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SOS! Whatever happened to Miss Manners?

Commuters waiting for a train.

Commuters waiting for a train. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Sometimes, I wish my arms were like a whirly bird’s propellers and I could walk down the street slicing and dicing away at all the rude and obnoxious people in my way.

I know that’s a bit extreme but give me a break; at my age, I need more than huff and gruff and muscles going south to deal with this in-your-face rudeness that’s becoming more normal by the day.

Every day it seems we are under assault by people with their micro-aggressions coming at us faster than snap, crackle and pop.

We all have bad days and many of us are guilty of being rude to others at one time or another. But the level of rudeness being exhibited these days is unmatched by anything I have seen in my lifetime.

People barrel into you, cut you off while driving, shove their middle finger at you, and curse you out at the drop of a hat with words that used to be relegated to bathroom walls.

And then there is the cringe-worthy stuff.

If you ride buses and trains, you have to put up with people having bare feet propped up on seats as if they’re lounging on the couch in their home watching TV. I don’t have a foot fetish and I am not interested in looking at anyone’s toenails.

Things that should be considered private, such as picking your nose or clipping your toenails and fingernails are done right in front of people without a thought to hygiene.

And forget about “thank you.”

I can’t recall the number of times I have held the door for somebody and they brush past me without so much as a nod as if they’re the ruler of Buckingham Palace.

It wasn’t so long ago when there was an unspoken general civility as people milled around shopping and went about their everyday business.

But what ever happened to “good morning, afternoon or evening?”

Where have the polite nods and mutual greetings gone?

These days, polite nods and salutations of “good morning” only seem to come from the smiling faces taking coffee orders.

It is so bad, a polite act of kindness is sometimes met with a surprised raise of the eyebrows by some recipients.

Maybe that’s why I am feeling a bit nostalgic with this column.

There was a time when men held doors for women, pulled out chairs for them to sit and young boys helped the elderly cross the street.

Of course, that was back in the day when men and women didn’t fight in public and publicly use curse words. Even the use of hell and damn spoken too loudly would bring side glances.

But these days, talking loudly and using bad language rules the day.

And we’ve all been trapped by “the talkers.”

Can somebody please just glue their lips shut - at least while I am around. I don’t want to be privy to what is going on in their private lives.

I don’t want to hear about their baby-daddy; I don’t want to know about their sex life; I could not care less about their money problems or what they cooked last night or the crisis they find themselves in.

And what is it about the big sign that says “quiet car” that some people riding Metro North don’t understand? Does the definition of the word “quiet” have to be added under the sign for clarity? Would that help?

I just want them to shut up.

But I fear it will get worse.

We are surrounded by people with this need to “share” their life’s experience with anyone within earshot.

That’s fine, but I don’t want to “share” - and I’m used to hearing about other people’s lives and problems through the grapevine.

But maybe that’s the problem. The grapevine has changed and I haven’t.

Maybe it’s me who is being rude by not wanting to “share.”

I don’t know about anyone else but, I, for one, am sick of rude people forcing me to take part in their lives.

But since they like to share - share this.

I am sending out an SOS and screaming for the return of Miss Manners.

Where has she and her lessons gone?

Right now, it seems like she’s been thrown off a cliff and is wandering lost in some deep cavern with common courtesy and polite behavior following behind her.

We need to find her quick and guide her back so we can return to a time when civility really mattered.

James Walker is the Register’s senior editor. He can be reached at 203-680-9389 or or