I've discussed the theme a number of times over the years. It has to do with manners and chivalry -- two traits that, unfortunately, seem to be on the decline. Maybe too many of us just don't have time to care. Or, sadder still, maybe a lot of us were never taught the meaning of those words. For instance, get on a city bus some morning and you invariably will see an elderly person or pregnant woman standing in the aisle while younger people sit reading the newspaper, impervious to the presence of needier passengers. Every once in a while, however, someone will display some manners and give up a seat. Such simple acts of kindness should be commonplace. But since they're not, they really stand out. Sometimes that creates problems.
As I was reading the February issue of OAG Frequent Flyer magazine, I noticed a letter to the editor from Larry Stocker of Leawood, Kan. Here's his story: "At the gate of a flight from Detroit to Kansas City, a long line had formed for those checking in for seat assignments. A woman in front of me left the line to make some phone calls. Ten minutes later she stepped to the back of the line. I asked her if she'd like her old place back in line (in front of me), and she said yes. That was the only conversation we had. At that point we were the next to be served.
"The agent questioned why I did that. I said simple manners. She then checked my I.D. and asked if I would mind having my briefcase and carry-on searched by a guard in the security area behind the counter. I told her no problem, search away.
"I asked the agent and the guard why the search, and they said I fit `a security profile of unusual actions in a line.' I am a white, middle-class, professional male dressed in a conservative business suit and a member of that airline's frequent-flier program. I guess chivalry and manners are an airport taboo. But I'll continue to be a gentleman, so search away."
I applaud Stocker. A lot of people probably would never have thought about giving the woman a break by allowing her to resume her previous place in line. Unfortunately, because of his gallantry, Stocker was inconvenienced and made to feel like he had done something wrong. That's a sad commentary on the status of good manners in today's society.
Adding to the commentary was a discussion I heard on the radio while driving to work one day. It involved the much-heralded movie "Titanic." The talk show host posed the question of whether in today's environment if a ship were sinking would it be appropriate to let women and children leave the ship first. I couldn't believe my ears. Some listeners called to say the whole idea of women and children first is old-fashioned. Today, they opined, it's every man, woman and child for themselves. What kind of society would it be if that were the norm? Barbarian is one description that comes to mind.
Good manners, gallantry and chivalry are timeless. So are tenderness, love, character and integrity. When we witness evidence of these traits, I believe most people are impressed and inspired. I know I am. But for a variety of reasons, decency seems to be in short supply in too many quarters, and it shouldn't be. Without it, the world is a much harsher place in which to live. I think all of us want to be treated kindly, but if we don't show respect and caring for others, how can we expect to be treated well? It simply won't happen.
It should be second nature,
Charles S. Lauer