When we were children we had played a game called “Mother May I”. Someone would play the Mother and when the Mother said to take 2 steps you would respond with, “Mother May I?” and she would say, “Yes you may” and then you got to take your steps. If you happened to take steps before asking politely you had to go back to the beginning of the line and start over. The first person to reach ‘Mother’ won the game.
I thought of this the other day when I began to realize how people don’t use courtesies anymore. While ordering food it isn’t, “Could I have the #3 with a Pepsi?” It is, “I want the #3 with the Pepsi!”. There is no longer the common niceness of, “Pardon me, I just wanted to grab this item behind you.” It is now, “I want this item behind you. You are in my way.” Sometimes they don’t say anything. The other day we were in the drive through and someone pulled off the road and stuck the nose of their truck between us and the vehicle in front of us so we couldn’t move forward. In other words, they cut in line because they felt entitled to that spot.
I told my husband to move up, honk his horn and let her know she couldn’t do that. He told me that this happens more than I’m aware and that it won’t work, they’ll just turn their head and ignore you. And she did, in fact, she got mad at US for being in the way when she tried to pull all the way in.
When did people go from being grateful and courteous to demanding and entitled?
I watched this documentary film once where the city gave all these families in need brand new apartments, furnishings and all, fridges filled with food, books on the bookshelves, sheets and blankets and clothes. It was amazing! And the first thing the woman thought upon entering her amazing new apartment was that those people weren’t going to make her live on the lower floor. There wasn’t the overwhelming gratefulness or appreciation, the first thought was that she wasn’t going to take the gorgeous apartment if it was on a lower floor that she wanted.
I’m reminded of this entitlement possession that is taking over the world every day I leave my house. I will be crossing the street with my son and there will be drivers upset that I am walking across the crosswalk and obviously taking up THEIR space so the moment I get near the curb they will zoom past me and my child without considering the safety ramifications I will be trying to push my cart down the aisle during grocery runs and have to wait for 5min (or turn around, go down another lane and then back through the other end) because the person doesn’t feel they should have to move their cart from the middle of the aisle while they are looking for something. I actually had someone get mad at me when I moved their cart over so I could slip by! It isn’t the action that rubs me the wrong way so much as the mindset. People get so absorbed in themselves and what they believe they deserve or are entitled to that the concept that other people exist in the same space becomes null.
The words, “May I?” become “I Want!”
Common courtesy goes a long way. Saying “Thank you” to your server when they bring you a glass of water is nice. Yes, it may be their job to bring you the glass of water, but they still deserve to be treated with some decency. And again, being nice and saying “Could/Might/May I have the jelly doughnut?” to the doughnut lady instead of “I want that jelly doughnut! Give me that one.” is a common courtesy to someone who spent all morning while you were sleeping making doughnuts to support their family. Or perhaps instead of saying, “I need behind you, you are in my way.” You could say, “Excuse me, could I slip behind you for a moment? Thank you.” And maybe, just maybe, you could actually go look for someone in the store that could give you assistance rather than stand there getting mad because someone hasn’t miraculously happened upon you and plot how you are going to toss things off the aisles until someone comes.
Yes that happened, at Home Depot.
Our children grow up learning from example and if you teach them courtesy rather than entitlement I honestly believe it will make a great difference in their lives as well as others. Or at least it will make me not feel like telling you to go back to the line and start over.