I’m not a stickler for too many things—even though I’m a writer and grammar geek, I don’t even flinch when people say “conversate” instead of “converse”—but it irks my ever-lovin’ last merciful nerve when folks toss bad manners out into the world for everybody else to deal with. Sometimes it’s an unconscious, just-didn’t-know-any-better faux pas. And those kind of little social slips I can let slide with a raise of my eyebrow and a fleeting mental tsk tsk tsk. But more and more frequently, I’m bumping into this rampant breakdown of all things good and decent and courteous, behavior that’s a real eff you to the home training checklist that most of our parents and kindergarten teachers used to teach us.
It’s not that I’m vying to be the diva of refined social decorum. It comes from being raised in a household where rudeness—especially from a kid—was not only unacceptable, it was dangerous. Breeze past an adult in the house or at church without saying “hello” loud and clear enough to for them hear and see if you didn’t get yanked up by the back of your collar. Even when I brought friends home from college, they joked about my family being the most please and thank you-ing bunch they ever met. So coming from that immersion in super politeness, it could be just me. But I wonder if my fellow Clutchettes have noticed that manners have taken a massive, long-term sabbatical while bad behavior—like the following examples compiled with the help of my Facebook family—kicks all hell loose on the streets?
1. Not covering coughs and sneezes. It just can’t get any more basic than this but it happens all of the time. How hard is it to raise your hand or crook of your arm to keep personal germs… personal? Somebody launching a spray of nasty, funky snot and spit into the air from their uncovered nose or mouth is setting themselves up to get cursed out after they send everyone around them running for the nearest bottles of Lysol and hand sanitizer. Gross.
2. Loud cell conversations. For some reason, folks’ filters are put in the wind when it comes to talking on the phone in public. They give play by plays of the wild jungle sex they had last night, strategize the child support case they’re waging against their no-good baby father, speculate about the weird bumps they found around their happy place when they were getting out of the shower—all while they’re in the 15 items or less line or in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. A personal conversation need not ever become public knowledge but for some reason, folks get real caught up in conversations that put their business on blast.
3. Standing too close at the cash register. Unless you’re planning on chipping in on the bill when that total rings up, there’s no reason for anybody to be standing in the back pockets of someone paying for their items at the store. Put that stuff on the belt if there’s space and then make like Onyx and back the heck up. No one wants anybody breathing down their neck at the ATM so the same goes when they’re punching in their pin on the little card device at the Shop & Save.
4. Letting it all hang out. Ill-fitting clothing is 1) a slap in the face of fashion and 2) an awkward insult to the people who have to lay eyes on it. I don’t care what nobody says: a woman with her 38 DDDs hogging all of the available oxygen in the room in a shirt that is vacuum-suction tight and five inches too low is just as rude as a little dude with his pants sagging mid-thigh and his booty flapping in the breeze. It’s an abomination to all good thoughts to look up and realize that the only thing separating you from some random guy’s wide open butt is a paper-thin pair of dingy cotton boxers.
5. Failure to launch (out of your seat). This one grinds my nerves down to the root: not standing up for elderly people, pregnant women and (for men) women in general on public transportation is fodder for a whole other article in and of itself. But it’s a sad, sad state of affairs when an 80-year-old man with a cane or an about-to-bust lady with child struggles onto the train or up the steps of the bus only to be left standing by a whole row of folks sitting defiant and not willing to do the right thing. At least offer.
6. Acting like you’re at the carry-out. You didn’t bring so much as a bowl of Chex Mix or a six-pack of sodas to your boyfriend’s family function but you have three Tupperware containers stashed in your purse for your own personal after party. You were wrong for coming empty-handed but, unless you were invited to do it, you’re super duper dead wrong for ripping off a piece of foil to take something home.
7. Letting your kids run wild. Nobody but you thinks it’s cute that Little Earl almost knocked down five innocent shoppers while he was playing a solo game of hide ‘n seek in the racks at TJ Maxx. If you didn’t look like you could whoop my behind up one side and down the next, I’d snatch him and shake some sense into him myself, but I’m forced to ask you to do it instead.
8. Facebook and Twitter etiquette. Some people don’t know how to act in real life, so that certainly translates to their presence in the big, wide world of social media. Posting naughty pictures of your ex’s man parts and tagging his new girlfriend or worse, his mother? Wrong. Making smart alecky, disparaging, just plain heffa-like comments on walls and status updates? Stop. Uploading unflattering pictures of your girlfriends just because you happen to look good in them? Rude. Your online activity is still a reflection of you so be ladylike, even in cyberspace.
9. Not speaking. Walking into someone’s house, parking your tail in somebody’s car, going to a function and hanging on the fringes without so much as a ‘hey, how you doin’?’” will surely make you the hot topic of conversation after you leave—and it won’t be about how cute your shoes were, either.
10. Smacking while eating. We’re all very glad that you’re enjoying your food. But c’mon now. It can’t possibly be your first and it’s pretty safe to say not your last meal—and even if it was, that would be all the more reason not to share it with the rest of us. Eat quieter and keep your mouth closed.
11. Driving with unedited music blaring. The beauty of riding around in warm weather is being able to feel the breeze through open windows but you ruin it for everybody else when you pull up to a red light blaring 50 Cent’s finest—especially when there are senior citizens or worse, kids in the backseat of the next car exposed to his every F bomb or B word. Multiply that ig’nance times ten if you’re piping porn through the TVs in your console/visors/headrests.
12. Pointing out to someone that they’ve gained weight. This one is not only dumb, it’s dangerous. You think said guy or girl doesn’t stare at the fruit of their love affair with Five Guys and chicken cheesesteaks each and every day? You ain’t shedding light on nothing they don’t already know. Ask about their family, their job, their neighborhood—heck, their watch or their earrings if you’ve got nothing else to chat about—and let that 75 pound weight gain be the pink elephant in the room that no one wants to touch. They know it, you know it, but sho nuff don’t nobody need to mention it.
13. Soliciting for charity. It’s one thing when homeless folks roll up asking for dough from cars stuck captive at the red light or sitting at the gas pump. But when employees working the register put you on the spot to donate a dollar to something like Children’s Miracle Network—loud and proud so you can feel real miserly if you’re forced to say ‘no’—it’s the equivalent of the cashier leaning over to announce to the line of people behind you that this loser is too much of a tightwad to care about the kids. In reality, you may be spending your very last $10 with nothing to spare and need a little fundraising your damn self.
14. Failing to control your umbrella. It’s bad enough that we’re on the out and about in the rain. But what makes it even worse is when you tilt your umbrella just so, so that the water goes splashing down on the person beside or behind you. Same goes for letting your wet albeit folded umbrella bump up against folks on the bus or train, or shaking it off when you get inside (why oh why did you wait until you were in the lobby on the nice, slippery floor to do that?)
15. Not acknowledging a gift received. There’s no reason why someone who takes the time to think of a friend, a loved one or a co-worker should have to wonder and theorize about whether you got the thing they sent to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pack of fresh gym socks or a book of diabetic recipes. Thanks are still in order for their thoughtfulness.
16. Public cussing. There’s a time and a place for everything and though peppering your conversation with four letter-riddled witticisms might be the norm at home, when you get outside of your pad you’ve got to be mindful that others might be offended by such unrefined word choices. There are kids, older folks and just a wide range of people who aren’t interested in hearing how many times you can cram the eff word into one Guinness record-setting sentence.
17. Blocking the aisle with your cart (or yourself). There’s no need to leave your basket sitting smack dab in the middle of the same path everybody has got to use to get to the bread and bottled water. It’s got wheels. Whatever you forgot and turned around to go get—take your cart with you.
18. Failure to communicate. Texting, Twitter and Facebook have made it so convenient to shoot your friends and family a little “howdy, just thinkin’ about ya” holler or random little thoughts you’d like to share with them, but when it comes to something major—the death of a relative, the breakup of a marriage or serious relationship, foreclosure on a home—you just can’t sum up the proper amount of concern in 140 characters or less. A message saying “Sry abt ur grandma. She was a gr8 lady” just doesn’t smack of sincerity.
19. Not holding the door. No one wants a door crashing in their face as they prance into their destination. Don’t be a hero and stand in wait for someone strolling clear across the parking lot. But for another person walking ten steps behind, it’s common courtesy to give them a few seconds to get to the entrance instead of letting them hustle up to eat your dust and kiss the glass door.
20. Taking too long to cash checks. You know how we do. We’ll post date it, we’ll give it to you and ask you to hold on to it until we get paid on Friday, we’ll write a reminder date in the memo line. There’s a whole set of time sensitivity rules when it comes to writing checks in the Black community. So if you don’t just go on ahead and take your butt to the bank so Aunt Ruby or Sister Jenkins can stop recalculating her checking account everyday, you run the risk of falling smack into the rude category.