Common Courtesy, or, In The Throes Of A “Casual” Crisis


In high school biology, Mr. Taylor’s response to nearly every classroom interruption or zit-addled teenage freakout was, “Let’s all behave with some basic common courtesy here, shall we …”

Oh, Mr. T! If I had only known! That a mere 20 years later (yes, haters — I graduated 20 years ago) I would use that phrase almost as much as the beloved Bruce Taylor.

Is it too much to get an “Excuse me?” instead of a nasal “HUH?” The monosyllabic grunt usually followed by a gaping maw and vacant stare.

How about “You're welcome” instead of “No problem.” I know I’m not a problem — I am your customer … your colleague … your potential regular at the restaurant.

Or my personal favorite, what about a basic greeting?

These days, I weave my webs in direct mail, online and other messaging and content driven media. I choose my words very carefully. But I cut my teeth in retail, kittens. I appreciate the power of positive customer experience.

Imagine my chagrin at a local coffee shop this morning, when it seemed that a cordial, “Hello”, “Good morning,” or even “NEXT!” was too much for the beleaguered lad who took my order.

No, he just stared at me as if to say, “Hey stupid — haven’t you ever ordered a cup of coffee before? You know how this goes.”

It’s not a generational thing. It’s not a class, upbringing or any other thing. It’s about basic social interactions that should be mastered once you’re old enough to be social.

There is a difference between informal and rude. Lazy and indifferent are not the same as casual. Is it me, or is it getting worse and worse?

I’m not calling for a return to Victorian bouquets or mandatory patrician manners. But how about decency, kindness and respect — and to quote Mr. Taylor one last time, some common courtesy?