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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

EDITORIAL: Remember When ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ Were Commonplace?


In ‍an age of immediate gratification and endless scrolling, are we forgetting the decorum of basic human niceties? Have we forsaken the two most common, yet powerful words, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? It’s been an observation, or rather a lamentation, that ‍has gradually gnawed​ my psyche over some years now. And Nyah, before you label⁣ me a curmudgeon, ⁣hear me out.

As a Shiawassee Street native, my anecdotes primarily spring from Schenectady, my forever⁤ home. Once named the city that “lights and hauls the world”, Schenectady saw a bustling community of General Electric workers, union men and women, who ⁢reminded one another, ‍”please pass the salt,” or “thank you for the pickles” at regular ⁢luncheons. ​

More than a mere habit, ⁣it was a sign of respect,‍ a way to acknowledge the effort of a fellow member in shared spaces. Opposite the primetime soap operas, where⁤ people yelled and slammed the doors at each other, we believed in maintaining harmony, and appreciating one another. Perhaps, it seems trivial attesting civilisation to simple courtesies, but today, it is a rarity worth a mention.

Consider our supermarkets today.⁤ Preoccupied with smartphones and⁢ the latest Tweet or⁢ Instagram update, the concept of acknowledging a fellow human ⁢being’s help or service with a ‘please’ ​or ‘thank you’ seems to be on⁢ the brink of extinction. ‍Just⁢ last week, while waiting in line at the ⁣Price Chopper on Eastern Parkway, I observed ten customers come and go from ‌the register manned by cashier, Margie. Amid bustling carts and⁢ beeping barcode scanners, ‌not once did‍ she hear a ‘thank you’ ⁢from any ‍customer nor a ‘please’ for Amy, the bagger.

Now, this tragic tale may seem a mere sliver of a⁢ global phenomenon, but it reflects the declining societal norms and respect for one another. Living in the fast-paced world of hashtags and swipe rights, have we begun to see​ ourselves as separate from the‌ rest of the community? Have we come to assume the services we receive come without any personal effort, almost comparable to⁤ a vending machine?

I recall back ⁢in the 80s, when a ⁢gaggle of‌ us neighborhood kids would frequent Johnny’s Hot Dogs on Erie​ Boulevard. I remember the ⁤owner, hefty, smiling Johnny himself, wouldn’t toss you a dog ⁣until you uttered a ‘please’. As we washed down the last of the chili ⁣with a swig of Vernors, we would pass the crumpled dollar bills over the counter with a courteous ‘thank you’. It was lessons like these that molded us ‌into respectful adults.

Schenectady, like the rest of America, has transformed rapidly. The era of rotary phones and party lines has given way to smartphones and individualization, pushing‌ the appreciation for human interaction to a forgotten corner. The auto factories and shipyards that once housed synchronous working of men and women have rapidly morphed into self-sustained ‌automation with humans in monitoring roles. Have these changes resulted in a behavior where common courtesies are deemed unnecessary?

Midst unprecedented advancements, let’s pause and assess, are we leaving behind more than just rotary phones and line-workers? The next⁢ time ⁢you find yourself at the supermarket or any establishment, look ‌into the eyes of the​ person serving you. Recognize their humanity. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Ask yourself, have these words lost their meaning, or ⁤have we?

These commonly ⁣used, yet powerful words have ‌the potential to work as bridges,⁣ connecting us to one another not just out‌ of formality, but out of​ respect and acknowledgment for each other’s efforts. Let’s reclaim ‘please and ‘thank you’ from their impending oblivion ‍and restore their stature above impersonal⁣ emojis and digital tipping.

In the words of my dear, departed mother, “manners maketh man”. Let’s⁣ continue to let them maketh us, in the real world, beyond the ‍screens. After⁤ all, in our digital age, where technological interaction has begun to surpass human interaction, preserving these small utterances of civility ‌serves‌ as a quiet but⁣ powerful rebellion against the encroaching coldness of the future.

So, the next ​time you’re at Johnny’s or anywhere else, toss a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ around. You’ll be surprised at ‌the ‍warmth they evoke, both in others and within you. That’s the ⁣Schenectady I remember growing⁣ up in, and I ‍wish ‌it could be a place we all could experience.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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