Wednesday, May 14, 2008

problem, not no problem

If I hear “no problem” one more time when I say “thank you” to someone, I will rip out that persons tongue and stomp on it. Whatever happened to “you’re welcome” as a response to my thank you? Where and when did “no problem” gain legitimacy as a proper response to “thank you?”

The thing is, it usually is some small problem whenever someone has performed a service that elicited my thanks. No, not a major deal, just a small mostly insignificant “problem” that required a bit of effort on the part of the thankee. The waitress refilling my coffee cup or the store clerk who had to help me find an item are two instances where my thanks should not get a “no problem” from that person because it was a bit of a problem to please me. So just say “you’re welcome” and avoid my ripping your tongue out.

This trifling little annoyance is simply a symptom of a greater problem that has taken over our relationships with people in public places-- the erosion of good manners. It has become increasingly rare for a gentleman to hold a door open for a lady. (For that matter, “gentleman” and “lady” have become nearly pejorative terms snickered on those old fashioned enough to use them.)
Holding a door open for someone is such a simple act of courtesy, yet one that seems to be ignored in the rush to get there first.

Good manners used to be something that was taught by parents to their children as part of the parental responsibility. Table manners were taught at the dinner table when the family gathered together for those daily meals. Now, getting the family together for a meal is a special occasion and the manners are mostly ignored or forgotten. Using the proper utensil, keeping your elbows off the table, saying please and thank you, and not talking with your mouth full were just a few of the simple lessons that made us civilized.

And while the adage that “children should be seen and not heard” is perhaps a bit stifling for most children, they need to learn that interrupting a grownup’s conversation is not an acceptable act. The child’s concern is not as important as the conversation he is interrupting. Unless the kid is on fire, he should hold his tongue until the adult is finished and can deal with whatever prompted the interruption. Too often nowadays we see and hear children when neither is acceptable or appropriate.

I suppose I could go on and on about the current deficiencies in civilized behavior, but I’m sure I would be labeled just an old fuddy-duddy who longs for the good old days. It really was easier in those good old days to behave with the appropriate manners since life was really simpler then. We didn’t have the onslaught of technology to deal with for one thing. With all the new technology supplanting the old face to face interaction of people, it has become increasingly difficult to know how to act or react in public. I fear that the latest generation will never be exposed to polite behavior with enough repetition for it to make a lasting impression. We may be doomed to a life of jangling cell phones and needlessly overheard conversations and senseless intrusions into the mannerly world we long for. But a rant about phone usage and manners is a rant for another time.

Thanks for listening. Please don’t say “no problem.”

1 comment:

Carrie said...

No problem!

No, I kid, I merely kid!

You'd like it in the old colonial culture of southern Africa. Men always hold doors open for women, and always walk behind them and serve them first. It takes some getting used to, but once you do, there is never any question as to how someone will act - you never wonder who will open the door for whom. Children are incredibly polite and what we would term precocious here - they have no qualms about talking reasonably with adults and they seem to be able to be kids without running around like obnoxious little banshees that have no appreciation for the fact that others share their space. The same holds true for pretty much all the kids I've seen in Europe. On the other hand, come to California and not only will people try to run you off the road in their huge ass cars, and run you off the sidewalk with their huge ass strollers, but the local children will invariably run around screaming at the tops of their lungs, headbutting you in the knees, while their parents look on lovingly at their hippy devil spawn. I think we will move to Europe.