Today, Hubby and I picked one of our favorite spots for lunch, and the food did not disappoint. It was difficult to enjoy the meal or focus on the conversation, however, as the booth behind us included a coterie of squealing, jumping children and, unfortunately, two adults oblivious to the disruption. From there, we walked into two retail stores, but not before navigating through the cigarette smoke haze emanating from the man puffing away right by the front door. Once inside, I encountered four dogs, all with different owners, walking around. Who knew dogs shopped at Crate & Barrel?
I was raised to understand that part of good manners is respecting others’ comfort. That means you conduct yourself at appropriate volume levels in public spaces, like restaurants. You don’t wear noxious scents or smoke where your bad habit or bad taste congests others. And, perhaps most of all, you don’t bring your animal into a retail store, unless it is a pet store.
I’m glad that folks go to a restaurant and have a great time. I’m also glad that folks take their small children and older kids out. Young families have every bit the right to enjoy public spaces as much as I do. That does not mean, however, that you have a license to disrespect others’ presence. If your child or children are being loud, you correct them. You stop it, or you leave the restaurant. It’s really that simple. Yes, children are loud, and no one expects a parent to have the ability to mute young children. However, when your children are becoming a repeated nuisance, you are the adult. It is your job to require good manners. If you cannot achieve that, for whatever reason, you leave. There are no exceptions.
Similarly, just because you smoke doesn’t mean everyone smokes. I have no problem with smokers, as long as they keep the carcinogens to themselves. I’m a little baffled by those who smoke around others. You must know you are doing something that bothers others, yet you continue to do it. This is also known as a definition of rudeness.
Finally, we come to the dogs. I will own the fact that I am no fan of dogs. I understand I am in the minority, or at least it feels like that. I know and love people who love their dogs, and I say good for them. Dogs can be wonderful companions, and I’m glad they bring joy to so many. But, as cute and fun and dedicated and playful as they are, dogs do not belong in retail stores. Sure, a service animal is an obvious exception, but the reason they are exceptions is that most of us realize that the hygiene issues, the conduct and safety issues, and the respect for others’ comfort trump your shopping with Fido. I know you think it’s cute; it’s not. It’s entitled.
As much fun as it is to complain about others (and we must acknowledge the conscious or subconscious claim to moral superiority when doing so), we well-mannered are part of the problem. We suffer in silence. We don’t speak up, we don’t point out the boorish behavior. And, honestly, that’s probably for the best. It’s doubtful the ensuing conflict will help matters. More likely, you’ll be cursed at and seen as a prig. Even more importantly, those that allow their children to run wild in restaurants, that smoke in doorways, and that feel entitled to make a public space their private dog run probably won’t change. They’ll get defensive, they’ll rationalize. Few people want to acknowledge to themselves they’re being rude.
It’s tempting to think that, in this selfie-obsessed, social media culture where every idiot blogs about how right he is, selfish, rude, entitled behavior is on the rise. It’s hard to say; maybe I’m just getting older and grumpier. Perhaps technology just shines a light on a problem that has always been around, and always will be. That’s a deflating thought, but it underscores the ultimate truth about rude people: you really can’t change them. Manners are self-regulating, an agreed upon code of conduct, and, when folks decide not to play the game, well, all you can really do is ask to change tables, hold your breath, or leave the store. And, hey, if it makes you feel better about the inconvenience, hold your head a little higher, confident of your good breeding.
It’s little consolation in the moment, but, in the long run, living your life in a way that respects and considers others is its own reward. Say “please” and “thank you.” Hold doors open. Be courteous and respectful, even to those who don’t deserve it. Treat others as you would want to be treated. And, last but not least, don’t bring Fido into the store. Trust me, his wardrobe is set, and he doesn’t need that ottoman on clearance.