Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

All We Ask Is a Modicum of Decorum

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

All We Ask Is a Modicum of Decorum

Article excerpt

A week ago, I broached the idea of "Random Acts of Rudeness" as a recurring feature. Readers responded with a slew of stories. I sensed from them a grim satisfaction akin to finally scraping something off their shoes.

Before I get into the details, let me share one respondent's concise manifesto on why manners matter.

"Attention to etiquette has been misinterpreted as highbrow snobbery," Christine Sidlo of Murrysville wrote, "when its true purpose is to guide us in showing consideration for those around us."

That's precisely the point I've tried to make my brother, The Incredible Dullboy, for decades. He'll do something -- never mind what, but it's the kind of thing that propels the plot in a Farrelly brothers movie -- and when I complain on behalf of everyone in the room or the car, he'll invariably respond, "You want me to be uncomfortable?"

Yes, indeed I do. Making a small sacrifice, being perhaps a bit uncomfortable to allow everyone else to be more comfortable, is the definition of manners.

Alas, my email shows a nation punctuated by people incapable of feeling embarrassment. The examples I shared last Sunday -- a businessman airing his sweat-drenched socks as he asked me directions on what became the longest one-stop subway ride of my life, a Downtown postal worker trimming her nails with a pair of large scissors at the counter -- now seem relatively mild.

I could devote an entire column to the matter of dress. Keith Kirchartz of Brentwood, old enough to remember his mother donning a skirt, matching jacket, hat, gloves and high-heeled shoes with matching purse to shop Downtown, now sees young women at the opera in cocktail dresses escorted by lugs in ripped jeans and T-shirts.

My own wardrobe often leans closer to Bo Duke than Beau Brummell, but "dressing for dinner [out] like you're going to clean the attic," as one put it, is all too common -- in both senses of that term.

Yet I can't dwell on dress when the file on nail filing is so thick.

"Nail clipping is quite common on the bus," driver Dale Alexander reported. "The 'click' sound drives me nuts."

Mr. Alexander once saw a guy remove his shoes and socks to trim his toenails, but there are worse places than a bus to do that. …

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