Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yes, Please AND Thank You...humor about the lost art of being polite

Yes, Please AND Thank You!

Thank You. Two simple, meaningful words delivered in a tonally correct way. Culturally, we know we’re appreciated if we’re provided with those tandem words of gratitude. It’s our “Atta boy!” for a job well done, or something along those lines.

When I was a kid my brother and I were rigorously schooled by our parents to say, “Please” AND “Thank You.” Foretelling his future success as a high-powered business owner, he was quick to adopt this phrase as the most efficient path to getting what he wanted, particularly on Halloween. In an admirable economy of effort he would verbally barf out, “Trick or Treat! Please and thank you!” as he simultaneously proffered his ghoulishly large bag, at the ready for the requisite candy deposit.

Five years his junior, I can still see in my 6-year-old mind’s eye my brother, an early pioneer in the adventures of time management, and me, his hero worshipping sidekick, flying through the neighborhood. We were each in our own makeshift cartoon costumes, pillowcases clutched in our hands, yodeling out, “Trick or Treat! Please and Thank You!” as we scooped massive quantities of enamel-decaying treats into our multi-use percale sacks.

These days I rather feel that the two seemingly common, very meaningful words, “Thank You,” have been dropped altogether. Perhaps they will be discovered some day by future races as a hieroglyph on a cliff, right next to, “Kilroy Was Here.”

I mourn the missing in action, “Thank you” most keenly when I’m out and about shopping for wares. Now, I wouldn’t say I shop a lot – oh, okay, really? Who am I kidding? It’s not as if my husband is going to read this column. Let’s be real. If there were the equivalent of frequent flyer miles for shopping I’d be wintering in Monaco every year and summering in Cannes. It’s because I’m a giver and I like to do my part by contributing to the Gross National Product.

I tra-la-la amongst the purveyors of purchase-worthy goods, flinging cash hither and thither, like some sort of middle-aged flower girl, lobbing coinage instead of petals. I often find myself in awkward situations, waiting for that non-gratuitous, “Thank You,” believing that it will happen, much as Charlie Brown always believes Lucy will hold that football and not pull it away at the last second.

CLERK: “So, here’s your rust-resistant phalanges extenuator,” she chirps, handing me the bag with the aforementioned nestled safely inside.

ME: “Oh, good, I can finally get a grip now that I’ve got these puppies,” I crack as I raise the bag, lest we forget what item we’re talking about.


CLERK: “Okay, so see you later,” she says as she restocks the bags, lest I not take the hint that we’re done here.

ME: Relentlessly determined to provide a fertile ground which will bear fruit in the form of my two-word reward; phalanges extenuator gripped firmly in my phalanges, I confirm. “Yes, so see you later.”


CLERK: “Yeah, so you’ve got your purchase,” she barks in a rapid-fire cadence.

ME: “I sure do,” I agree, matching her verbally agile delivery.


Clerk: “Well, then…” she trails off, genuinely baffled as to my continued presence. She turns away in the proven, “we’re through here” method of ending an interaction.

ME: “Exactly,” I mutter, exiting with my head down, foiled again and hoisted on my own petard. Once more, I’ve lost the battle in what is the retail equivalent of a staring contest.

To borrow from the poet, Alexander Pope, “hope springs eternal” and I believe that all of us, including Mr. Pope, Charlie Brown and me are looking for the same thing; a kind word, a welcoming gesture, an appreciative attitude. As long as there is a pen with which to write, a football at which to kick and a kind word from which to espouse, the quest will go forward.

Luckily I can do something about this trend, implementing my own, perhaps grant-meriting, “Please and Thank You” program right here and now.

THANK YOU for reading this column and PLEASE do read all of my future columns.

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