I know that good manners can cover a host of evil intent, but sometimes, it's nice to be smiled at, thanked, and acknowledged. Little do we know, of course, that the moment we move on, the person who provided us with what was clearly BS will whisper, "What a jerk!"
At the time, though, that pleasant behavior will palliate and smooth over something rocky or weird. One of the reasons that I like being in the South is that many folks down there subscribe to these notions of civility. "Yes, Ma'am," they tell me, while, of course, wishing they could say, "Go jump off a bridge."
Early on, I learned that "Bless your heart," means, "$%&@ off." Or, in nicer terms, "You are a big fat idiot."
But doesn't "Bless your heart" sound better?
When thinking about manners, I often remember how one of my literature professors described the Victorian Age: the velvet covered sewer.
Okay, then. At least we don't see the sewer.
But at times, it's hard to even perform the cursory niceties, the please's and thank you's that make life smoother. The hello's and the nice-to-meet-you's that oil up conversation and make it pass on by like so much waste.
In April, all my summer classes closed within about a day of opening up for registration. This is not because I'm such a great teacher; rather, it's because the world budget is a mess, no college is offering enough classes, and people are desperate. But since that day in April, I've received over 250 requests to add my classes. These requests were often packed with stories of such woe and need that I wouldn't be able to blink as I read them. If the student did not get the class, all manner of horror would ensue, and it was up to me to stop said horror.
At first, I attempted to answer all the emails and calls, but after a week or so, I wrote up a very terse automatic reply, saying in firm and clear language that I would not be able to add a single soul and to please not write back.
Apparently, that roiled a few folk. Just this week, a mother of one such querent wrote to me, expressing her anger at my unprofessionalism. She managed to sling a few insults about my literacy and teaching skills, too, this woman who has never met me, read me, much less taken any of my classes.
As I said, times are rough out there.
So after this helicopter mother incident passed (the "child" never wrote me him or herself), I went back to my automatic reply and added an unfortunately, a please, and one additional thank you. Maybe I had been a bit too terse and firm and adamant. Maybe a little velvet would smooth things, make my rejection softer.
And in the past three days, no one else has written me to say that I'm cruel and ruthless. See what a little civility can do.
Causes Jessica Inclan Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org