously annoyed.  He sighed and stepped just enough to the side so I could grab a head of lettuce.  “It’s okay,” I thought to myself, “He’s obviously got a lot on his mind with Aunt Bertha in the hospital and all.”


As I reached the bread aisle, a little old lady stood in front of her cart that was conveniently parked smack-dab in the middle of the aisle.  I cleared my throat loudly.  Nothing.  I said, “Excuse me.”  I secretly wondered if she was still alive, but I forged ahead.  I felt like a semi-driver trying to maneuver his truck into a compact parking space.  As I pushed my cart forward, I carefully steered it directly into hers, causing a huge crashing sound.  The old lady turned to look at me, obviously annoyed.  “I’m sorry,” I said, “I really was trying to get around you without hitting you.”  The old lady shook her head in disgust and looked back down at her grocery list. “That’s okay,” I said to myself, “She’s probably had a hard life.”


I finally made it to the express checkout line with exactly 10 items.  The person in front of me had a few more items than were allowed. Let’s just say I stopped counting at 26.  After I finally reached the credit card machine to pay, I felt hot breath on the side of my face.  The person in line behind me stood so close I could see his razor stubble.  “It’s okay,” I thought to myself, “I know he has probably never been taught about respecting other people’s personal space.” Just then, he sneezed.


I haven’t lost hope yet for all the people who are still learning their manners.  These things take time.  It’s okay.  Really.  I swear.  Best selling writer H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said it best, “Good manners sometimes means simply putting up with other people’s bad manners.”


I really tried to remember that quote when I reached the store doors, arms full of bags, and no one held the door open for me.



About Vicky DeCoster

Award-winning humor writer Vicky DeCoster is the author of "From Diapers to Dorkville," "Husbands, Hot Flashes, and All That Hullabaloo!" and "The Wacky World of Womanhood." She has been published in over 60 magazines, books, and on several web sites. Vicky lives in Nebraska with her husband and two children where she loves to laugh every day. Visit her at
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