Wednesday, 24 June 2009

That's not manners is it...

Somehow or other I came across Why manners matters: the case for civilized behavior in a barbarous world by Lucinda Holdforth.

It's been a fascinating read with many sections resonating. But, with my fairly new living conditions, the one that got me was right at the beginning with the author discussing living in a block of units but not 'succesfully relating to each other' and each being 'urban hermits'.

There are 12 units - three blocks of four - where I live, and a house behind them that shares our driveway. There is at least one empty unit, but still that's a lot of humanity in a reasonably small space. I know the name of one of neighbours, because the people (of indeterminate number) in that unit are a bit suspicious of people around the area (could be fear or guilt, trust me...). I know the name of another neighbour, because he does the lawnmowing and needed to check in about payment...

I know there's someone next door who has small boys (two or three, I'm not sure) who visit most weekends - you can tell they're there, because the noise level goes from 'is the place occupied' to 'herd of elephants'. But those boys are the only people who have willingly said hi to me in six weeks.

I don't want to develop a close friendship with them all, but being able to say 'hi' and have it responded to would be nice - civilised. I've tried. I introduced myself as a walked passed a couple I saw cleaning their car one weekend, but they just said 'oh, you've just moved into number 11' - it was only latter I learnt his name (the lawnmowing guy).

If it wasn't for lights going on and off, I'd swear most of the places were empty. You just don't see anyone! The boys visiting #10 are the only ones outside. No one uses the clotheslines (including me, admittedly, but I don't hang my washing up on the balcony for it to blow all over the place). Tell a lie, I did hang towels up one day - but the weather hasn't quite been up to it, really!

I'm an urbanite, born and bred, but still say 'hi' to people I walk past on my way to the bus early in the morning - some even say 'hi' back. There's one woman who just glares at me, so I don't dare say a word. There's a man I often wait at the bus stop besides. Over the last couple of days we've started smiling and saying 'hi' to each other. Small steps.

I say 'good morning' or 'hi' to the bus driver. I say 'thanks' and wave when I get off the bus... I usually say 'hi' to shop assistants, too, and 'thanks' - and try not to impolitely have conversations with others while I'm being served. Doesn't always mean I'll chat to the assistant - but I'm not ignoring them or treating them like robots or slaves...

Is it so hard to treat our fellow human beings with civility and politeness?

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