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.
The man continued to talk, “OH YES, I HEAR THEY HAD TO USE TWISTIE-TIES TO HOLD UP HER BLADDER.”
“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.