03 October, 2007


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.


Milly said...

Some of women are cautious about handing our bags over to someone. It’s a big bad world out there and they tell us how bad it is over and over again over the speakers. She might have just been worried about what you might do with her bag. After all her stuff was in it and her name and address might have also been on it. Even with those nice eyes she might have been worried.

Ask your son about cell phones, how rude we are now. Where I work time is money so I get that those guys are on the phone making decisions and getting those instructions as to where to go and what to get. I’ve taken the items out of guys hands scanned them taken the credit cards from the wallets I.D. and signed at times for them. I understand that those folks need to be on that phone. I always get a “Hold on, Thank you” with eye contact and a big smile as they rush on. But the folks who are just coming in for personal stuff need to take the time to take care of business at hand. It’s down right rude to ignore the cashier then act stupid when we ask for payment. You hold up the line because you’re rummaging through your purse, man bag, or pockets.

I think that as a woman I get more eye contact and respect from young men. My favorite young man smiles big and always looks me in the eyes. I wonder if it’s a guy thing? Some of the older guys are very rude to me, I work in an area that lots of folks hate. (BTW no it isn’t taking a job away it’s a big company they wouldn’t have four more registers open, do the math.) One older man really complained about SCO I looked over at the regular register and said he could have gone there. His response was I didn’t want to wait in line. He would have waited for one person. I wanted to yell “What is wrong with you? And why bring it to me?”

I wish your son all the best in the retail world. It’s fun and hard and I love it most of the time.

Here’s a sappy moment last night an older lady in pink put her soft hand on my arm and asked for help with a lock. I melted at her touch. I put my hand in hers and called one of the guys to help her he’s younger and walked two steps in front of her looking back as he spoke. When will that boy learn? He missed an opportunity. Gee I had tears from her soft touch and her grandmotherish way. (So you big burley man might not understand that)

the same boy was complaining that he worked with all old men and he had to do all the work. When will that boy learn? They know how to do stuff he will never learn in his life time and they share it when asked. Too bad he’ll never ask. There is a lot to be said about sitting at the feet of your elders.

You have taught your son well, that’s something to be proud of.

(I have written a post in this comment ;-) You have also taught me well ;-)

Kansas Bob said...

Culture without couresy ... what a thought ... how did you ... a man ... think of that :)

You are right on about male/female vs male/male interactions CP ... guess you must be over 40 :)

Two smiles in one comment - lets go for 3 - :)

karen said...

I've had some of my best God moments in the check out line talking to the checker outer. I love them.

codepoke said...


I love your old lady, and I love those moments. There's nothing prouder than having that little old lady in pink rest her arm on yours and trust you. In just a few moments, ya'll gals can make us feel like getting up in the morning again.

Trying to teach your whippersnapper is a whole 'nother thing again, but it has its rewards too. Don't you worry about those old men. They have a way of getting through to young idiots. It ain't nice, but the good-hearted ones get the message no matter how thick their heads might be. And the old guys enjoy cracking a little skull. ;-)