Be Mindful of Your Manners

The whole concept of good manners really seems to be lost on some people. To be fair, I’m not entirely exempt from that, but I’m not going to put myself on trial on my own blog. That would be crazy.

There are words and phrases that we were all taught as children (well, maybe not all) as expressions of politeness. They’re still commonly used today, but often in just the shallowest sense. They’re basically a way of saying, “Hey, at least I’m not a total asshole.” Let’s take a look at some common polite expressions and what they really mean today.

How are you: Along with its more informal variations ‘how’s it going?’ and ‘what’s up?’ or even the super casual ‘sup?’, this was meant to be a greeting. Not just that, but a small attempt at empathy. How are you? Tell me about what’s going on in your life. Nowadays, it’s pretty much the equivalent of hello.

Many times, I’ve had acquaintances pass me by with a smile and a cheery ‘how’s it going?’. None of them ever paused for me to tell them how it was going, though. Just the fact that they asked was good enough I guess? Nobody really wants to know about you. They don’t care if your dog just died or your house almost burned down. When you’ve just smiled and nodded at someone in greeting, you don’t want to be bummed out by their life story. It’s not an expression of empathy. It’s basically a lie.

Thank you: This one hasn’t really gone out of fashion or changed in too significant a way. Some people don’t even bother with a thanks, of course, and just accept your help/gift/whatever in silence. But they are the cursed ones, whose souls would be violently ripped from their bodies if they were ever to express gratitude, so they can be forgiven.

As an aside, I’ve used the phrase ‘thanks a lot’ as an expression of sarcasm so many times that I feel weird using it sincerely. If someone helps me out with something big, I just emphasize my thank you with a smile (or exclamation mark) or say ‘thank you so much!’. But saying ‘thanks a lot’ makes me feel like a jerk, even if that’s what I really mean. Thanks a lot, sarcasm.

As yet another aside, or perhaps a footnote, or some other term that makes me feel like a fancy writer guy, is anyone else really weirded out when people don’t acknowledge a ‘thank you’? It doesn’t happen very often, but I’ve had a few occasions where I thanked people for helping me and they didn’t respond to that at all. No ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘no problem’ or anything. A chill goes down my spine when I think about that, and I don’t know why…

Please: Is this still officially a word? Because I don’t hear it often enough. Most requests I come across are phrased as imperative, with no magic word attached. This is one of those instances where I occasionally slip up myself. But what’s up with that? Is please too old school?

Excuse me: Another phrase I don’t hear too often. Especially here in Dubai. If you’re blocking someone’s path, there are two possibilities.

One is that they will see the tiniest gap (say the one formed between the curve of your back and the wall) as an opening and will try to squeeze through, making pained and apologetic expressions along the way to try and convince you that they’re not shoving you out of the way (but they totally are). There are, of course, those who just shove their way through unapologetically, but they’re just trying to get away from the horde of wild monkeys that will tear them limb from limb. Wouldn’t you push people out of the way if you were being chased by homicidal monkeys?

The other option is for them to just stand behind you without any attempt to make you move. Maybe they’ll sigh or click their tongues, or perhaps roll their eyes in the hope that somehow you’ll see them through the back of your skull. But they won’t say anything. When you do finally move out of the way, they’ll walk past shooting you a look that might turn a lesser man to stone. You, of course, will be thoroughly confused about why this person’s so annoyed when a simple ‘excuse me’ could have cleared their path, but that is why you are an enlightened being.

This is another one of those expressions that I’ve used sarcastically so often, that I always feel awkward when I genuinely want someone to excuse me. I can almost feel myself saying ‘excuuuse me’ while rolling my eyes every time I say it.

Sorry: Also known as the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card. I sometimes wonder why this word even exists. In fact, this word irks me so greatly that I think I’ll give it its own blog post. But to summarize, it’s a word that’s used way too often, and without any meaning or emotion behind it. It should just be preceded by the word ‘not’ in parentheses whenever it’s used.

And that, in a nutshell, is the state of good manners today. Words used insincerely or not at all, but very few that contain the politeness and consideration for other people that they really ought to.

Minding your manners is well and good, but I think it’s important to really think about what you’re saying and what it means. I’d much rather someone shove past me and wear their assholishness like a badge than throw out a token ‘excuse me’ in a horribly misguided attempt to be polite.

So please, be mindful of your manners. I (and much of humanity, I’m sure) would really appreciate that.

Thanks a l…err…so much!

Petstagram

As I’ve recently discovered, some people have Instagram accounts for their pets. On those accounts, they post pictures of their pets, accompanied by a caption that says something like, “Hi, I’m Puddles the dog!” or “I hate it when mommy takes me to the vet!”

It creeps me right the hell out.

I can’t really explain why. It just seems like a picture of a cute dog or cat stands on its own. Projecting your own thoughts on what your pet is thinking or saying in that moment just feels…wrong? Weird? Possibly insane?

Or maybe it’s just enthusiastic pet owners sharing their love for their animal companions in a lighthearted and goofy way.

I dunno.

I still don’t trust em…

Out to Lunch

Ah, it feels so good to come back to blogging after a short break. One week off is just what I needed to reorganize my thoughts.

Wait, what was the date of my last post?

November 3rd?!

No, that can’t be right…

Must be a glitch. Let me refresh the page.

Huh.

November 3rd.

Sonuva…

Looks like my little hiatus lasted way longer than I’d planned.

Oops.

Well, nothing to do but hop back in the saddle and continue the journey. After someone teaches me how to ride a horse.

Apologies to my readers and fellow bloggers for the disappearance, but I’m back now!

And better than ever! Or, at least, that’s the story I’m sticking to.

Artifacts

This assignment involved scanning through online history, such as old Facebook posts or blog drafts, to come up with a post. Basically, we had to use our past as a creative platform for something new, which is always fun. The thing is, I’m not the most ‘social’ guy online, and I’ve been on and off Facebook so many times that there are no old posts to look through (except in Facebook’s own database, I guess, where they’ll store that information for all eternity).

In today’s world, people are obsessed with documenting every mundane moment of their lives, creating a virtual shrine to themselves for others to gawk at. You might gaze reverently upon the pictures of someone’s lunch or be amazed as you see their smiling faces in front of some famous monument. It give you the opportunity to live vicariously through them, and creates a patchwork vision of their lives. When you’re stuck behind a desk all day, seeing an unending stream of vacation photos could make it seem like everyone else is having a party you’ll never be invited to.

Anyways, this post isn’t supposed to be a rant about social media (with which I’ve had a loooong love/hate relationship). Though it does make me think about legacies, and what we’re leaving behind. We’ve seen the election of the first African-American US president, advances in equal rights for homosexual couples, and serious discussions about gender inequality. Will all that be overshadowed by poorly worded cat pictures? Oh sure, the history books (or ebooks or holo-transmissions) will cover the major events, as they always do. But what image will we project as individuals? Will our grandchildren know us more for our contributions to society or for our super sweet achievements in online roleplaying games?

For me, it’ll definitely be the latter. My video games, action figures, comics and books will be the artifacts of my life. They’ll be like the treasures of the pharaohs. Maybe I’ll stash them away somewhere and design an elaborate treasure hunt for my descendants. They’ll probably think they’re going to uncover some sort of huge secret that might change the way they look at their family history, or even the world. They’ll think they’ve got some sort of Da Vinci Code on their hands. I wonder what it’ll feel like when they finally find it, and see that first Batman action figure scowling at them. It’s gotta sting when you find out that Grandpa’s just saying, “Gotcha, suckers!” from beyond the grave.

So…yeah. This post may have gotten away from me a bit. But I suppose it’s just another piece to add to the puzzle that is my online life. Maybe one day, someone will go through my archives to learn more about the stranger in this strange mind, and come across this post. I hope they read it, and I hope they react the same way I did when I re-read it myself:

“What?!”