These days, convenience is so highly valued that sometimes it trumps simple things like basic manners and common sense. When dining out with my parents at a casual restaurant, my 87- year-old father went to sit down and was told by a middle-aged, able-bodied woman that she had already claimed the only free table. There was no placeholder indicating she intended to sit there, but more important, who would turn away an elderly man with a cane?
Similarly, I heard an NPR report on Hurricane Sandy, where a reporter was describing the commute in from a Manhattan suburb. He remarked on how full the train was and how thankful he was to have a seat the whole way. This struck me, as I found it almost impossible to believe that there was no one on that train—an older person, a pregnant woman, a mother with kids hanging off her—who needed the seat more than the reporter did. I wasn’t alone in this. The reporter following him made some comment to the same effect.
Don’t get me wrong—convenience brings many advantages, but it’s so important to retain the core elements of civility. It is easy to become casual about the fundamental rules of polite interaction that govern our daily life, such as giving up your seat for someone who needs it more than you do. At the risk of sounding pedantic, we can’t ignore consideration of others.
-By Berbay Principal Sharon Berman