Friday, November 5, 2010

Mr. Manners has a few words for Mr. Moss

I have to admit, I'm feeling old today.

Most days, when I hear the sound of my voice, I picture a guy who's maybe thirty-one years old, 160 pounds...and then I look in the mirror.

But today, that's not the reason I'm feeling old. It has to do with something I heard about the other day, which reinforced my belief that our young folks are quickly losing their grasp on manners, politeness and basic human decency.

Randy Moss, a thirty-three-year-old, All-Pro wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, was released this week following a public tirade during a team meal. Every Friday, the team receives a free catered lunch in the locker room, and apparently, Mr. Moss wasn't pleased with the fare. According to one of the food servers, Moss approached the buffet line and immediately began screaming, "I wouldn't feed this (expletive) to my (expletive) dog," and stormed away.

The rest of his Viking teammates stood dumbstruck and embarrassed at the boorish display and many apologized to the caterers. Moss was jettisoned from the team three days later.

I'm not going to generalize about an entire generation due to the behavior of one out-of-touch diva who catches a football for a living. But tell me if you haven't noticed an erosion in basic etiquette in the past twenty to thirty years.

As parents, we continually badger our kids to say "please" and "thank you," especially to those outside the immediate family. And I know how much it embarrasses my ten-year-old daughter when I hand one of her friends a grilled cheese sandwich (sharp cheddar only, no crust) with tomato soup (made with milk, not water), allowing roughly ten seconds to receive the "thank you." After that, I won't hesitate to tell her she's welcome. Ungrateful little...

My kids are still working on saying "excuse me," in the appropriate situations and eating with their mouths at least seventy percent closed, but the pleases and thank yous are finally part of their vernacular.

Why have manners evaporated? Well, I've got a theory, and it starts with anonymity. We text, we email, we comment online under dumb pseudonyms like "Reflections of a Shallow Pond," and human contact is lacking. When we're driving and someone cuts us off, we don't hesitate to honk and maybe flip them off. But imagine walking down the sidewalk and someone walks right in front of us, forcing us to alter our path. Are we going to scream at them and gesture in a threatening manner? Maybe if it's Rush Limbaugh or Alex Rodriguez, but otherwise, I doubt it.

It's because we're human, we can see that they're also human and neither of us is insulated by metal, a high rate of speed and anonymity.

It's time for me to take my own advice. It's so easy to email someone, especially at work, when Ive got a problem with them, but so difficult to confront them face-to-face. I consider it sport to cut someone off in traffic as retaliation for their bad driving, but I need to try to see their face so the urge passes.

And even though I don't want to, I really have to be nicer to clowns.

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