I drive my children to school. Luckily I share the morning trip with a friend and so I only do the early run one week out of two but I pick up every night, often twice.
The school is on a busy road and I have to turn right out of the driveway to continue my journey home. Lots of people approach the driveway from the left and have to turn in across the flow of traffic.
As we are British a sort of etiquette has developed. If you are approaching from the right and need to turn in left to the driveway you hold up the traffic behind you. Anyone approaching from the left then also holds up their flow of traffic. One car is allowed to turn right out of the driveway, then the car approaching from the left turns in across the flow and finally that person who is coming in by turning left does their manoeuvre. Please keep up.
This does mean the car turning in left has to wait. But in a few minutes- after they have disgorged their offspring, someone else’s offspring, a cello and two violins, four games bags and 4 school bags (that’s probably just me though- is it wrong that I feel a frisson of pride as we execute this?- and only on a Monday)- they will be that car trying to turn out right onto a busy road in rush hour. It is a kind of school run Karma… you give, you receive.
The system works. Mostly. And the reason it sometimes doesn’t work is that some people (one might call them selfish) do not adhere to the rules. And this drives me utterly batty.
Either these other people are new to the school (although that is highly unlikely except in September when an element of leeway is given), stupid (quite possibly, I worked out the turning in/ turning out etiquette within about two days of beginning this school run) or ill mannered.
And if there is one thing I cannot abide is it is bad manners. I am a fairly tolerant person in many ways. I accept that all people are not the same and come with their own unique characters. They will view the world differently to me (I married a Tory supporter for goodness sake) and approach things in a way possibly alien to me. But I believe that one thing should be common to all of us. The ability to be polite.
It begins with the p’s and q’s. My children had this drummed into them from as early as they could speak, and then as quickly as possible progressed from merely adding a please onto a demand to asking in a full sentence beginning ‘Please may I…’. And importantly I speak to my children in the same way. Asking politely and thanking routinely. The first time. I do escalate to demanding once I am ignored a couple of times.
So that is important but it is also a whole host of other things.
Being on time, not pushing into queues, enquiring after people’s welfare, replying when spoken to, smiling at people who are helping us, cashiers, shoe fitters, ticket collectors, sending apologies for any absence, holding doors, allowing other people to go ahead of you (but clearly not in a queue unless, say, I have an entire week’s shopping and they are buying a toothbrush), replying to party invitations within the designated timeframe, dealing with paperwork in a timely fashion. I could find many more I am sure.
Often I get comments in my offsprings’ reports or at parents’ evenings that they are well mannered and polite. It is not something I need to hear. I find it deeply depressing that this makes them unusual enough for it to be commented on.
I don’t know about you but interacting with a polite, well mannered individual, whatever their age, gives me a warm glow. Whilst the opposite leaves me spitting feathers.