Talking to my boy again. I love it when they head out into the world to teach it how it should really work.
Today's lesson was courtesy.
He said, "You know, Dad, how you always say courtesy is critical? Yeah, well, you're right."
That was music to my aging ears, of course, but beyond that he made some very solid observations. The chief was that no man under 40 will make eye contact with him or otherwise acknowledge him beyond whatever is necessary to complete the purchase. For those of you who missed my last wondering post, he is running a register at Target. The upshot is that he spends several hours of each day being bored for money.
(Things can be a lot worse than IT work. :-)
I have always said courtesy is the lubricant of civilization, keeping us from rubbing each other to nubs. Now, he loves 60 year old men coming up to his register, because they will engage him a little bit. They will talk to him and break the monotony of an 8 hour register day out of simple courtesy, and he suddenly appreciates it.
He was kind enough to tell me that I'm just twenty years more courteous than my age and that was pretty cool.
Then I gave him a new thought.
Those same young men who will not engage him in any way engage EVERY young female register worker.
So, no man under the age of 40 who speaks to a young lady is doing it for courtesy's sake. This was a new way of looking at the world for him, and a very sobering one.
Our lack of courtesy is one of my mainest gripes. (Air travel seems to stir up my crotchety side. Sorry.) I get irked at our mailman, because he speaks to me with iPod earbuds going. He's just mouthing words to me that even he cannot hear. I'm tempted to blather inanity back to him, but I would be too embarassed to be caught being so discourteous.
So going back to the way younger men seem to treat women.
I offered to carry a lady's bag up the stairs from the plane today. She looked at me, grabbed her bag, and started up the stairs. Then she felt so bad that she flattered me the whole way up. These little scenes are all so complex! And they shouldn't be. :-(
All healthy social interaction requires a safe foundation of courtesy, or the simplest interaction threatens to be de facto sexual approach. It was hard enough to strike up a conversation with a woman twenty years ago, but now that nobody expects simple courtesy every conversation might likely be deeper exploration. So I guess it's simple caution, as a lady, to assume every younger man making conversation with you is on the hunt.
A culture without courtesy worries me.