THE BLOG

Do Manners Still Maketh Man?

03/06/2014 08:58 BST | Updated 02/08/2014 10:59 BST

Even if you don't work at the Ritz or aren't a chauffeur, do you find yourself constantly opening doors for people?

Despite the fact that your food could go cold, do you patiently sit at the restaurant table until the rest of your party have all been served?

No matter how boring, inane and ill-conceived the opinions being espoused in a conversation, do you wait for the person who's speaking to finish what they're saying before you start talking?

On a busy train or bus, do you regularly give up your seat to those who need it more than you?

When someone enters or reenters a room, do you automatically get up to greet them? Maybe not if they've only popped into the kitchen to make a cup of tea between the ad breaks. Unless, of course, that someone is very big news indeed. Someone like the Queen.

Who do you have to be for the Queen to make you a cup of tea, I wonder? A President? A Prime minister? The King of Tonga? Probably none of these. In fact, it's doubtful that Her Majesty has ever made anyone a cuppa in her whole life-especially during any TV ad break. Still, there's always a first for everything. So if she fancies putting the kettle on, I'm around the SW1 area next Thursday at 3pm.

Although Ma'am should correctly be pronounced in the same way as one would pronounce ham, I actually hate ham. Therefore, if she's also thinking of rustling up a few sandwiches, our reigning monarch should be notified, via a handwritten note on Smythson stationery and NOT a text message, that I much prefer meat paste. Oh, and I like the crusts cut off. Doesn't everyone?

Unless you've been brung up proper like- few of us increasingly are- you might not find yourself forever wondering exactly what has happened to common, good old fashioned courtesy?

However, the passing of the years does seem to have resulted in the passing of many of society's mores.

That's not to say that we should return to the days of people doffing their hats at each other in the street. More's the pity. It definitely beats a high five. Or that AA men should go back to saluting their customers. Or that telephones should always be answered with "Hello, Mayfair 7500", regardless of whether you actually reside in Hackney.

On the other (gloved) hand, more politeness and displays of good manners certainly wouldn't go amiss.

"Can I help you?", "Let me get that for you", "No, please, I insist, after you". If only they were heard a little more frequently than "Oi! watch where you're going you old duffer.", "Look love, we're all in a hurry here." and "Shut the f**k up".

No matter what, there's time for civility in our busy and frantic lives. Time to wish someone good morning. Time to enquire after their well-being. Time to hold on while everyone else gets out of a lift instead of barging through mothers with pushchairs in a desperate attempt to exit first. You know, for once, it's OK to be last.

The problem is that simple acts of urbanity are frequently treated with suspicion. Try smiling at complete strangers. Their immediate reaction is one of 'Christ, I'm about to get mugged' followed by a quick reach for the pepper spray and a swift kick to the goolies. Surely we haven't got to the stage where it's best to frown and keep your head down?

I believe that the blame for our ungracious behaviour, although not entirely, lies in the way we now correspond with each other. E-mail being one of the main culprits.

According to Jeff Bezos, and he should know, "E-mail has some magical ability to turn off the politeness gene in a human being". This is slightly ironic for anyone who has tried to get through to Amazon Customer Services, but his point is very well made.

How often have you read an electronic message and thought 'wow, that's a trifle curt.' You find yourself wondering precisely what you've done to offend your mother.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if along with all the other keys on the smartphone or computer keyboard, there was a politeness key? Its symbol could perhaps read 'eti' for etiquette. Once pressed it would transform what had been typed from something rather boorish into something altogether more elegant and cordial, as if written by Edith Wharton.

Unfortunately, a new age of gentility in the future is about as likely as a new ice age. I fear there's no turning back from our current frostiness. But that doesn't mean we should entirely give up on being nicer.

Come on, just occasionally, let's slam the door in the face of rudeness.