Being polite won't kill you

Kevin Cowherd

July 16, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

It's no secret that there has been a steady erosion of manners in this country, as evidenced by an ugly incident that took place the other night outside my local convenience store.

To set the scene: My wife and I are about to walk in the door when, with my excellent peripheral vision, I spot a man rapidly approaching to our right.

Whirling around, I'm relieved to see that the man is not, in fact, wearing a stocking mask and brandishing an automatic weapon in preparation for a holdup.

Instead, the man is carrying a large package in both hands.

So because I'm such a nice guy and decent human being, I hold the door open and let him walk in first.

Well. This proves to be a big mistake.

Because not only doesn't he say thank you, he doesn't say anything at all.

He doesn't even nod his head!

Instead, he moseys through the door with the sort of blank expression found only in the truly moronic.

This lack of courtesy, of course, causes me to do a slow boil. And right away I start thinking: How can I get back at this guy?

Should I say something to him? Or should I just whack him over the head? But you know how it is. There's never a broomstick around when you need it.

"Did you see that?" I asked my wife. "The guy didn't even say thank you!"

"Maybe he's preoccupied with something," she whispered.

I swear, this is the whole problem with this woman.

Instead of seeing the dark, nasty side of everyone's personality -- the way you're supposed to -- she always looks for something positive to say.

You have no idea how irritating that can be.

Every day it's the same thing: sweetness and nice, sweetness and nice. Every day it's Little Miss Sunshine.

Try living with that for 15 years. Believe me, after a while, you just want to scream.

It's like the other day, we were driving on a back road near my house when suddenly we came upon a car puttering along at about 20 miles an hour.

Of course, I did what any normal person would do, which was to roar up and get right on this car's bumper.

Then I hit the brights a few times to make him even more jittery.

Naturally, my wife had to take all the joy out of the situation.

"Take it easy," she said. "Maybe he's lost."

"Lost?!" I snarled. "He's just can't drive!"

"Well, he's got Texas license plates," she said.

"Plenty of Texans live in Baltimore!" I shouted, leaning on the horn furiously. "Are you kidding? This is like Little Dallas up here! Everywhere you turn there's some guy in a 10-gallon hat, string tie and cowboy boots!"

Finally, after nervously glancing in his rearview mirror for a couple of miles, the guy turned into someone's driveway.

NTC Still, there was no question the guy was out driving slowly just to screw up my day. Even a child could see that.

But my wife simply refused to admit it. Maybe he's lost . . . where does she get this stuff?

Maybe you see what I'm dealing with here.

Getting back to the incident at the convenience store, though, this sort of rudeness has become so commonplace as to be almost unremarkable.

So the next morning, since I have a job that requires very little thought and therefore affords me lots of free time, I decided to conduct a little experiment.

While running some errands in various stores and business establishments, I held the door for a total of 20 people and noted the results.

Fourteen of them said thanks, proving that the country has not yet gone completely to hell in a handbasket.

But six miserable cretins said not one word while the door was held for them.

I hate to generalize here, but the six jerks (four men, two women, if you're scoring along at home) had a few things in common: a generally sullen disposition; close-set, beady eyes; sloping forehead indicative of a lack of intelligence; and -- here was the biggest clue -- a tiny stream of drool running down one side of their mouths.

Later that night, I presented the results of the experiment to my wife.

Calling upon my solid background in mathematics, I noted that ** over one-quarter of the participants had failed to express any gratitude whatsoever while someone held the door for them.

"Maybe they were just having a bad day," my wife said.

9- I . . . I really hate when she does that.

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