First things first: what are manners?
|Hint: not this. This is pretentious bullshit. (Source.)|
Well, that's unhelpful. At least, to those who want a list or definition of which behaviors are acceptable. Take swearing, for example. I love to swear. I swear frequently. There's just something about a nice f-bomb that punctuates and clarifies a sentence. I mean really, compare these:
"I find that statement/course of action/line of thinking/suggestion reprehensible/nasty/unpleasant/disagreeable/uncomfortable."
It's succinct, it makes a clear statement, and should confusion arise there's a firm basis of intent. And it's multipurpose; depending on the tone and body language of the person swearing, and the context surrounding the statement, it can be humorous, angry, frustrated, depressed...it gets a lot done for two words.
But swearing is impolite to most.
Or hey, how about putting your elbows on the table while eating? Supporting your upper body can take a load off the back, or allow one to lean in for a display of intimacy, or present a barrier that displays hostility...but it's often considered rude by older generations. Such things as opening a door for the opposite sex, honorifics such as Sir or Ma'am — many things can be taken as good or bad depending on who you talk to.
Who do we turn to, then? Miss Manners? Emily Post? Both are considered authorities on "manners" but are actually authorities on etiquette, which is a system of behaviors designed to navigate a rigid society based on class, parentage, and upbringing. And frankly, I don't think a new caste system should be put in place simply to make use of an outdated system of behavior.
Well, damn. That's about as clear as mud then. But, having established that "good manners" is largely a meaningless statement in a modern context, I'd like to forward a proposal for a new and clear definition of good manners:
Don't be an ass.
I'm lucky enough to work in a store where the customers are fairly friendly and I don't have to deal with children very often. And, to date, those children I have dealt with have been largely intelligent and polite. My brother, on the other hand, works for McDonald's. My sister works at a mall store for bounce houses, where children can come and play in inflated structures that allow them to bounce like trampolines without the dangers. My husband works as an in-bound call tech support rep for a major cell phone company.
And you know what? People are fairly crappy about these sorts of places.
I don't care what kind of day you've had, or your child is the future president of MENSA, or you have a PhD, or whatever your excuse is. There's no good reason to be an ass to someone who is doing their job.
Take my hubby: you call tech support, but leave your phone in another state (this has happened) there's nothing he can do to fix your device. He's tech support, not a Hogwarts graduate. Tech support can fix a limited number of issues, but they do so by telling you what buttons to push. And, gods forbid, there's nothing he can do and you have to take it to a store for actual repairs? Why would you be pissed at him? He's not the one who let your five year old teethe on your $600 pocket supercomputer.
Or my brother. Yes, McDonald's occasionally gets orders wrong. Are you really going to yell at the hapless guy that takes the money and hands you food? Nine times out of ten, that guy had not a damn thing to do with your food, other than to hand it to you. And the guy that made your food certainly didn't sit down and figure out how many people he was going to screw over today before he went in to work.
|Heh, yep, every third customer is getting shorted five fries,|
and I'm going to use a special algorithm to figure out which
menu items to swap today just so I can watch the bastards turn
that one shade of red. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha. (Source.)
Corporate come through and the guy in the kitchen isn't hitting that "90 seconds from order to delivery" average ideal? He gets yelled at. So when those orders pop up on the board, he skims them, and makes what he sees. If the store is busy, or he's tired, he can totally miss the 1/8 inch high super-pixellated letters at the bottom of the order that tell him you want special considerations.
And then there's my sister. Her job is to take the money, make sure your kid has a decent time without breaking bones, keep the store clean, and keep the employees moving in some sort of orderly fashion. That's it. That's her whole job. Her job does not include catering to your every whim. Her job does not include giving you discounts because you want them. And her job certainly doesn't include letting your kids wreak havoc because you feel that little Susie or Billy should be able to express themselves freely up to and including yelling and throwing tantrums when they don't get their way.
And no amount of yelling, berating, or ass-hattery will change that.
Where am I going with this?
We all have jobs to do. Some of us, admittedly, suck at them and really shouldn't be doing them. There are customer service people that are basically wage zombies and will happily fire the first salvo of rude. There are professionals who believe they are the gods' git to the profession and treat people like ignorant scum. Doctors and lawyers who think they can be supercilious simply because you don't have the level of training they do, and therefore cannot think for yourself.
And there are also those of us who are basically decent people doing the best we can who really do want to ensure that you get the best customer experience for your buck. There are professionals who remember that "professional conduct" includes politeness. Doctors and lawyers — yes, lawyers — who understand that since you don't have the years of training they do, it might be nice if they bothered to explain what the hell they're saying with a minimum of condescension.
But either way, being a dick won't help you. In the case where someone is genuinely doing the best they can, any rudeness on your part is truly uncalled for. Again, being an ass for the sake of being an ass is ridiculous behavior for an adult. Be nice to the person who's trying to help you as best they can within the bounds of their job.
Wage zombie being an ass? Ask to speak to a manager and stay calm. Yelling won't do you any good, but calmly explaining the situation might. Professional being rude? Again, manager. Or find another, if there's no manager. A professional who's rude won't do you any good in the long run, and the time spent finding another won't kill you. Doctors, lawyers, those kinds of guys and gals? You can change both. And really should, if they're being rude.
But why not be an ass if they're an ass first?
Well, why should you?
What does being an ass get you? Will it improve the service? Do you believe you posses a magical faculty of speech that will cause the rude employee's head to spontaneously implode under the stress of your relentless rightness? Or mindbend them into obeying your will?
Gods know you're not going to instill shame. That person's mother obviously failed, so how are you going to make headway?
Bottom line here: there's no good reason to be mean to anyone at any time. But when you're grunting out steaming mounds of assholery onto a person who's doing their job in good faith to the best of their ability, you are a jackass. And, if I had my way, a slap fairy would appear and dispense sharp and stinging justice concurrent with your level of idiocy.