“The Me, Me world of the 21st Century”

Article by: Gerry Briggs, Eugene Oregon


So. Would you like to know what my number one pet peeve is? Or, in another sense, what I call the root-of-all simple evil? None of this ugly I-want-to-kill-you-and-eat-your-children evil, just the everyday inconsistent, annoying, gad-won’t-you-get-out-of-my-way-and-shut-up evil. 


Before I relinquish this gem, I must give examples of the Me, Me World of Our 21st Century. For instance, people driving like they’re the only ones in a hurry or not, people walking through doors and then letting them go to slam in your face, acquaintances telling you what to think and why, and perhaps my favorite Me, Me scenario, the cell phone talker with no regard for anything other than the electronic connection to his/or her ego. So, with all this and more, some days don’t you just want to put in “Finding Nemo” and join your kids on the couch?


I’ll assume that’s a “yes” and move into a little bit about ME. Yes, I’m a Mom. I have two boys, one 37 and the other 34. They open the doors for women, call me on Mother’s day, do their own cooking and wash their underwear. Lord knows, they do have their faults, but I’ll tell you one thing they are not. They are not RUDE. And that is it. My number one pet peeve and the root-of-all-simple-evil . . . .  Rudeness. 


Now you might think that this is an oversimplification of a complex problem and my second answer to you is. . . Emily Post. Gad, I hear you say, WHO?  Well, if you were born after 1985, you’re old enough to drink and too young to answer the Jeopardy question “Who wrote the Blue Book of social usage”. In the modern vernacular, go google it!


Brief interlude while twenty-some things run to the computer. The opposite of Rude is Polite. Someone who is polite has manners. Having manners is defined as well-bred social behavior. That’s where I come in, MOM. Mom who taught her boys manners, as in “didn’t YOUR mother ever teach you any manners?”  Which translates to lets write an etiquette book a la Emily Post for the 21st Century. Gee, I love linear thinking.


All right, you’re back from googling Mrs. Emily Post, so let me extrapolate. Mrs. Post was born Miss Emily Price in Baltimore Maryland, 1872. In the season of her debut (next month look for My Reluctant Non-Debutant Season), she met, fell in love with, and married Edwin Post who then carried her off for the Grand Tour of the Continent.


She had two sons and when they were old enough to go to boarding school (see the second Months’ article “My Young Life In A Convent Boarding School”) she started writing romance stories that were published in America and Europe, became a traveling correspondent and then in 1922 her etiquette book became a #1 best seller.


The phrase “according to Emily Post” entered our language and she became quite the celebrity. Not bad for a lady that was told well-bred women don’t work. She remained an outstanding business women until her death in 1960, passing on the “book” to her granddaughter-in-law, Elizabeth Post.


Why did this become a best seller? A book on etiquette? Who would ‘a thunk it?  Was she social engineering? Diabolical. Did she have a hidden agenda? No, that’s today’s philosophy. Her goal was “To practice perfect manners without appearing stiff and at the same time to let those about you feel that They are equally well-mannered is a goal that can be achieved only by making consideration and unselfishness an integral part of your behavior.”


Not one-upmanship, not I was here first, not I’m talking on my cell phone, na, na, na, na.

Consideration and unselfishness. Two nouns we need to put into practice. I could also say, those are two nouns that should be on the endangered language list along with spelling. LOL, LD, CM.


Brief interlude  #2: If you’re not up on the slaughter of the English language go to http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp or go google it. . . 


I started out with my pet peeve, rudeness. I’m ending with the solution Manners. Manners that stem from consideration and unselfishness, of wanting people to be at ease in your home, of wanting people to enjoy their public dining experience, of wanting people to celebrate weddings and have every one on the same considerate, enlightened plane.


Here is my first Emily Post informal edict. Her book begins with Part One, the Art of Conversation, I will paraphrase, a) how not to talk on a cell phone:


Cell phone are wonderful inventions that we all enjoy and use, yet we continue to use them with impunity. Talking on a cell phone at an inappropriate time can create a lasting impression with far-reaching consequence and can disturb the tranquillity of surrounding people. For example: when in a checkout line and it is your turn with the checker, it is appropriate for you to tell your caller that you must hang up now and speak to the person waiting on you.


The checker is there to serve you and the need you have for the brief period of time you are in their company. Not giving your attention to this person is RUDE.  Not giving your attention to this person also upsets people behind you who realize your improper behavior. Hanging up your cell phone shows you as a considerate person who has respect for them, their job and for the people in line behind you.


Now, I ask you, is that so hard? This is but one brief look at the lack of manners in our time. If you feel as I, drop me a note. Tell me about your brush with rudeness, or your pet peeve and together we will make the world a more genial, one episode at a time.


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