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Some Observations on Manners....

Bostonians (and people from Massachusetts in general) are not known for their good manners... In fact there's are many good reasons why locals are known as "mass-holes" (please excuse my naughty language!).  In my eight years as a resident of Massachusetts I've found that people just aren't outwardly friendly.  Most people are polite in one-on-one situations, cashiers will usually say hello and maybe small-talk a bit, but in general people don't say smile or hello to each other on the street, hold doors, or pay any attention at all to any one but themselves.  When I got pregnant I was warned that complete strangers would ask me when I was due and touch my stomach but no one has done this to me yet- it's just not a Massachusetts thing.

The T (which is our subway system for any reader not familiar with Boston) has recently started a new "Mind Your Manners" campaign.  They've posted signs on the trains that say things like "Be sweet, offer  your seat;" "Don't be a lout, let them out;" and "Don't dash without your trash."  

Now anyone who has lived in Boston long enough knows that these silly signs are NOT going to make anyone on the train mind their manners... Almost every day I'm amazed by how rude people are! A couple of recent examples:
  • I was on the subway home last week and had been lucky enough to find a seat when I got on.  A Very Very Pregnant woman got on the train one stop after me.  Every seat was taken,  most by men and teenagers.  So who offered this Very Very Pregnant woman a seat?  The Very Pregnant woman who'd been lucky enough to snag a seat one stop earlier.  That's right- none of the men or teenagers made any effort to "Be sweet and offer their seat."  Instead I gave up mine because she was obviously about a month farther along than me.  
  • Last night I was on the commuter rail, sitting on one of the fold-down seats in the vestibule of the train next to two other people, a woman and a man.  At the next stop a large group of teenage boys got on the train as there is a private boys highschool near that station.  There are generally no seats left at this point in the ride so these boys usually sit on the stairs between the two train levels.  They're usually pretty well behaved, for teenage boys anyway!  At the next stop the boys moved out of the way to let people come down the stairs to exit the train.  They forgot, however, to move some of their backpacks and gym bags out of the way and people had to stop over them.  Once the train started moving again the gentleman (I'm using the term only because he was a man, certainly NOT because of his gentlemanly qualities) picked up the boys' backpacks and flung them across the vestible.  One bag hit a man standing in the vestibule in the feet, the other bag landed directly in front of the door.  The teenage boys looked at him, afraid to say anything as he was a pretty big man who had just violently thrown their things across the train.  After a few minutes the boys picked up their bags and moved to a different car.  The man turned to the woman seated next to them and said "I guess they don't teach manners at that fancy private school..."  Right.  Because his actions DEFINITELY showed those boys how to use their manners!
Yesterday was actually the first time that I got on a full train and someone offered me a seat.  I totally understand that sometimes it's hard to tell if someone is pregnant or just "big-boned," and it's also sometimes true that the seemingly healthy person sitting down and not offering their seat might actually have a medical reason for it. But in general I think that manners on the T are pretty horrifying.

I grew up in a house where we said please and thank you, men (and boys) held open doors for women, and our napkins were on our lap at dinner.  Paul was raised the same way- in fact, I don't think I touched the passenger door of his car until we'd been together for almost a year as he was always running around to open it for me.... He holds doors, puts the toilet seat down (even the lid!), lets me order first at restaurants, takes my hand when we're crossing the street, and is a complete and utter gentleman which is one of the many things I love about him.  He's consistently shocked as well by the poor manners of people and not a week goes by when one of us doesn't say something like "our children will NOT be this rude!"  or "our child will say please and thank you" or "our son will ALWAYS give up his seat to someone who needs it more..."

I'm thinking that the T should start posting their signs in peoples' homes, as that's where manners are learned.  If you haven't learned to "Be sweet and give up your seat" or to clean up your own trash or to not be a "lout" before you're grown up it's probably not going to happen... Good manners are learned as children by mimicking the good manners of the adults around them, not by reading corny signs on the train...

At least that's my two cents.... 


  1. This is very true! When I was 16 I was a nanny in Boston. I was pretty young to be traipsing around Boston by myself with two tiny children and I was amazed that no one every held a door etc.! But, I will say it is so beautiful! Do you ever make it to Waldon pond? It was a favorite of mind! I was so excited to see my prints on your site! Thank you!

  2. Wow, I'm so sorry people act like that! I must admit that we are spoiled with southern hospitality down here. I was in Walmart the other day with Evan and some older guy just walked up to us to give us a McDonalds happy meal car. People here are just way beyond friendly... it's like we are all family. I can't imagine dealing with rude people on a daily basis.

    In fact, it's funny... Van always says "people in Newnan don't honk their horns"... which is true... we try too hard to be nice and not tell someone that they did something wrong. I even remember this lady running a red light and no one honked... then just all stopped and let her go before proceeding.

    Seriously, you should give those rude people a piece of your mind! :o)


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