The “Lubricant” of Society

I heard it said once that “civility is the lubricant of society.”  I agree—and I’m beginning to think that it’s a lost art.  I’m sure you’ve probably noticed this too.

People are so busy now that they either don’t care, or are just too busy to even notice their lack of civility.  I think the real problem is this—when we feel that no one around us knows us, we have a license to do whatever we want.  It’s called being anonymous.  “They” can’t assign blame, because they’ll never know who you are, so it’s okay to do what you want—usually at the other person’s expense.

Not so.

This erodes society.  Manners, etiquette, and tactfulness make things run smooth. 

This week, while on the way to the airport, I stopped at the Varsity Restaurant; a famous hot dog place in Atlanta.  As I was walking in, an older lady was walking toward me.  She was about 25 feet away, and was walking slowly.  I walked through the door and let it shut behind me.  I walked about 3 steps and then stopped.  In that split second, I had a decision to make—do I go back and open the door for the lady, or just go get my food.

I went back and opened the door for her.  She walked towards me with the biggest smile and said a big, “Thank You!” as she passed through.  Why?  Because that sort of thing doesn’t happen much anymore.  She was treated as the lady that she is, and I felt like a million dollars because I’d done the right thing.  And it just cost me about 20 extra seconds of holding a door.

Another young man who was kind of rough looking was behind her.  He walked through the door that I was holding also, and said, “Thank you sir, with a smile on his face.”  I got a double blessing!

So if your Momma didn’t teach you, here’s a list that any Southern gentleman (or any gentleman for that matter) should be able to recite by heart:

  • Hold the door for a lady.
  • Give up your seat to a lady or a person who is handicapped if there are no other seats available.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “Yes ma’am” or “No sir” to someone older than you.  I even do it with people younger than me.  It shows respect for the person.  (I’m in Cleveland today and this is causing quite a stir!)
  • Your word is your bond.  Do what you say!
  • Open the door for a lady when she’s getting in the car.
  • Never ask what something costs.
  • Don’t cuss in front of others.  You are judged by the words that come out of your mouth.  Profanity shows ignorance, period!  It ain’t cool!!!
  • Share your umbrella, or at least offer.
  • Be punctual, but don’t be too early.
  • When you’re walking on the street with a lady, walk closest to the street to protect her.
  • Send a thank you note when you receive a gift.
  • It’s okay to let someone cut in line in front of you if they have just a few items to buy.  (Especially if it’s me!)
  • If someone drops something, help him or her pick it up—even if you don’t know them.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Put your napkin in your lap when you’re eating.
  • Keep your elbows off the table while you’re eating.
  • Wait until everyone is served before beginning to eat.
  • Always stand up when a lady comes to the table.
  • Pull out her chair and seat her if you’re close by.
  • It’s okay to help a lady with her coat or sweater.  She’ll appreciate it.
  • Smile at people.  It makes them feel good, and you’ll feel good to.
  • Use the word, “Please” when asking for something.
  • Say, “Thank you” when someone does something for you.
  • Turn off your cell phone when you go to the movies.
  • And don’t talk during the movie!  (Ya idiot!!!)
  • If you’re driving, don’t drive in the left-hand lane if you’re going to do five miles an hour under the speed limit.  Stay in the slower lanes.  (So I can get by you…)
  • When people are merging onto the road you’re driving on, don’t speed up.  You aren’t going to get there any quicker—I promise you.  It’s not a competition and you don’t own the road!
  • If you walk in front of someone, say “Excuse me.”  Same when you have to walk between people who are in a conversation.
  • Help a lady put her suitcase in the storage bin on airplanes.
  • Don’t stand in the aisle longer than you have to when boarding a plane.
  • Put the seat down when you’re through.  (That one’s from Sandy!)
  • And, (last but not least!) as Barack Obama says, “Brother!  Pull up your pants!!!”  Seriously, no one wants to see your underwear.  You look like a fool!

So that’s my partial list.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

It’s what my 90 year-old momma taught me many years ago.  It stuck and I owe her a lot!

(Did I forget one or two?  Let me know and I’ll add them to the list.  Thanks!)

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  1. Matt Fagioli
    Matt Fagioli07-13-2011

    That’s a great list. It’s so rare anymore. Just reading your list reminded me of how ‘old’ this sort of simple kindness seems now.

    • Robert Mallon
      Robert Mallon07-13-2011

      You’re right Matt. And it should never grow old…

  2. Fernando Herboso
    Fernando Herboso07-13-2011

    My dad was my teacher. .he was a gentleman and emulating his life has been a chore for me.. being respectful is second nature for me. .and punctuality is one of my good habits!
    Good list Robert. .
    I’m re blogging you again. . .I love to spread your “word”

    • Robert Mallon
      Robert Mallon07-13-2011

      Thanks Fernando. I could tell when we met that you had some good mentoring somewhere along the line. Now I know where!

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