Mind your P’s and Q’s

Mind your manners, please.

Manners seem to be a thing of the past nowadays.  It seems each and every day someone quite rude and devoid of manners crosses my path.

I find it disconcerting that people would have to resort to an online reference to learn proper etiquette and good behavior, but there are countless websites for that purpose.  Does that disturb anyone but me?

Why are there so many human beings out there who don’t utter the words “excuse me,” “please,” or “thank you” let alone know how to be polite and courteous?  Instead I hear vulgarity brazenly spoken and witness a host of other discourteous actions that would cause Miss Manners to suffer a heart attack.  Not only do people have little respect for others, elders or not, but they appear to also hold no respect even for themselves.

That’s why a trip south always restores my faith in the civility of the human race.  A few years ago, when oldest daughter was preparing for her move to the deep South, I traveled with her to search for an apartment.

It was my first trip that far into the South and I still recall the amazement I felt over southerners’ lovely etiquette.  Everywhere we ventured I was called “ma’am,” and people were quite kind and chivalrous.  Thank you, you’re welcome, pardon me were vocabulary words obviously spoken in everyday language.

Even on my flight back home, the twenty-something young man seated next to me on the plane sprinkled our conversation with “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am.”  I finally disclosed to him that I had never been called ma’am so many times in my life as I had encountered in the two or three days I had been there.  His answer was, “Well, ma’am, here in the South, our mamas know how to raise us right.”

I will never forget that conversation and I ponder why everyone’s mama doesn’t raise her children right.  I mean what is so difficult about teaching your child to say “yes, please” or “no, thank you”?  Why is it an arduous task to open a door for someone, let another go first, or say excuse me?

I was again reminded of this when hubby and I made our recent trek into the southern states.  We were in Tennessee, stopped at a restaurant for dinner.  There was a gift shop there and we wandered around checking out the wares. While I was looking at a shelf of items, a little boy, probably about five or six, walked in front of me to get to his mama.

His grandma was behind him, and she promptly stopped him and in a firm and southern accented voice said, “What do you say?”  He was a little confused and answered questioningly, “Please?”

She then explained that he had rudely stepped in front of me and again demanded, “Now, what do you need to tell this lady?”  That time, his manners circuit connection fired up accurately, he turned to me and said quite sweetly, “Excuse me please.”

Excuse me please.  Most adults don’t even articulate that phrase, let alone kindergarten children.  And I simply will not accept the excuse that children are growing up in dysfunctional families or disadvantaged environments and that’s why they do not have decent manners or good conduct.

Oldest daughter is involved in the Big Brother/Big Sister program in her city.  She spends time encouraging a young girl who comes from a disadvantaged home.  The child’s daddy is incarcerated, and her mama makes do as best she can.  One evening we treated oldest daughter and her “little sis” to dinner out at a bar-b-que restaurant.

That child had very nice table manners.  She folded her napkin up when she was finished.  She even brushed all her crumbs to one little area in front of her.  She spoke politely and respectfully to us and she carried herself with dignity.  Her conduct was stellar and she should make her mama proud.

When we returned to her home, which was a temporary living space, she promptly thanked us for taking her to dinner.  That young lady had better social graces than most of the adults I observe, who come from middle-class or well-to-do families.

My mother used to say “mind your P’s and Q’s” to me when I was being impolite.  I’ve always wondered from where that saying was derived.  One explanation, which came from Wikipedia.com, suggests that the P is short for please and the Q for thank you, the latter of which contains a sound similar to the pronunciation of the name of the letter Q.  Parents used this phrase to educate their children in good manners and to remind them to use polite words when they spoke to others.

It all comes down to what that young Southern gentleman once told me, mamas (and daddies) out there, no matter what your situation in life is, you can raise your children right.  Let’s start with good manners, shall we?

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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