Manners maketh man

[L]ondon’s cabbies, it would seem, have the undeserved reputation of being self opinionated and lacking manners. Driving all day on London’s roads it can hardly be surprising that common courtesies are not always observed; many times a customer has said that they couldn’t drive all day in London.

Keep CalmThe capital’s congested roads, riders wobbly around on Boris bikes and vans trying to squeeze past you on the inside might be a contributing factor to a recent YouGov Poll in which 52 per cent of Londoners said they would prefer to live elsewhere.

Gratuitous use of car horns, I’ve even witnessed a driver tell a pedestrian to get off a crossing when the amber light was still flashing; passengers incapable of stopping taking on their mobile to tell me their destination, working all day in London we seem to have become inured to our brash and discourteous ways.

So it came somewhat as a surprise when in Dorset recently that while walking my dog a complete stranger greeted me with a jovial “Good Morning”, which clearly it wasn’t as rain was just staring to fall. Before I had time to reply we have passed like ships in the night.

On buying my morning paper instead of the ubiquitous ‘no dogs allowed’ sign on the door, not only are mutts permitted, but receive a biscuit.

The trend nowadays for shop assistants to reply “No problem” to the simplest request, implying that some other shops would be less tolerant of my request as this would most certainly have been a problem, just hasn’t entered their lexicon.

In London I’ve had queue jumpers at garages going ahead of a dozen people carrying groceries to tender their exact money for petrol leaving everybody seething standing patiently in the queue. While in Dorset a trip to the petrol station is treated as a social occasion and every purchase of fuel is accompanied by four minutes of banter from behind the counter leading to long queues at the pumps.

The dictatorship of the mobile phone which drowns out all other conversation on trains in London, here in Dorset is benign, mainly due to the fact that the signal can best be described as contrary.

This little anachronism from a gentler age is a mere 90 minutes from London but seems half a century away. But I have to say when returning to the capital it was a relief to be not asked at a petrol station “Have you come far today?”

2 thoughts on “Manners maketh man”

  1. Just like individual people, communities have a personality, though in the case of a community, its personality arises as the sum of the personalities of its members. This in turn feeds back to individuals and influences their attitudes. Putting that more succinctly, manners are a two-way street: treat others as you would like them to treat you and usually they will.

    The collective personality of London, at least in the central area, is one of hurry, impatience and stress: everyone you meet seems to need to to somewhere else or to be doing something other than what they are doing now. On the bus for example, if a passenger gets on and has to fumble for change to pay for his ticket, the rising impatience of the other passengers becomes almost palpable.

    But… it doesn’t have to be like that. We don’t have to imitate the dour manners of others. We can smile, say hello and thank you and ask “how has your day been?” Surprisingly often, you will get a smile and a friendly response… and a friendly welcome next time.

    And all is not light and warmth out in the sticks. I know communities where people are just as short-tempered and rude as anywhere in London and where outsiders are treated with hostility. Nor should simple nosiness be mistaken for affability: just because people want to know where you come from doesn’t mean they won’t cold-shoulder you the next moment.

    One day, I fell over in the street, right in the City, when everyone was hurrying off somewhere else. What happened? People converged on me, asking was I all right, and I was gently hauled to my feet and not left until all were convinced I was indeed all right. Londoners, huh? Impatient, unfriendly and uncaring, eh?

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