What Happened to Common Courtesy?

I remember when strangers would make idle conversation to pass the time whilst in a queue. Nowadays, people stare intently at their phones or stare into space rather than even acknowledge one another.

Worse still, I have witnessed couples in restaurants out for a supposedly romantic dinner… but instead of staring at each other and conversing, they stare intently at their phones, only looking up when food arrives! These people are supposedly on a date but from looking at them you would think they were two strangers just dining together by chance.

There is an evident rarity of the words “thank you” or any other variation of this phrase. It takes a second or two to say, doesn’t cost anything, and shows acknowledgement; yet it seems a significant amount of people don’t know how to say it.

I remember when strangers would hold the door open for one another. Nowadays, you’re more likely to have a door slam in your face.

I always hold doors open for people and about 70% won’t even acknowledge me, the other 30% will either smile politely, thank me and on occasion a person will speed up and thank me for waiting for them.

Driving is another instance where many people seem to lack manners. I have had cars nearly hit me because they have pulled out last minute (without signaling) and I’ve had to slam on the break and flash them to give them way and they don’t even thank you. It’s really not difficult to hit your hazards for a second or to raise your hand. I even had a car pull out onto a road in front of me where I had to emergency stop because she must have only checked one side of the road, she looked right at me as the car was turning and I must have stopped inches from her car. No wave to acknowledge me just a look as if it was my fault, yet I was going below the speed limit and it was her that was joining the main road.

Having worked in a customer service role, it’s a habit of mine to cheerily wish people “hope you have a good day!”. I find I do this when being served too and about 50% of the time they cheerily wish you a good day too. The other 50% of the time you get zero reaction.

In general, customer service roles require good customer service skills. Whether this be in helping customers or simply smiling and being polite. I find places where I have encountered a cheerful or at least polite person makes me more inclined to visit again; whereas places where they’ve been nonchalant or rude I tend to actively avoid. I imagine other people feel the same and therefore, people’s lack of manners may be causing businesses to lose valuable customers.

I can recall three other situations that will always remain in my mind.

Firstly, a few years ago, I was at a nightclub and at closing time everyone got herded outside. I witnessed a lady fall down several stairs, probably due to being intoxicated and wearing high heels with masses of people pushing to get out, the contents of her handbag spilt out onto the floor. Roughly 20 people just pushed past her, standing on her belongings as she tried to pick them up. As soon as I could reach her I stopped and helped her gather her belongings, which included her purse and passport, before helping her to her feet. I then walked with her down the remaining stairs till we got outside and parted ways. My friends had waited for me and informed me that she had been with a group of girls and they had assumed they would help her, but they had not. How inconsiderate can some people be that they don’t even stop to help their own friend?

Secondly, late last year someone I know told me they were going to take their mum into hospital that day because she had had a bad fall the night prior. Apparently, she had been out walking and slipped on some ice and couldn’t get back up. Fortunately, a man driving by had witnessed this and immediately stopped his car and went to help her. He had offered to take her to hospital but she declined so he took her to her house instead but asked her to call someone to let them know before he left her. If he hadn’t got her to call and tell someone her son fears she would not have told them due to embarrassment. Her son had asked her to stay indoors and call them if she needed anything due to the icy weather but he was working that day and she must not have wanted to bother anyone else. He felt like it was his fault for not checking she needed anything before work. It seemed like quite a bad fall and she was still in a lot of pain the next day which is why they were taking her to hospital despite her saying she was okay. He said he dreaded to think what would have happened if that man hadn’t helped her and made her call someone. So, a massive thank you to that man who went out of his way to help this lady.

Thirdly, most recently, I took my brother out of hospital to get a KFC and we decided to stop into the shop so he could pick out his own munchies. In the car park my brother lost his balance and I grabbed onto him but he was too heavy and we fell to the ground in slow motion. I struggled but could not help him back up. Fortunately, a man in a van had witnessed this, abandoned his vehicle and ran out to help. He managed to help my brother on to his feet with one swift movement. My brother and I thanked him. He then headed to the shops and I noticed he had left his car lights on – he was in such a hurry to help us he had left his lights on! Without his help my brother and I would have been stuck on the road for who knows how long. I would like to take his opportunity to say a massive thank you very much to that man in the van for running to help us, for being nice and checking we were okay. Unfortunately, as we made it to the car and I went to open the door for my brother, he fell again. I chucked the shopping in the car and struggled to help him up to no avail. I looked up and there was a car parked right behind us with a guy in the car just watching me struggle. I stared back hoping he’d help – he did not. Eventually, after about 10 minutes, I got my brother up, with us pushing against the ground and car. After helping him into the car I got wet wipes out to clean ourselves up a bit. Whilst doing this I looked out the front window and noticed a car parked in the row in front with a couple sitting there just looking at me. I was in disbelief. I consider myself to be quite an easy-going person but realizing those people had witnessed my brother fall twice and then watched us struggle for 10 minutes seriously infuriated me. How could three people, within a few meters, just sit there and watch as two people seriously struggled? To those three people who stood idly by – I honestly hope you feel bad and take a minute to help someone in need next time.

If I see someone needs help; I will always try to help them. There’s no hesitation. I regularly help strangers navigate the public transport system, give directions or show them the way if it’s not too far or I pass that way anyway. I help people with lifting/moving things, even though I’m rather weak myself, if I see an older person struggling to lift something, I will do it instead, even if I end up hurting my arm. I just could not stand by and watch them struggle. If someone seems upset I will ask if I can help them, sometimes they are lost and just needed pointed in the right direction and sometimes they just want someone to talk to. Sometimes it’s just giving someone in need a small amount of money so they can have something to eat that day. Sometimes it is helping someone navigate a shop because someone else normally does the shopping and they were given a shopping list but don’t know where to start. It’s always offering your seat to someone who needs it more. No matter what, I will always try to help people because it only takes a few minutes and I would feel terrible if I just ignored them.

It really doesn’t take much to help others. Even simple things like saying hello/thank you, smiling at someone, making eye contact or holding the door for someone would only take a few seconds. I guess some people are just allergic to common courtesy.


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