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Good Manners

January 7, 2006

So I’m currently reading a book call ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ which is an interesting combination of fantasy, i.e. magicians, set during the Napoleonic wars and thus having all the traits of a Jane Austen novel. It is being adapted for the big screen by New Line Cinema.

It’s a book I would recommend reading as did a woman on the Northern Line yesterday. As most people who have travelled on the Tube/London Underground know, people rarely talk to each other. But this woman was sat not a short distance away and shouted ‘I’ve read this book, it’s good isn’t it’ across the carriage. Everyone looked up and to my surprise I found she was looking at me and smiling.

‘Yes it is good’ I replied, ‘but it’s a little slow to start with’.
‘It’s amazing how she has built up this whole bibliography which is fictional, I found myself looking for these fictional books’
‘I know, it’s great’ I smiled and went back to reading, slightly embarrassed.

She disembarked the train and as she left, she bid me Goodnight as did I.

I don’t think she was hitting on me, or I would have got the vibe and it was a very strange thing to do if she were.

But what struck me was the confidence with which she struck up the conversation. Such confidence in fact that the passenger next to me asked me if I knew her. I replied in the negative and it really got me thinking about why we don’t talk to each other anymore. Why we are scared to smile at people and we certainly don’t greet people on the street. If you have seen movies set in 18th/19th century England, it was commonplace to see people greeting each other in the street. What is wrong with the occasional Good Morning? In fact, have manners simply disappeared off the face of the planet? This Thursday just gone, 4 of us at work were walking into a shop and a woman was waiting inside as the others walked in while she waited inside, I paused before entering and gestured to her to come out, she smiled and then surprisingly she shouted back into the shop,

‘At least ONE of you is a gentleman!’

This embarrassed me no end, as I was not trying to show others up, but it may push me to think twice before holding doors open for people. It may have been considered polite on my part, but her response turned the whole situation into one which was more of embarrasment than of pleasure. Next time, I’ll just barge in wherever I like and tell everyone else to shove it. 😉


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  1. I think it shows more just how rude your colleagues are… manners are free and they should be ashamed of themselves for not showing it.

  2. 🙂

    Well I won”t be working with these guys that regularly, if not ever again. So no worries about my civilities going down the toilet.

  3. Wow! Interesting observations. You know it may depend a lot on places. If it’s in London, which is considered a big city, I wouldn’t be surprised by your claim that people don’t talk to each other, or the simple courtesy of greeting people is almost gone.
    I am from Denver, Colorado, generally considered a small town. When I go to NY, I find people SO RUDE that I literally hate being there for too long. Here in Colorado, you get out in the street in the morning, old folks will start a full conversation with you. People smile at each other and say ‘hello" out loudly when they make eye contacts, or they will start a conversation on a book, much like what you have encountered. Guys always hold the door for women, and in trains and other transportation, it’s sometimes humbling when I see men that are older than me leave their seats for me (when it’s too crowded); this actually puts me in an awkward situation given that I should be the one leaving the seat for them, for they are older!

    But, if you go to a big city like NYC, God, it’s a battle everyday! I remember one time, I bumped into some person (because the sidewalk was so crowded) and I got cussed at with the nastiest words in the world! It’s a strange world

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