"Politeness is the flower of humanity." Joseph Joubert, French moralist

Is it my imagination or are we experiencing the decline of manners? It might sound terribly old-fashioned but I believe that common courtesy is a thing of the past. If you doubt my statement all you have to do is go to a crowded shopping mall for confirmation.

Last month I used my last vacation day to do my least favorite thing: Christmas shopping. I drove to the local mall early to avoid the onslaught of holiday shoppers. I pulled up to a prime parking space, signal on, after a kindly person walking past indicated he was vacating said space. I waited patiently as he backed out only to have a car speeding down the aisle in the wrong direction slip into my space. RUDE!

While browsing in the bookstore I tripped over a young man, headphones blasting and sprawled out on the floor reading, his backpack blocking the aisle directly in front of the book I was searching for. RUDE!

I was stalked by an aggressive salesperson in the department store, then followed by a shopper coveting the last size 7 pair of black boots I was carrying just waiting to pounce should I put them down for a nanosecond. Then I was cut in line at the register by a young woman oblivious to all except the person on the other end of her cell phone with whom she was having a very loud conversation. RUDE!

Tired of shopping and inconsiderateness, I met a friend for lunch in the cafe where our conversation was continually interrupted by a toddler allowed to toddle amongst the tables by a mother who obviously believed that every diner would find her child as adorable as she did. RUDE!

All this impoliteness in a mere two-hour span doesn’t even begin to touch on the myriad etiquette faux pas that seem to be the rule nowadays rather than the exception. Other notable lapses in propriety include: forgoing the thank-you note; assuming that I want to hear you baring your soul on your cell phone in restaurants, movie theaters, stores, buses, and other public places; cleavage, cutoffs, pajama pants in inappropriate places such as church, school, or Grandma’s 90th birthday party; poor table manners; critiquing and discussing the movie while watching the movie; cutting in line, cutting my car off on the highway, cutting me off in conversation; hanging up instead of apologizing for a wrong phone number; neglecting to use two basic phrases most of us learned before we could put together full sentences – please and thank you; any and all airline rudeness – screaming children, oversized suitcases stuffed into an overhead bin above MY seat, oversized passengers intruding in my space, seat mates who had garlic and curry for lunch, reclining your seat so my food tray is cutting off my windpipe; AND, last but not least, not responding to polite, heartfelt email inquiries about a certain unknown but engaging artist…

I did receive ONE response to the MANY emails I sent – from a very courteous curator at the Albertina Art Museum in Vienna, Austria who attached the above scan from the Thieme-Beckers’ artist-dictionary in response to my inquiry about Albert C. Hubert. Although the info is in Austrian and has revealed no new information as far as Hubert’s identity, I’m happy to report that manners are alive and thriving in Vienna…


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