Saturday, February 21, 2015

Politeness takes a beating

We've talked previously about how politeness and chivalry are wasted on some people. Case in point, recently I went to a doctor's appointment. The admitting nurse took notes and asked me questions as nurses are wont to do. Now it's important to point out for reasons that become important later in the paragraph that this nurse was obviously significantly older than I am. She might not have been of an age with my mother's or father's generation but she wasn't that far from it either. As most people who know me offline would tell you I am normally nothing if not polite. When I was raised I was trained and expected to ALWAYS say sir and ma'am to my parents. Not doing so was a sign of grave disrespect. And if you were a child in their house you did not want to disrespect my parents. Outside the house I might occasionally throw in a sir or ma'am to an older person with whom I was interacting but unlike with my parents THAT honorific was optional. It depended on if I was in a good mood or the older person was being polite or if I knew their last name and could instead call them Mr. or Mrs. so-n-so or a million other reasons or no reason at all. Spending time down south with my maternal relatives made me even more polite because my grandfather usually said sir or ma'am to everyone, old or young. So being the polite man that I am I answered one of the nurse's questions with "no ma'am".
Well.
Judging by the nostril flaring firestorm that ensued that was a mistake.
"Why are you calling me ma'am?"
"Huh?!!!"
"I'm not THAT old."
"That's offensive!"
And blah blah blickety blah. Rinse wash repeat. Alrighty then.

Now I won't say what I was thinking that I SHOULD have called this woman after this little display but I did think that this was a humorous example of exactly why politesse and chivalry may be on the decline if they are. There are simply too many people who have made it crystal clear that they value and desire neither. If I call someone sir or ma'am it's not a negative value judgment on their age but merely a signal of respect. But if strangers don't appreciate that then that is fine. I just think it's a shame when people look for offense in everything or can't appreciate good manners. But whatever. It's the world in which we live.
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