Thursday, July 9, 2009

Man in a Modern World

It's hard being a man in the modern world. The roles and expectations keep changing as the world keeps on turning. Sometimes, it's a good thing; other times, I'm not so sure. When you think you've found your place, you've got your groove, something happens that makes you realize that you're out of tune, out of step, maybe out of place with the rest of the world. It's all very confusing at times, makes me wonder whether I've lost my way or if I am being left behind.

I was at a dinner party when my cellphone rang. Ordinarily, I would've turned the thing off, but I had arrived straight from work and forgot to turn it off. I excused myself from the table and headed outside to have a short conversation with a friend, letting her know I'd call her back before heading back inside to rejoin the other guests. I returned to the table, sat down, only to have the host, a friend, ask if everything was all right. I replied that it was. When she asked who it was that called, I said just a friend.

She raised an eyebrow before telling me,"You always leave the room when you talk on your phone. It makes me wonder what secrets you're hiding."

That got the attention of the other guests, the table conversations stopped as they all looked at me. I just smiled, let out a small laugh and said, "It's just courtesy."

I could see the puzzled expressions on the other guests faces, but I didn't elaborate on my answer. The truth was, I didn't know a polite way to tell people that I thought it was rude to answer and talk loudly on a cellphone in the presence of company. A cellphone is just like a regular landline phone. The same rules of courtesy apply: Excuse yourself from company to answer a ringing telephone. A private conversation needs to stay private. Let your caller know that you're in the presence of company and unless it's an emergency or a long distance call, you will get back to them.

Not everyone wants to hear you talking on the telephone, putting out your business. Although, I don't think most people realize that when they speak on their cellphones in public, their conversation is heard by everyone around them. Sometimes, it's just loud and annoying. And I get irritated sometimes when I'm talking to someone and their cellphone keeps ringing, constantly interrupting the conversation. Usually, I excuse myself and move on. Partly, because I don't want to listen in on someone's call; and also, because I think it's a little rude to keep breaking a conversation with a person because of interrupting cellphone calls.

I feel the same way about texting while talking to company. It's just rude. Don't try to text or talk on the phone while in the presence of company. You may think that you're impressive, holding two conversations with different people, multitasking. But it's just rude. The person on the other line or receiving texts may not notice, but the pauses in conversation with company are very noticeable. You may not think so, but trust me, they're awkward and long pauses, and seeing you text or talk on the cellphone gives the impression that: One, you don't care. Two, you're being disrespectful, wasting the other person's time by not giving your full attention or participation in the face to face conversation. I just excuse myself and walk away in such situations. I figured, well, the texting or cellphone call must really be important, so let them focus on that.

I guess I'm old school. Never really thought of myself as such, but it's true, given how I've noticed that things that I thought were common courtesy just aren't so common anymore. I still open doors for women. At work, some of them stare at me blankly, wondering what I'm doing, holding the door open for them. Some just express shock that people still do that. A few have told me that I don't need to do that anymore. But I still do. It's second nature to me.

On the buses and trains, I still offer my seat to the elderly, the injured, the ladies and small children. Although, it's been quite a while since anyone actually took up my offer. Most people just smile and say they're fine and remain standing. Recently, I was on the bus with a friend. It was a holiday schedule, so there were fewer buses running, making for a crowded ride on this bus. An elderly woman and her daughter ended up standing next to our seats. I whispered to my friend that I was going to offer the elderly lady my seat.

My friend suddenly had this horrified look on her face. She narrowed her eyes and whispered fiercely, "Don't!" I was unsure if I had heard her correctly, but she continued, "Don't give her your seat! Why would you do that?"

I was a little surprised by her reaction. I didn't think the old lady looked dangerous. She didn't smell funny or look dirty, so I was confused by my friend's reaction. Was it just an issue of personal space? Did she not want to sit next to a stranger? Honestly, the bus ride was going to be about twenty minutes. I was unsure of what to do. I felt conflicted for a few minutes. Do I give in to my friend's demand, respect her wish? Or do I go ahead with my own intention? In five minutes, I made up my mind. I went ahead and offered my seat to the elderly lady, and in the corner of my eyes I could see my friend stiffening in her seat. She was not happy, but I didn't care.

The truth was, I would've felt terrible for not offering the elderly lady my seat. Even worse, I'd've felt upset at myself for not following my own instincts, doing what I felt was right. I am what I am. So I went ahead and asked the elderly lady to take my seat. She smiled, thanked me, and politely refused. I offered again, but she assured me that she was fine. I repeated the same offer to the elderly lady's daughter, but she also politely refused. I was happy that I offered. I felt better. My friend was quiet for the rest of the bus ride. Later on during lunch, she spoke, saying that she knew that the old lady would refuse my offer, that's why she thought I shouldn't have bothered. I just told her that I was being courteous.

I suppose I'm a relic of a bygone era. Times have changed. What used to be common courtesy is but a faded memory, almost irrelevant in today's fast paced world. It makes me wonder if I too am becoming irrelevant. It's hard to be a man in a modern world. The rules keep changing in the game we keep playing. Are there any winners? I'm not sure. I suppose I have a lot of catching up to do to keep up with this modern world, to find my place and try to fit in. But then again, I'm not sure if I want to catch up; maybe I don't want to.


  1. Don't catch up, Eros. You are a gem. A rare one, at that! I do the same (and I am a woman... at least, I was last time I checked). I always defer to the elderly, the incapacitated. those with small children, etc.

    I was raised that way and I will stay that way. Good manners are nothing to be ashamed of. And they are much too uncommon these days, which is very sad.

    Good on you! ~hugs~

  2. DO NOT CHANGE OR I WILL COME AND HUNT YOU DOWN! ;~D seriously, civility and gentility are far too absent from society these days, sugar! we may be old school, but so what? as, ponita said, good on you! xoxoxo

  3. I am with you on all of this . I also find it really rude if someone invites you round for a chat and then sit and they leave the television on and half watch it , unless you are going round to specifically watch something or just chill in front of the TV its just rude . stay out of step , it suits you :-)

  4. I think good manners are an essential quality in both genders. 'Thank you' is phrase far to underused in this modern society.

    Good for you. I bet your mama's a proud woman.

  5. Ponita, Thanks. You're absolutely right! Good manners are something to be proud of. And it takes incredible strength of character to be courteous and well mannered in today's fast paced world. Good manners are the hallmarks of class.

    Savannah, I totally agree with you about the loss of civility and plain old common courtesy. We may be old school, but we're classic and never go out of style.

    Beast, Oh, I can't stand that either! It's like, um, am I interrupting your soap time? Because I could be somewhere else!

    It's just as bad as people who call you on the phone, and then spend the most of the conversation yelling at their kids or trying to get them to talk on the phone with you!

    Roses, Welcome! You're right about people never saying 'Thank You' or 'Please' as often these days. I still use them, whenever I can when interacting with people. It gets you great service, earns you genuine smiles, and shows that you've got class, grace, and style.

  6. Hmm. I'm between two stools here. If someone has a loud, long, trivial conversation on their mobile while I'm with others in the same room, it's rude. But if they have a short, quiet, important one, it's okay. If they send a short txt while listening to me, that's okay, but a long message gets annoying.

    I generally leave the room to answer a call, not specifically out of politeness, but more because I want to hear the caller clearly over the sound of other people talking in the same room.

    I find it extremely annoying when people try to talk to me while I'm on the phone to someone else - especially if it's a parent with such a vitally important question as "Oh you're on the phone are you?" or "Who's calling?"

  7. Kapi, Emergency calls are totally excusable (and understandable). There are perks of leaving a crowded room during a phone call--you can hear better and speak without worrying about being too loud or other people overhearing your conversation!

    It is annoying when people pester you when you're using the phone! It's almost as annoying as being placed on hold for more than five minutes.

  8. That was stupid and insensitive of that dinner host to put you on the spot like that and not consider the fact that you are using your manners. I would do the same thing, in fact I did recently during a baby shower. I was talking to some people and I had my phone on because some guests didn't know the directions on how to get there. My phone went off and I stepped out.

    Our former boss would interrupt our meetings when his phone went off. Sometimes he'd answer it, sometimes he would see who was calling and announce to us in a groan that it was his ex-wife. He didn't last very long at that job.

  9. Tara, Yes, well this particular host has an affinity for gossip and scandal. I think she was trying to make dinner conversation more interesting.

    I hate it when the boss's cellphone keeps interrupting meetings! I'm thinking, yeah, we're all here because this is supposed to be an important meeting but you keep taking personal calls! Ugh, gets in the way of my work! Just send me a memo next time!

  10. I have to agree with the other commenters : Don't catch up! Politeness and manners seem to be going the way of the dinosaurs. It's no wonder this world is becoming more hostile.

  11. IDV, I hear ya! The world can be a pretty hostile place these days! Some days, it's a little challenging being courteous when everyone else is so rude, but then I'm not one to back away from a challenge; I'm stubborn sometimes, and the truth is, I can't change what I am. And I like that... sometimes :)

  12. Sing along ...

    Don't go changin'...We love you just the way you are.

    There is not a day goes by when I am not appalled by rude behaviour.

    They say Canadians are polite.


    I shall stop now before I go off on a rant.

  13. MJ, It is appalling how rude behavior seems so rampant these days. Some people are just ignorant and don't know any better. Others know better but don't have any class.

  14. Hats off to a true Suthern Gennelman :)

  15. Donn, And you are a classy Canadian gentleman.