Life

What Happened To Manners?

This week I did something very unBritish and unlike me: I got some noisy kids kicked out of the cinema.

Now, I hadn’t meant to get them kicked out. They’d wandered into our showing of Shazam, waving their phone lights around and chatting away as they found their seats. I gave them the benefit of the doubt as they’d come in late, so they couldn’t see the way to their seating. When they wouldn’t shut up, though, I did something I’ve only ever done once before and yelled ‘SHUT UP!’ at them. It died down for a bit, and then they started chittering again. My husband this time yelled at them, but they wouldn’t give in. Again, I yelled ‘SHUT UP, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT’, but to no avail. In the end, I gave up and found a staff member, who I asked ‘Could you just get them to be quiet please?’

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They came in just after I got back to my seat, and they somehow got the group to actually quietly leave. There was a tense moment where I could see them peering up, clearly trying to see who’d grassed them up, but then they left. Victory!

To me though, I spent the rest of the film seething. I like to think I’m quite a polite person. I was brought up to say please and thank you, to hold doors open, to stay quiet when I needed to be quiet. When I see bad manners in others, it makes me see red. Why wander into a film screening to just talk all the way over of it? What’s the point? You can do that outside the cinema for free, and that way you won’t bother anybody.

If I’d been yelled at to shut up in a cinema, I’d have died of shame. It’s unthinkable to me that I’d have to be yelled at three times, and I could still ignore it. How can people be so inconsiderate to others, when it’s so easy to be polite?

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I wonder whether I was brought up to be too polite. I admit, I have spent nights lying awake, terrified that I’d been accidentally rude to someone. I’ve apologised to people for the accidental slight I’d made against them, only to hear, ‘Oh, what, that? I’d forgotten all about it.’ I worry so much about upsetting others that it actually affects my own everyday life. Are rude people actually just people that are getting on with their everyday lives?

In some cases I think that’s true, but in others it’s clear that they’ve never learned basic manners. You see it every time you leave the house, whether it’s people queue jumping because they can’t imagine not being the most important person in the store, to standing in the way because they haven’t even thought about how they’re affecting others around them. They just don’t give a single thought to anyone other than themselves.

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I’m not sure whether this has always been a problem, but it’s certainly got worse in the last few years. We’ve all encountered people who can’t conceive of going out of their way to be kind or helpful to others. I remember reading a Charlie Brooker column, where he blamed this outlook on the media and advertising that we’re bombarded with now. The ‘Because you’re worth it’ school of thought that’s used to sell us everything from shampoo to luxury spa treatments.

There’s something to that, but advertising isn’t everything. In a world where it’s so hard to get help when you need it, it’s no wonder that you eventually believe you can only look out for number 1. Why bother going out of your way for someone else? They won’t do it for you. The problem is that leads to horrible manners that leave everyone around that person feeling worse off.

There’s no real cure for this mindset, although I truly believe calling out crappy behaviour when you see it goes a long way. When I was younger, I would ‘keep my head down’ because it was best not to make a fuss. Now, though, I see that allowed people to step all over me, because I wouldn’t fight back. Now, I’ll give out if I, or anyone else, is treated badly.

People don’t like it, as you’d expect. I’ve been called a bitch by a group of school kids who I told to stop being idiots and stop blocking the entrance to a shop. When a guy tried to touch me on my hen do and I yelled at him, I was told, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were a feminist’, in an incredibly sneering tone. It sucks. But the more we let bad behaviour carry on, the worse it gets.

Hopefully, those kids at the cinema learned a lesson. If you can’t be decent human beings, you’re gonna get kicked out of the film that you’d paid to see.

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