The kid was tall, lanky, wearing a black, hooded sweat shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans. He stood in front of me. We were at the Dollar General.
He was buying Little Debbie brownies and a six pack of Gatorade. I was trying to buy a box of tissues to fix a runny nose.
He gave the clerk two five dollar bills and the clerk gave back some change. The clerk didn’t even look at the kid, bored to death. I could tell.
The kid said “Thank you.” The clerk ignored him.
He turned towards the door and slightly bumped against me.
“Excuse me, please. I’m sorry.” he said with a smile.
“You’re welcome.” I said. He nodded and walked out the door.
And, I started thinking about the path we are on.
When I was a kid, there was no option when we talked to adults.
You said “Please” and “Thank You” a hundred times a day. If you wanted some water from a neighbor’s faucet, you asked “May I” and then said “Thank You.”
You never let a door slam.
Parents called it minding your manners. We used our good manners.
Today, people think they know it all. They say life is much easier and better these days, than it was back then. We’ve got microwaves, cell phones, digital cameras and electronic gadgets to do most anything. We got disposable coffee makers, our clothes don’t wrinkle. We buy fast food that tastes like cardboard.
And, nobody knows how to cook fried chicken anymore.
More than that, we got kids who can’t say much beyond “Yeah” “Naw” and “Gimmee”.
Somehow we forgot about bringing our manners forward with all our progress.
Even today at my advanced age, I still like to say “Yes Sir,” ” No Sir,” “Yes M’am” and “No M’am.”
“You are welcome,” “Please” and “Thank You” are still in my regular vocabulary, right up there with my oilfield collection of downright dirty words.
I’m not smart enough to guess what happened. My generation, baby boomers that we are, were taught right. It was expected for us to show and use good manners.
We’re the ones who dropped the ball.
I returned to Brookhaven after a twenty year absence. I was shocked to hear a classmate talk to an older, long-time banker. He called him by his first name, acting like they were equal. He was Mister to me until the day he died.
When I was in high school, I despised our principal. Obviously, I got in trouble a lot and never made good grades. Still, he was Mr. Roach and I said my “Yes Sirs” and “No Sirs” to him.
After growing up a bit, today, I have the upmost respect for the man. To this day, he’s Mr. Roach. They ought to name a school after him. He was that good.
He taught us a lot. We guys still tuck in our shirts and no one walks on the grass if there’s a sidewalk.
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