Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Miss manners

Is there such a thing as too good manners?

We’re all told how important it is to have good manners; say “please” and “thank you”, smile, ask how the other person is, not to offend anyone, etc. But I have actually begun to wonder whether or not it’s always the best thing to do. I mean, there’s good manners and then there’s being a door mat?

I used to be terrible at complaining at restaurants. I remember sifting through soup which resembled baby food in texture, and out of date milk in flavour. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself or to our table in this small, intimate restaurant. I was sure the horrid soup was an one-off incident and felt that I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. I know now I should’ve sent it back seeing as it was my money that I was spending on what I was expecting to be nice, tasty food.

If somebody bumps into me on the street, I always turn to apologise even when it isn’t my fault. I know it’s not my fault but I do it anyway. Why, I’m not entirely sure. Probably for the same reason I’d clean my house before a cleaner got in to make it easier for them to get to work. Same method in the madness drove me to clean my car before getting in professionally valeted and to do my hair before going to the hairdresser in case she thought I wasn’t looking after her creation well enough.

Yesterday I sat at my hairdresser’s chatting away when she asked me if wanted tea or coffee. Now anybody who knows me, knows that I truly love my coffee. My coffee maker at home is one of the ones which grinds the beans at the press of a button making the coffee so beautifully fresh it makes me wonder how I ever drank filter coffee. I don’t even recognise instant coffee as being coffee. So, when asked, I of course asked for coffee. I was presented with a mug of brown water with a drop of milk in it. I dutifully said “thank you” and took a sip. It was vile. Did I say something? No, of course not. That would’ve been rude. Or would it?

All this is utterly ridiculous, I know. But I’m not the only one doing it. I’ve seen it happen so many times in so many different places it really got me thinking, who do we think we’re doing a favour to by carrying on like this? How many women will walk out of their hairdresser of 8 years sporting a look they don’t like just because they don’t want to offend someone they’ve known for so long? It’s hardly going to be beneficial to you, walking around looking like something out of the 80’s, and certainly not beneficial to the hairdresser because everyone is going to wonder who did that to you and you are going to tell. That happened to a friend of mine who wore hats for a week and then changed her hairdresser to one who actually listened to her.

I have mended my ways since the soup incident. If I’m paying for something, I do want it to be the way I like it. There’s always the problem of overstepping the line and landing all the way across to the land of the obnoxious, but let’s not go there. Having worked in the hospitality industry I can tell The Moaner a mile away. The one who will, without a fail, find something to complain about. It’s usually the price, or size, or temperature of the food. I met a Moaner once who complained her soup wasn’t hot enough. I heated it up to a boiling point, brought it back to her and had her turn around and complain that now it was too hot to eat. What can I say? You wouldn’t have problems like that with salad.

Lack of manners can be just as irritating as having too much manners. Asking for something without adding “please” to the end of the sentence sounds rude. I find it quite fascinating how fast I adopted frowning upon people who don’t say “please” considering how my native tongue doesn’t even have a corresponding word. We have 48 for “hangover”, though. Us Finns, hilarious. Being met by the Americanisms such as “Lemme have the...”, “Gimme the...” and “I’m gonna have the...” makes me cringe. There’s no excuse for not being polite, especially if you’re speaking the same language. Some faux pas’ can be forgiven because there is a language barrier. “Please” barked at you in a German accent is going to sound aggressive no matter how much you try. I German friend of mine, a lovely, pleasant and polite young man still says “I will have...” rather than “I would like to have...”. Unless I’m there to correct him, obviously.

I think I’m done now...Thank you for reading. Do pop by again soon. Please.

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