Please say please

“Thank you” (1)

Recently my kids were at a theme park set to go on one of the thrill rides. It was late in the afternoon, and the attendant came past to check the safety rail was locked in place. As she did so, my kids said a quick thank you. The woman nodded and continued on. But when she’d finished checking the row, she came back over to them and said,

“Do you know, I’ve been checking people for hours and you two are the first who’ve thanked me?!”

Upon hearing the story later in the day, my first reaction was, ‘Really?’ My second was, “Good on you two.” But on the whole, as I juggled through these thoughts, I was sad at the lack of manners we choose to use these days.

“Thank you” costs you so little yet gives so much back. It only took my children a nano-second to recognise that the person doing their job was human, and not much more to communicate it; yet it caused enough of a positive reaction to cause that person to come back and acknowledge it. Small cost – big impact.

Of course, manners extend beyond just saying thank you. There’s the partner ‘please,’ which reminds us that people don’t have to give us what we want. But there are others too. How about not taking the whole of the footpath when someone’s coming the other way? I’m truly sick of stepping almost onto the road to dodge schoolbags and their owners on the odd occasion I need to get out of the car at school drop off. Manners please, students.

But mothers too! I’ve met more than one grumpy adult walking when I’ve held my space rather than jumping out of the way for the undisciplined family coming at me complete with jumpy dog! (Yes, I don’t always give in such circumstances! Maybe it’s wrong. I do think about it. I just sometimes decide to serve as a visual reminder.) Road rage is a similar issue, and lately I’ve even had trolley issues! Good grief, do you really need to get down the supermarket aisle ahead of me?

How about replying to invitations with either a yes or no, so the host can get on with planning and not waste their money? And bringing a gift if you’re invited somewhere? One of my friends told me recently almost nobody takes presents to 18ths or 21sts any more. Why not? It’s not about you as the guest. You were invited to help celebrate the person having the party! (In case you never knew, the idea is the gift is approximately the same as the estimated cost to host you.) You contribute something to benefit the person who’s the focus of the event in return for the invitation. It’s basic good manners.

All of these behaviours serve as a reminder that despite our fantasies, the world rotates neither around you nor me. And when we remember that and express it through a please or gift or other mechanism, everything works a little more easily. People cooperate in return. They smile, and you smile, and we all feel happier. Small investments – excellent returns. Worth making.

Yes, manners are a reminder that other people in this world matter besides us. That’s probably why they’re not so popular with some people these days. But their use can surely make all of our days a lot easier. So please say please and thank you when the opportunities arise, regardless of whether you get the feedback my kids did on the ride that day.