Tuesday, April 17, 2007

politeness and deference

I think I'm fairly polite by nature, probably because my parents brought me up to be - I remember once going to a school jumble sale with my mother and for some reason, as a girl called Beth walked by (at one point I remember, incidentally, writing some pre-adolescent graffiti to the effect that I rather liked Beth) I sniffed loudly, in a kind of 'I'm pretty cool' kind of way (no, no idea why I thought that was cool either), rather than say hello. I got roundly told off.

One of the pleasures of moving down to Brighton and out of London all those years ago was finding that it was normal, rather than rare, for people to say 'thanks' to bus drivers. Occasionally, often when there are kids on the bus, this doesn't happen, but I've noticed that if you're in the middle of a line of passengers departing and no-one in front has thanked the driver, if you do so everyone behind will automatically do the same. I don't believe all this bullshit about British values, but I like to think that politeness is a universal value, or at least it should be.

I say 'hello' and 'thanks' whenever I buy something in a shop. If it is Easter, I saw 'Happy Easter', too, and if it is Christmas I make a point of giving festive good wishes too. It's not actually deliberate, it's just habit now. If I pass an old person in the street and they don't look straight away, I always smile in a friendly manner. I have a slightly different smile, which is intended to convey friendliness and slight flirtation, for pretty girls - although I'd be mortified if I ever make a girl feel uneasy. I only smile in a friendly manner if someone catches my eye in a similarly open way.

Tonight, I did notice that I did something I don't normally do, which is after getting home and reading on my bed for so long after work that I lost the energy to cook, I walked down the road to buy myself a takeaway curry, and, on the way, did not just smile at a man who walked past, but I wished him a 'good evening'. I suppose the reason I did so was that he was dressed in ecclesiastical cloth - wearing a long robe with a large silver cross hanging around his neck. He was standing outside the church on Davigdor Road. I don't know why the fact of his holding a position in the Church made me more polite (or deferential) than I otherwise would be, but either way he grinned back and returned the greeting - which was nice.

I'm not religious, and by no means assume that everyone in the Church is a person of real benevolence (although nor would I ever assume the contrary), so it was a bit strange, but not at all unpleasant - in truth, I think I would like to be able to treat everyone this way, but like Mick Dundee, who once tried that very thing in New York City, I think I would quickly be dismissed as crazy if I gave it a go.

8 comments:

Laura said...

What a pleasant tale! Its a bit like when you go for a walk in the countryside- everyone you pass usually says hello. Its a shame more people don't do the same!

Dave said...

Don't ever look at me in public again you Gayer

Dave said...

HAHA! only joking! everyone visit my Blog! www.leverpulled.blogspot.com !! HAHA LOL! OMFG! ROTFL!

jonathan said...

You wouldn't say that if you were one of the poor girls on the receiving end of one of my "slightly different smiles, intended to convey friendliness and slight flirtation"...

jonathan said...

Ah, Dave, you were writing your very very funny messages while I was replying to Laura's comment, so it was to her that I was directing my previous comment, and a bucketload of suggestive winks.

As for you, young man, if you will come round to my house, demand to sleep in my bed, and then spread COMPLETELY UNTRUE rumours about me sleeping in my jeans, then you will have to put up with the odd glance, I'm afraid.

Dave said...

HAHAH - You were not in your jeans- You were wearing a full dinner jacket with spats that you spent 20 minutes changing into!!! I, on the other hand was dressed suitably as a boy scout replete with woggle and ironing badge

jonathan said...

You see! Doesn't it feel much better telling the truth?

Anonymous said...

Great blog, jon.