Tuesday 8 June 2010

The Hardest Word

Whenever requested to fill in one of those forms/questionnaires which quite often feature a question on likes and dislikes, my stock answer to the latter - and yes, I know it's far from original - is rudeness and bad manners. It's an acurate response, though, as the little Puddlecotes can attest to. There's nothing more likely to incur my red mist, and their lack of privileges, than an omitted 'please' or 'thank you', especially in public.

Imagine my surprise, then, to be upbraided myself yesterday for rudeness. Oh, the shame!

At the Tesco Express I use almost daily, three or four other customers, struggling under the weight of groaningly loaded baskets, were queueing for the manned tills, while I was the sole person waiting for self service as a woman fiddled with her card to pay for flowers and a pint of milk.

Once finished, she left the machine and I stepped forward to scan my first item (a rather tasty all day breakfast sarnie, which I recommend, as it happens). As I did that frustrating double-finger massage of the top of the carrier bag to create an opening for packing my lunch, a voice behind me, laden with condemnation and sarcasm in equal measure, boomed "There IS a queue, you know".

I turned to see who was accusing whom of elbowing their way past and saw that it was the flowers and milk woman ... addressing ... me!

As I said, I use this place regularly so was able to quickly, politely, and with a smile, point to the self service checkout sign which directed shoppers to queue, well, exactly where I had done, and explain that I hadn't actually jumped any queue. Having been corrected, and struggling to hide her realisation, she apologised, and I replied that it was no problem.

Or that's what should have happened anyway. Instead, her verbal reply was "Well ...", her facial expression didn't soften at all, and she walked away righteously shaking her head.

So, to sum up. Woman loudly and publicly objects to rudeness (nothing desperately wrong with that), but has no concern for manners when unable to show politeness herself with an apology. Which I found quite hypocritical.

This was no chav either. Well-dressed, well-spoken, sporting a lanyard and ID for Chelsea Stadium. A professional, there's no doubt.

It seems rudeness has transcended the old class barriers and is now embraced by just about everyone.

I've alluded before to such ill-judged confrontational attitudes, and driving instances are quite regular. Just in the past month I have encountered a gleaming 4x4 driver who, having accidentally pulled out from my left at a mini-roundabout , totally in the wrong and fully cognisant of it, preferred to lamely gesture that I should have driven around the small painted dot on the road (which would have made no difference whtsoever), instead of just raising a hand in recognition of their mistake. I hadn't directed any condemnation in that instance either.

Nor did I make any fuss when forced to make an emergency stop when a guy, stripped to the waist in a battered Princess, turned right in front of me at a different mini-roundabout ... from the left hand lane ... without indicating, two weeks ago. As I stared silently in astonishment (as did others) his response was to wind down the window and scream obscenities. The F-off response as described by Lynne Truss.

The word 'sorry' is fast becoming obsolete, as is the admission of fault. Personally, I can't fathom why polite contrition is so difficult.

UPDATE: Bucko has written a good article trying to explain this rude mindset HERE


JD said...

You still expect people to use their indicators? This habit died a long time ago here in Ireland. Drivers here also like to leave their headlights on full beam until almost passing you at night.

Bucko said...

I've noticed another change in attitude these past few years.

I have always tried to hold my hand up when I have made a mistake. That used to play out as you suggest, with the other party saying "No problem" and all is forgotten.

The past couple of times I remember having to appologise after a minor mistake, I was given a torrent of abuse after admitting fault.

It seems the person you have "transgressed" against (no matter how small) just expects you to give them some gobshite. When you politely admit responsibility instead, they see it as weakness and take the opportunity to give you some gobshite of their own because they now think you are no threat to them.

I think that is now how a lot of people judge each other. By their threat potential.

When ive worked in pubs ive seen someone spill a drink, appologise and offer to buy another, but instead be forced to punch the guy in the face in his own defence.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

It can work in your favour, though. Our 12-year old, a normal enough boy in our eyes, but fairly well schooled in pleases and thank-yous is invariably regarded as a model citizen when he's out and about.

'What wonderful manners' we have been told, while in truth they're just average but, apparently, rare!

SorenK said...

Have been living in Spain for last 4 years. Had to come back for work reasons (i.e. there is none in Spain). I have really noticed how rude England has become - especially noticeable after the graciousness of the Spaniards. We have become a rude, rude country.

Anonymous said...

Due to an excellent upbringing
and private education,I prided
myself in politeness,decorum and
being helpfull to strangers
However from July 1st 2007 society
deemed it acceptable to treat me
like a pig ,so now, when asked for
donations to The Salvation Army,
Christian Aid and an helping hand
to my fellow man,I politely tell
them(with explanation)
Buzz off..pigs dont have manners
nor purses.
When Cameron and co treat me like
a human being,normal business will

Isolated optimist

Dick Puddlecote said...

JD: With you on the indicators, especially at roundabouts where some seem to think that it's correct to sail past 3 or 4 exits indicating left all the way.

Bucko: Yes, I've seen the same too. The question is, how did we get to the point that others are merely potential threats and not seen as other members of society with whom we should be getting along?

JBJ: Indeed. I always enjoy those compliments myself, and those commenting on the little Ps's diction. But are such qualities still going to be respected in the future?

SorenK: It would certainly appear so.

Anon: I can understand that mindset, TBH. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the shop story. The woman had fiddled with her card to pay and then queued up again? Please somebody clarify. I need to know.

Dick Puddlecote said...

No, Anon. She had finished and was leaving the shop but stopped to remonstrate with me first as she thought I'd bypassed the longer queue (which she had presumably waited in herself).

Mrs Rigby said...

We've had thirteen years of politicians and the media showing us that the best form of defence is attack - any attack has been permissible, as long as it detracts from, and changes, the subject.

As for indicating at roundabouts - one of the juniors recently took a driving test. Instant failure for making a 'major' mistake, which was to indicate fractionally too soon at a roundabout.

Ciaran said...

Tesco, you say? So you're one of those people funding their minimum alcohol pricing lobbying campaign?

Also, how do you know the guy in the Princess was only stripped as far as the waist. Did you peer in to check?


Bucko said...

"The question is, how did we get to the point that others are merely potential threats and not seen as other members of society with whom we should be getting along?"
Dick - I've tried to make some sense of that here.

Chuckles said...

By taking a good large pinch of umbrage and remonstrating with you she was able to place herself in a victim group, of those who have been insulted and cheated by you jumping a non existent queue.

It is VERY important to be a member of an identifiable victim group, confers all sorts of rights and privileges. And responsibilities of course, the responsibility to let DP know that he is a lowlife piece of scum.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Mrs R: There could be truth in that, although I'd tend to add in selfishness and a lot of what Bucko wrote.

Bucko: Left a message at yours. Very good piece.

Ciaran: Yes, but it's a Morton's Fork as there's only the Tesco Xpress or Greggs near my office and, well ... clientele. ;-)

Chuckles: The last bit, definitely.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Coming from a country whereby you can, and people DO, get fined in the HUNDREDS of Euro (Bismarck actualy got THOUSANDS, around 1870 or so) for calling some one "Du" when they should say "Sie", and you can get a hefty fine AND loose your licence for a month for "throwing the finger" at someone whilst driving", and you can get the police to prosecute someone for calling you "an idiot", or telling you to "fuck off". this all appears VERY strange.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Follow ups. Google even hates my NEW omputer.

lenko said...

Now that the Coalition is going to reverse all the Nanny State laws, including no-smoking in pubs (yeah, in your dreams, Dick), you'll have time on your hands.

I'd join you in a campaign to fight against bad manners and invective (though not on my blog, obviously).

I'd also back a campaign to automatically eliminate bad spelling from the internet. Such as "lose" versus "loose".

God, I'm a grumpy old bugger!

JuliaM said...

You shouldn't write off Greggs. Their sandwiches are very good, and good value too.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Furor: Sounds authoritarian as fuck, but how do they rate for knuckle-headed lowlifes?

Lenko: Yep, spelling too. But then, under Labour, schools aren't that bothered with spelling. I know, as the boy's teacher told me. Grrr.

Julia: I don't discount their food at all, in fact I've defended it in the past. It's just that I tend to only use this one when it is empty of customers, IYSWIM.

Captain Haddock said...

Sadly FT .. it will never catch on here ..

UK Plod are far, far too busy hounding people for "thought crimes ..they can't even prosecute the morons who use Mobile phones whilst driving .. or the moronettes who brush their hair, or apply make-up whilst behind the wheel ..

Those kind of things tend to get dumped in the "too difficult" tray ..

Its much easier to rely on Speed Cameras, which obligingly provide photographic evidence, thus saving the idle numpties having to endure the fuss & bother of attending Court & actually giving verbal evidence ..

J Bonington Jagworth said...

"as a woman fiddled with her card to pay for flowers and a pint of milk"

I'm not a mysogynist, honestly, but why do they all wait until it's time to pay before conducting a search for the means to do it? These so-called multi-taskers never think to get their purse or card ready for the inevitable requirement while they're waiting in the queue, do they?!

J Bonington Jagworth said...

Oops! That little outburst was meant to be followed by a 'rant off' switch, which Blogger has tried to interpret as HTML...

bayard said...

I blame the compensation culture, ambulance-chasing lawyers and the insurance companies. No-one is prepared to admit that they are wrong any more, in case they get sued and from there it's only a short hop to never saying sorry at all.

Bucko said...

Lenko - If you want to fight bad spelling, why not include txt spk and CAPSLOCK.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Haddock: I'd argue that they shouldn't even be bothering with those unless harm is proven or very likely, but then I'm like that.

JBJ: Yes, I've noticed that. We're teasing out a lot of frustrations here, aren't we? ;-)

Bayard: It's not too big a leap to think that. Well observed.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Dick Puddlecote said...

Furor: Sounds authoritarian as fuck, but how do they rate for knuckle-headed lowlifes?

Getting more. BUT not from the Born and bred Germans.

THAT should say a lot if you read between the lines!

But "Authoritarian"??

No. It has to do with the respect to others. It is....WAS normal practice at one time, as I think the point of your post was saying.

NO! We do not go prosecuting people for not saying "sorry", But if the other one turns around and calls you an arsehole, the we have redress.

It must also be pointed out, that whilst it is not as rare as rocking horse shit, it IS used sparingly.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

DP "But are such qualities still going to be respected in the future?"

You may well ask. Our lad did say he'd been accused of 'talking posh', but whether this was because he used a word of more than two syllables or failed to employ enough glottal stops, I'm not sure. Tricky things, schools.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Furor: Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it entirely, I'd just prefer if an approach more rooted in education was used.

I do so hate the stick, you see. ;-)

Furor Teutonicus said...

Dick. Aye. but we do not have libel and slander laws, which normally you have to be quids in with your bank to fund. Here any one can do it...FREE.

You have to pay if you loose, but that goes for any law, and we DO now get "no win no fee" solicitors.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

"as a woman fiddled with her card to pay for flowers and a pint of milk"

I'm not a mysogynist, honestly, but why do they all wait until it's time to pay before conducting a search for the means to do it?

Even WORSE. Why is it always a bloody Woman, that with a queue of a thousand people behind her, at the only till open two minutes before closing on a bank holiday Saturday, or christmas eve, insists, that "in order to help the poor girl on the till", in paying for six months worth of shopping in pennies and Ha'pennies, and then after counting them all out, finds she is twopence ha'penny short, so fishes them all back into her purse, then hands over a €500 note, which has to be checked by the manager, who, naturally, happens to be in his office getting pissed and is "unavailable" for half an hour, and THEN the cashier finds she can not change it any way?

J Bonington Jagworth said...

It's that look of surprise on their faces when they have to pay that gets me! Were they expecting to be waved through?

Furor Teutonicus said...

J Bonington Jagworth. It would appear we are on very much the same wavelength.

My Wife now refuses to go into a supermarket with me. Because as you may have noticed, I am not afraid to TELL people when they are being dick heads.