A while ago, I went to see the music-opera-play American Idiot at the Hammersmith Apollo.

Whilst the performance itself wasn’t particularly memorable, a certain incident five minutes after curtain up got me thinking. After the first song, not surprisingly American Idiot, Mum turned to my brother on her right and checked he was okay, as strobe lighting usually irritates his eyes. The deafening applause meant that I couldn’t hear what she was saying, only later did she tell me, however the woman sitting behind her clearly heard, as she leaned forward and shouted ‘Shut up! Stop talking!’ Her shout was loud enough for others in both our rows to turn their heads and left the three of us in stunned silence.

Is this now how we interact and talk to each other? Is this the manner in which it has become acceptable to convey ourselves? Of course this was an isolated incident and who knows what led the woman to speak as she did; perhaps Mum’s talking, although inaudible to me, was deafening to her; perhaps she wanted to ensure her talking wasn’t going to disturb her evening further; perhaps she didn’t think about what she said or how she said it, or she was just irritated and having a bad day. I will never know, but this isolated incident made me aware of other people around me and how I talk to and interact with them.

…’Please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ seem to have abandoned the English language…

Since then I have noticed a distinct lack in general courtesy around me. I have been on the tube, trains, a transatlantic flight, ski lifts and countless streets, paths, cafes and restaurants, all with my feelers out. Time and time again I have been disappointed. What has led to a general destruction of the general manners we were all taught as children? ‘Please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ seem to have abandoned the English language. In my extensive research I found it wasn’t just the usual culprits – kids who are still learning the basic rules – but people of all ages who really should know better.

At the theatre, it’s even worse; we are force to sit amongst people we don’t know and stay put for several hours. Often during that time we are distracted from the action on the stage by those around us. Is there anything more irritating then an especially poignant moment on stage being interrupted by a sweet wrapper two seats down? How many times is your vision blocked by someone walking over you, without saying ‘excuse me,’ to go to the toilet, only to repeat the offense five minutes later? What about people with really long legs, who insist on crossing them and essentially kneeing your crotch in the process? I could go on.

…’reality shows’ encourages the notion of cut-throat fame at any cost…

To an extent, the Americans got it right when they practically enforced a law that meant every ‘hello’ had to be immediately followed by ‘how are you?’ Whilst this is grating after a day full of meeting people, it’s something more than a mumble of thanks as you’re handed your coffee at Starbucks. Having said that, the recent proliferation of ‘reality shows’ encourages the notion of cut-throat fame at any cost, so where do manners and decency come into that? Rather, swear words, faux-violence and a general relaxation of manners seem to hold a more honoured place in today’s popular culture. Sounding like a real old boot, kids today seem to have higher priorities than learning basic courtesy, such as getting hold of the latest ipad or a sight of the singer de jour.

After a week of being sneezed on, bumped into, squashed and ignored, I’ve had about enough. Expecting common decency and manners shouldn’t be too much to ask of those we meet on a daily basis. It’s easy to forget, but it’s the little things that can make or break your day, like the woman at American Idiot. Who knows what a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ can do to someone’s day. I don’t believe in karma, but I do think that actions have consequences that are more far-reaching than we know. So next time you bump into someone, have a night at the theatre or are handed a steaming hot coffee, take a second to think about what you’re going to say, because it might just matter and who knows, you could really make someone’s day.

About The Author

University of Warwick graduate, Magazine Journalism MA student at City University. Most likely to be found at a gig, at a restaurant table or reading on my commute.

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