Missed manners, lost chances at civility - Bob Paslay

What type of guys pee on toilet seats at stores? I was in a nice upscale bookstore in Morrow and I walked in and someone had sprayed the toilet seat.

In all my years, and there are many of them, I have never even thought about doing something like that. I wish I could say this was the first time I had seen it but it is getting more common.

Our reporter Mike Davis did a comprehensive story last weekend on manners and the lack thereof.

In my continuing railing about why things are not as good as they used to be, I really believe there is a diminishing of manners and thoughtfulness.

I wish I knew why. My grandmother, a venerable Latin and English teacher, taught us how to use a knife and fork. She stopped us in mid-sentence when we said the person was "deaf and dumb," saying firmly, "he may be deaf but he is certainly not dumb. He is mute."

Like any adventuresome kids, we slipped in our grandparents' bedroom when we were over visiting. It's fun sneaking where you're not supposed to sneak. And on her writing table was a stash of very nice writing paper and envelopes and thank you notes. My grandmother never had the smallest kindness shown her that she didn't jot off a nice thank you note. She kept gifts wrapped in her cedar hope chest at the foot of the bed and when someone brought her a gift she wasn't expecting like for Christmas, she added their name to her wrapped present and gave it to them.

Now I notice, people make arrangements and don't show up. They break in front of you in line. They talk too loudly on their cell phones which they drag everywhere with that incessant bad music ring.

They take their groceries out of the cart in line and leave you to push it out of the way. They sometimes push the cart to their car and leave it sitting to roll against your car and scratch it.

There is too much cursing on television and too much arguing and shouting on news talk shows. The vice president uses a very not accepted curse word in the Senate and then brags about it.

Remember reading about the major debate over Rhett Butler using the ?d' word to Scarlett?

I wonder what has changed that manners and thoughtfulness are sliding by the wayside. Is it that we have a society that is too busy? I don't think that is the case. The kindness' I am talking about don't require much time.

Is it that we now live in a computer, chatline world in which someone comes into your life and leaves it in a matter of minutes? It's too easy to blame technology for changes in the way we do things. In fact, while my grandmother, who didn't drive, had to arrange to get stamps and work hard to send her notes someone can now hit the replay button and send an e-mail in 20 seconds.

But you do have to say that companies have gotten rid of real people and gotten in things like computerized phone systems. This is annoying, very annoying, but I am not sure it makes life any less courteous.

But it probably has brought up the tension and anger level by the time you finally get a real human being. You have been pushed and shoved around a "push this button" and "here are your options" world that you are steaming by the time you hack your way through this maze to a real person.

The problem is that when you do something enough it becomes the norm. The first time you hear a foul-mouthed kid using Dick Cheney language at a mall you wince. The 50th time you keep walking, your ears dulled by the routine cursing.

Giant journeys begin with the smallest steps. The only thing you can do to help is increase your own manners. Organizations have to monitor themselves.

I want to see a moderator on CNN say to the panel: "Now stop this talking over each other. We can't hear what you're saying if you don't let one person talk at a time."

Don't hold your breath for this to happen.

Others could self control themselves. A store could ask some yak-mouthed teen to leave if a string of Cheneys come out of his mouth.

Otherwise, you get what you deserve if you stand idly by and let it happen.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or bpaslay@news-daily.com .