What Happened to Please and Thank You?

I’ve just arrived in Seattle for the Gnomedex conference. The biggest thing to stand out so far is the courtesy, or more accurately lack of courtesy, from fellow travelers. Given this trip is my first to Seattle, I was surprised at how strongly I felt about writing on the issue. Not that it hasn’t been commented on before, but when exactly did people become so rude? Do saying “please” and “thank you” require that much effort? I probably wouldn’t have been as irritated if not for two passengers seated next to and in front of me on my flight.

Already in my aisle seat, the lady who had the window seat boarded with some odd shaped package, which would never fit in the overheard of a full-size plane, let alone our smaller aircraft. She didn’t give me an opportunity to stand and make way for her. Instead, she tossed her package and purse across me and into the seat, then proceeded to force her way between my legs and the seat back, making for some very undesired contact with a perfect stranger.

My sardonic, “Sorry,” was airily brushed aside as she plopped into the seat next to me. She then proceeded to wedge her purse between the two of us without a word. I’m not sure she’d have moved it if the attendant hadn’t commented. Her odd-shaped package was shoved under the seat in front of me, clearly taking up more than her allotted space. With a straight face, she asked me if she’d left enough room. I didn’t even know where to begin. How to you take someone to task who doesn’t even realize she’s crossed the line? We spent the rest of the flight jockeying for position on the center armrest, neither of us saying a word.

The gentleman in front of me was the typical air traveler who believes that he can take as much space on the airplane as he wants. He shoved bags into two separate overhead bins, both behind him, to ensure a pleasant deplaning experience for all. I had placed my bag in the overhead directly above my seat. Unbeknown to me until I replaced an item in my bag, he had shoved it backwards to make room for his. I seriously contemplated throwing his bag on his head. Instead, anxious to get to Seattle, I controlled my wilder impulses and simply did a little shoving of my own to relocate my bag to its original spot. Petty? Hell yes, but at that point I was so taken aback, I’m claiming the devil made me do it.

I suspect this behavior wouldn’t have been as noticeable if not for the absolutely stellar service and courtesy I received from Horizon Airlines and Inn at the Market, my new favorite home away from home. Horizon Airlines’ staff, both on ground and in the air were friendly, helpful, and service-oriented, a direct contrast to previous flight experiences on other airlines. I haven’t had an airline offer me more treats or beverages than Horizon in the last five years. There were zero calls for “correct change” because they didn’t charge for anything. Even more fascinating, all passengers were offered a refill of their beverage as the attendants made their way back down the aisle. We actually left on time and arrived early. When was the last time that happened to you?

When I arrived in Seattle my taxi deposited me at the hotel where a helpful attendant directed me to the front desk. I wish I could remember her name, but the lady who checked me in assured me my room was ready, here were my keys, and the information for my free wi-fi access. Welcome to Seattle.

Like all the other words we’ve treated poorly, “please” and “thank you” make a huge difference, particularly when they are meant. I remember the people who make that little effort, and I’m impressed when people in positions of authority practice this courtesy. John Wanamaker, a well-known businessman and later the Postmaster General, made the point that, “Courtesy is the one coin you can never have too much of or be stingy with.” (link)

Repeat after me, “Courtesy, literally, costs you nothing.” Wouldn’t civilization be a little bit nicer if we heard “please” and “thank you” more often?



5 Responses to “What Happened to Please and Thank You?”

  1. August 9, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    A wonderful well written post. I only hope now that more people will read it. 🙂

  2. 2 Britt
    August 9, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    I suspect some people might accuse me of not showing courtesy by pointing out others’ discourteous behavior 🙂

  3. August 9, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Those are usually the people you made feel guilty in the first place.

  4. August 10, 2007 at 7:06 am

    I’ve been thinking about this also…picked up a book lately about 55 things to teach students, written by a teacher who was raised in the South. I don’t have the book in front of me, but I was thinking that it would be nice to know how I’m SUPPOSED to behave, and how those values get instilled in people.

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August 2007
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