Whatever Happened to Manners?


Remember when the appropriate response to “thank you” was “you’re welcome”?

This question prompted my friend Mike (who retired from successful careers as a police commander and as a judge) to share the following story. You or someone you know can probably relate to this:

The first casualty of old age is your dignity. Anyone who disagrees has never had a prostate exam or a colonoscopy. For decades, I counted my doctor visits on one hand. Suddenly, I am in a doctor’s office every week; sometimes twice a week. It’s unsettling; even irritating. I’m not used to this.

My mother taught me that the proper response to “thank you” is “you’re welcome”. I was taught to respect my elders, to hold the door for a lady, to remove my hat indoors, and to use “please” and “thank you”! What passes for manners today would have gotten me into trouble with my parents.

My last visit to the doctor, I was greeted by a clipboard silently demanding my signature. I signed in and stood there looking stupid, waiting for someone to talk to me, and finally sat down only to be called back to the front desk. The first words out of the receptionist’s mouth were “What are we seeing you for?” My immediate thought, “For the co-pay of course!” seemed sarcastic and I was then asked “Do you have your insurance card?”. I was tempted to respond “Well, yes!” but again, no sarcasm, so I just gave her my card.

She copied the card and returned it to me with another clipboard with several forms to complete. These forms did not come in a large print edition, so I hadn’t completed them when another young lady opened a door and called out across the room MIKE! I waited a second, as there may have been another Mike. She again called MIKE! Then I figured she was calling me. I was offended. Whatever happened to calling people Mr. or Ms.? This little girl was chewing gum and was younger than my granddaughter. Nonetheless, I started to get up, but with a bad back, it took a while. Rather than coming over to lend a hand, she stood by the door, making no eye contact, and looking like she was resisting the urge to tap her foot.

When I finally got to the door, she asked “How are you?”. I thought, “I’m doing so well, I think I’ll just leave.” Again, I tabled the sarcasm and said, “Fine” to the back of her scrubs as she walked away. She turned and mumbled, “I need to get your weight.” I almost said, “Go for it!” but decided to be flexible so as to expedite this wonderful experience. She walked towards an exam room and said, “I need to get your vitals.” I took that as a good sign. At least she thought I was alive. She didn’t share my “vitals” with me. Perhaps my security clearance wasn’t acceptable for such sensitive information.

She exited the exam room and didn’t say how long the wait would be. By the time the doctor arrived, I was so irritated that I didn’t hear much of what he said, but that’s okay. Next week, I get to do all this over again. As I left, I thanked the receptionist out of habit. “No problem!” she replied. “I was so glad!”


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