Where Did All of the Manners Go?
Road rage, rude attitudes, and small bursts of violence are normal, public interactions these days. We all walk around in bad moods and treat each other as if they are not worth our time or attention. What happened? Where did all of the manners go?
I have been worried about our slow decay into rude and angry people. It seems like every time I hit the road, I am surrounded by people who want to kill me with their cars and are so mad at me unprovoked. Don’t dare to look at the person next to you at the red light. “What are you looking at? Got a staring problem?” Don’t even think about letting that car stuck at a parking lot exit into the flow of traffic. The cars behind will be livid that you took five seconds of their precious time to help another that down the line, could be them one day. Plus, the car you let into the lane won’t look at you, let alone give you that wave of appreciation. Driving the streets carries the same feeling as if you had personally made every person around you late to work and insulted their family and friends.
I met the perfect example of integrity and manners being gone just this past week. He had such an intense disregard for others it was almost brilliant. You would never know that he was a Southern man.
Isn’t that what the Southern states of America are known for? Polite manners and kind folk? Chivalry hangs on tight in states like Texas while the rest of the U.S. slid into the pit of doomed rudeness. Pride once came from the cordial attitudes of Southern men. Well, you wouldn’t have ever thought any of this was true if you watched this absolutely rude man handle an inconvenient flight delay.
I was returning from my brother’s wedding in Arizona last Sunday when I had some of the best luck of my life — topped with a shining-red-with-anger face of one of the rudest people ever for a cherry on top.
This story of triumph and aggravated assault of contentment began with a connecting flight in Dallas. My flight coming in from Phoenix was delayed getting to the gate due to problems with another plane stuck at the very spot our plane needed to be. Our plane, already 10 minutes behind schedule, sat waiting to park at the gate for 45 minutes. Sure, I was feeling frustrated and frantic. I was now 30 minutes late for my flight home to Tyler. How did I react? I sat patiently in my seat and waiting to be set free from that metal bird that felt suddenly like a taste tester of Hell. Why did I react in such a calm manner? Because I was raised to be polite and patient. Why? Partly because I was raised in Texas.
But when I got to Dallas to make my connecting flight to Tyler, I would meet another Texan who apparently did note get the memo that Texans are supposed to be somewhat kind people.
Out of breath, I finally made it to my gate. The attendant informed me that the plane that would take me home had pulled away and was set to take flight. When I explained why I had missed my flight, she then told me the airline would pay for my hotel room. Hotel room? Yes, I would be able to get a flight home from Dallas until the next day in the late afternoon. Feeling utterly defeated, I stepped away to beg for a friend to come collect me from Dallas before I had to be swallowed into airport bed sheets that may, or may not, have been washed in the past year. Then, the brilliant light of hope and grace shone down on me. The attendant called me back to the desk, the flight I had been too tardy to make was coming back to the gate for maintenance issues. I was going home!
The joy I felt has rarely been seen by the likes of men. I was so ecstatic, I didn’t mind that my luggage may not come with me if this flight didn’t de-board. The worry that the flying machine I was about to skip onto might fall apart in the sky due to this maintenance issue. I was headed home.
When I boarded the plane, I could not conceal my smile. This made the reaction I got from the other passengers even more grim. They treated me as if I was the reason behind their delay. “Who is this girl that we came back for? I know they said we came back for a problem with this plane, but I am sure this woman caused it to attack me personally.” These kinds of things are what the livid faces were saying to me as they followed me down the aisle to my seat. Only one person had the guts to say what he was thinking of me. As I passed this man he exclaimed, “Seriously? What the *curse word*!”
Woah! Sorry guy. I apologize for your bad day, but I did not cause it. The fact that I had no control over the present situation made no difference to this extremely mad man or any of the other passengers. They needed to blame someone and I was voted unanimously to be that someone.
We all sat in awkward silence for a few minutes before the cabin exploded with vexation as we were told we would have to move to a new plane. No one was relieved to know we would be traveling on a plane that was perfectly safe. The journey from the seat they occupied to one off of the plane that might kill them was too much for these unhappy travelers. I couldn’t have been more excited. I wasn’t going to make the front page for dying in a plane crash and my luggage would follow me home instead of having a stay at the DFW airport overnight.
Looking back, I now realize I shouldn’t have tried to express this excitement for my good luck to a crowd of blankly staring people that looked a second away from locking up my mouth and throwing away the key. Why try and get a high-five for the great way things had worked out from me? These people wanted to silently wallow in their self-pity.
I followed them, with my mouth shut tight, as we made our way to the new gate. When the silence was broken by all of our names being roll-called out for us to board our new plane, I calmly took my place in line. But, someone disagreed that particular spot was my place. The man who cursed at me aboard the broken plane slammed past me causing my already bruised ribs to light in flames of sharp pain. Apparently he needed desperately to be right in front of me in line.
His attitude carried over into the plane. People taking time to stow their belongings in the overhead compartments were too slow for this man. He shoved and punched his bag into the first available compartment, even though his seat was far past that storage compartment. He obviously had no time to place his things near his body and couldn’t agree with others wanting to do the opposite.
The next victim was the poor woman who would have to complete her journey sitting next to this ball of outrage. He demanded of her to get up and move to allow him to slam down into his seat next to the window. Yanking with great effort on his seat belts, this man was finally settled. I remember feeling so glad I was not his neighbor for the flight. I got to safely sit well behind him at the back of the plane.
Once we landed in Tyler, the majority of us were so happy to be home, which made this man’s continued temper tantrums start to turn from fearful to funny. I audibly giggled as I watched him throw his baggage onto the cart and then grumble as he had to pick it all up when the cart tipped over with the force of his toss. Everyone made a larger path for him than what was created when the Red Sea was parted. We all wanted to make sure he could get to his car with no more obstacles. But, I did not know I would see this angry man once more before I was home.
I noticed, pulling into line to pay for long-term parking, that there was a bit of a wait. I remember thinking, “Man, I hope that one guy got out before this.” Nope. His brakes squealed as he gave just a few inches between our bumpers as he made his arrival in the line known. His windows were down to allow his waving arms to roam free from the constraints of his Camaro and his bellowing voice to boom from its interior. Curse word after curse word flew out of his mouth with a bit of variety from the few insults and “Oh, come on!!!” He would definitely have no time to hear that the parking attendant was having credit card problems. This, being a pure delight for me to get my parking for free, would surely just be something else that was ruining this man’s life.
I was so pleased when the angry man finally was away from my person when he blasted past me headed away from the airport. But, I have been left with more than the story of this man’s actions.
I have a foul taste in my mouth from the whole experience. Who was that guy to think it was OK to act in that manner? Speaking of manners, where were his? What respectable, adult male acts like that? Could he now have the audacity to claim his Texan roots? Would he be a future example of Texas people to others?
I want so much for the past gentlemanly cowboys who minded their manners and spoke with calm polite words to reappear. The cliche strong man who would open doors and say, “Yes, ma’am.”
Can’t we all learn to deal with our emotions and frustrations in a way that does not ruin each other’s lives? Will there be a day soon that brings calm and courteous people back? I say, lets start making the changes for a more happy, welcoming, and polite world. People of Texas, are you with me? Are you willing to be the catalyst for the return of the ideal Southern manners?
Let’s start today.