- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 14, 2002

A recent telephone survey by a research group indicates 79 percent of the people surveyed think Americans show a lack of respect and courtesy toward one another. This doesn't mean 79 percent of us are polite. It means we are rude and we know it. It's so easy to be rude, while being polite takes some effort. Perhaps we end up being rude because we are treated so rudely on a daily basis by others and feel that the best defense is a good, offensive dose of rudeness in return.
I suppose a telephone survey could be considered rude. It's an unsolicited intrusion into your life, and while you may agree to participate, you have been unnecessarily disturbed. We even have laws now where you have the right to prevent annoying sales calls from coming into your home. The telephone, particularly the cell phone, is probably responsible for a high percentage of the rudeness we encounter daily. When you hear a cell phone going off in a funeral parlor, you have witnessed rudeness at its highest level.
Of course, we have the convenience store clerk who majored in history and finds there is little demand for history majors in the world of commerce. Therefore, you are being waited on by someone who doesn't want the job and who feels your presence there is demeaning to him or her. As a result, you will be treated as an annoyance rather than a customer. Such an experience has an effect on you, and when leaving the store, you will most likely try to take the door off the hinge.
Have you ever noticed what goes on in a church parking lot after the service is over? How can you sink into parking lot rage 2 minutes after hearing the word of God? The automobile is high on the list of items contributing to the rudeness factor. Is there a day that goes by that you haven't had a narrow escape due to some the-road-belongs-to-me driver? Road rage is very close to the kind of rudeness one encounters at a 50-percent-off sale at the mall.
The survey maintained that rudeness is pretty much the same throughout the country. However, I believe, outside of a few rednecks in the South, that Southerners are much more polite than their Northern counterparts. There is no comparison between dealing with a convenience store clerk in the Carolinas and one in New York. When they tell me to have a nice day down South, they mean it. You can even be treated to a "Sir" or "Ma'am" now and then. These are terms that are unheard of north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Of those surveyed, 42 percent said the best thing to do is just walk away from rudeness. I suppose this is correct, but when that surly clerk tells me to have a nice day, I want to give him a "don't tell me what to do" response. I guess revenge has a lot to do with the proliferation of rudeness. We have gone from "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," to "do unto others before they do it to you." In the future when I encounter rudeness, I shall simply turn the other cheek the one with the infectious dermatitis.

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