Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Paging Miss Manners...

People of America,

I shouldn’t have to do this, what with it being Christmas season and Santa watching and all that jazz, but apparently, all y’all need a refresher course on courtesy, good manners and how not to act like spoiled 5 year olds.

And by the way, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, place of birth and/or sports team preference matter diddly squat in this exercise. Every group has its offenders.
1) Let’s start with courtesy to fellow patrons in line, shall we? I was just at Walgreens. Nobody near the cashier; only person in line. As I was completing the transaction, another customer came up and stood right over my shoulder. I was using a card to complete the purchase, so the attention was definitely not welcome. I asked, “Ma’am, may I have some personal space, please?” This was a woman in her late twenties/early thirties (best guess). She gave me a snotty, “Sor-ree!” backed off a step, then came back in. I said, “Excuse me. Please wait your turn. I’m not done here.” She darted around the other side of me and still tried to push in. I got exasperated, “Please back off and wait your turn!” She said, “I was in line ahead of you.” “No, you weren’t unless you were invisible when I walked up. You lost your turn, back off.” (And yes, I did say this)

Crowding someone else conducting business is unacceptable behavior. In the age of identity theft; it makes you a suspect. And you never know when someone’s carrying  and not in the mood for your shit. This also applies to cutting the line.

It was bad form in kindergarten and it’s even worse when you’re an adult. Mike Barnicle, former columnist for the Boston Globe (I’m not sure what he’s doing these days) once wrote a story about a long line of people waiting to be served in Dunkin Donuts somewhere in the Boston area. A woman bustles into the store, heads to the counter and places her order, saying to everyone on line, “I’m sorry, but I’m double parked and I can’t wait.” She got her order (one of those little tray dealies), but as she was walking out and still saying “I’m sorry, but…”, one of the guys who had been waiting leaned over and pushed over the tray in her hands, spilling all the coffee. She deserved it.

2) You are to treat the employees of the store who are DOING THEIR JOB and HELPING YOU TO GET WHAT YOU WANT with courtesy and respect* (*until and unless they prove otherwise). A couple of months ago, I was at Nordstrom’s, my favorite department store (Macys lost the title when they absorbed and killed Filene’s, Jordan Marsh, Robinson’s May, Marshall Fields and Burdines). I was beginning my transaction when a woman somewhat older than I pushed in next to me at the counter and thrust a package at the clerk saying, “This keeps going off.” She had a cellphone up to her ear and in between talking to whoever, she told the clerk that it was something from the baby department and the security tag must still be attached, remove it. And she was in a hurry. She then walked a few steps away to continue her phone conversation, but came back to make sure the clerk didn’t tear the tissue paper; it was a gift. The woman looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, but…” And I said, “No you aren’t.”

Why did I say she wasn’t? 1) She stayed on the damned phone the whole time, 2) she didn’t ask me if I minded whether she went ahead, 3) this wasn’t the department that had left the tag on that caused the alarm to go off,  but they were the poor unfortunates she found first, 4) she kept walking away for her stupid, fucking phone conversation (and I heard it. It was a stupid, fucking non-urgent conversation) and 5) (the kicker) she had the chutzpah (gall, nerve for those unfamiliar with the Yiddish. Yiddish is a good language for frustration) to try to dictate how they proceeded with finding the tag WHILE STILL ON THE FUCKING PHONE CALL.

Look, I worked customer service for a financial services company for 12 years, okay. If you don’t think people lose their shit when money’s involved, think again. I had people demand to speak to fund managers because their multi-thousand dollar dividend was short $4.95 by their calculation (really). On the flip side of the coin, there were the people who would call up with, “Um, hi. I wired $100,000 to my bank account 3 days ago and it’s not there. Can you check that for me, please?” Who do you think I busted my ass for, used my influence and well-placed contacts to help out? Curiously, the dividing line of behavior was nouveau riche v. old money (and I’m not naming names because you’d recognize them). The “missing” $4.95 guy had just discovered grocery bags of  stock certificates in recently deceased Uncle Morty’s condo in Century Village and opened an account with a “Dig me, I’m rich” attitude (I know. I had to help the shithead open the account. Karma is a beautiful thing: his wife cleaned it out completely during the divorce 6 months later).

The old money was the guy with the missing $100,000. He was always courteous, friendly and respectful (and sent a nice letter to my boss and a 5 lb. box of chocolates for ME at Christmas. I was forced to share. With people who would poke holes in them and put them back in the box if they didn’t like what they saw. That’s a different set of BAD manners).

3) “Gimme” and “I’ll take” are not acceptable substitutes for “May I have…” or “May I please have...”.  This is basic courtesy 101; unless your mama is a spoiled, self-entitled bitch with head jammed in ass herself (and I know a few of those), she should have taught you “please”, ”thank you” and “May I.”  By the way, “can I” is asking about the ability to do something, “may I” is seeking permission. So “Can I get a caramel macchiato” means “I question my ability to procure a caramel macchiato. Do you know if I have the ability?” “May I get a caramel macchiato?” means “I’d like to have a caramel macchiato. Please help me.”

I think 3 is all you can handle now. Behave yourselves or this WILL continue.

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