Growing up in the Deep South, it was always ingrained into me that manners were important. Rich or poor, even if you had nothing else in life, you should have good manners. Common courtesy was a fundamental part of everyday life.
I moved to San Diego in the summer of 1999 after divorcing my wife of eight years. I wasn’t too surprised at the pace of life being much brisker than Alabama. I had moved around a bit as a child and had experienced life in other places but San Diego took a little bit of getting used to. The typical pleasantries that defined the world I was accustomed were noticeably lacking.
Shopping was awkward when it came time to pay for my purchases. The cashier would almost always ask, “Did you find everything you needed?” My response would habitually be “Yes, ma’am/sir”. That, more often than not, generated somewhat of a pained expression upon the cashier’s face. It happened that one cashier retorted to my “yes, ma’am” with “I’m not that old!” To which I replied that it had nothing to do with age but rather common courtesy. It didn’t matter how old she was. It was all about being respectful towards others.
In the Deep South, ostentatious display of wealth is also frowned upon. You could be in line next to someone wearing overalls, sporting a few days growth of beard, and looking as if they hadn’t a dime to their name… in truth, that person could very well be a wealthy man. They just didn’t ‘put on airs’, as it is locally known.
Dating was another area where I was called out on my social graces. More than a few times, I would attempt to open a door for a lady and she would say something like “I can open my own door.” I made it a point not to ever ask her out again. One thing that bothered me when dating some women here in San Diego had to do with them asking me what I considered to be very superficial questions. Things like, what kind of car to you drive? Do you own or rent? How much do you make?
Wow! I never could get used to that. Before formulating what my net worth could be, wouldn’t be a better idea to get to know me as a human being? What happened to politeness? Were these people not taught manners as children? Was I expecting too much? I married my second wife in 2002. Neither of us knew what the other earned until about two weeks before our wedding day. Our relationship wasn’t based upon financial statements.
Over time, I’ve learned to just ‘go with the flow’. I try not to let the lack of courtesy bother me as much as I did years ago. I do miss what some would call ‘Southern charm’ but still remain true to my roots… to my manners.