Courtesy is dead.
I’m fed up. I’m over it. I’m done.
It got sick in the 80’s. It went on life support in the 90’s. It came back briefly after 9/11 and now, in the wake of cynicism, loss, bailouts and self-infatuated, self-inflated, self-righteous, self-loathing boredom, it is dead.
In the swirl of self-serving, self-fulfilling, self-centered, self-importance, courtesy took one last gasp of breath, buckled at the knees and face planted into the muck that we claim to be a civil society.
An overreaction? Maybe. But consider what you accept today as “courtesy”, “good manners” and “thoughtfulness” and you’ll see just how far the bar has dropped. If it’s not scraping the asphalt I’m guessing you’re in denial or just not paying attention.
To wit: my wife hand-writes invitations to our daughter’s 6th birthday party for about eight kids in her kindergarten class, ATTACHES A BALLOON TO EACH ONE, and delivers them in person. How many phone calls do we get in a week? One.
She puts a reminder in each child’s “mailbox.” How many more calls do we get? One.
Seriously? It’s enough to frustrate a guy. Just enough.
So, we think it through: people are busy, they are stressed, they have massively full lives, they have circumstances we can’t even consider or imagine. And, yet, there was a time when “common courtesy” was not a convenience, it was a rule of law. When someone extended an invitation, no matter how minor, you responded. You took the one minute necessary to pick up the phone, dial, listen and leave a message. We screen our calls so we make it VERY EASY FOR PEOPLE TO SAY “NO, THANKS!” Ranting now…sorry.
But I’m not sorry. To hell with that. I’m mad. We’re trying to teach our kids some fundamental stuff like “please” and “thank you”, like hand-writing “thank you” notes (I actually told my 10 year old son at dinner tonight that the discipline and commitment of hand-writing “thank you” notes would differentiate him from the pack some day, the way that spending a summer studying the Incan ruins used to and now I cynically consider the fact that the people he will be trying to influence probably won’t give a shit because they never had to and can’t recognize the handwriting because it’s not a font).
I choose life. I’m an ER doctor with paddles in hand, shocking the you-know-what out of this fading life called “Courtesy.” I choose to deny its death, hoping for a miracle.
I recently read about a woman and child who were both believed dead due to complications during birth. Mom was dead for four minutes. She came back. And so did her child. They both had a lot to live for.
It’s not too late for Courtesy.