Courtesy and Consideration in the Street - Thoughtfulness at Public Entertainments - Pushing Through Crowds - Politeness to Elderly People - The Rule of the Road - On Meeting Acquaintances Courtesy to Shop Assistants
There seems to be some idea on the part of many girls that it is unnecessary to be courteous and considerate to others when meeting them out of doors. They are strangers. Then why trouble ? That appears to represent their frame of mind. But true politeness considers the convenience and comfort of others quite as much if they are unknown to us as if they were our-most intimate friends.
At the Horse Show at Olympia, London, one season, an instance of extremely bad manner; on the part of women and girls was to be noticed each day when it was open. Though many, had thoughtfully chosen small headgear out of consideration for those who might be sitting behind them, a full half of the women present wore enormous hats, which concealed a great part of the arena from those unfortunately placed behind them. Several men were heard to comment upon this piece of real discourtesy, or would it be more kind to call it thoughtlessness? The seats at the Horse Show are arranged to the very best possible advantage for the convenience of the occupants, but if a lady chooses to lean forward, plant her elbow on the front of the box, and rest her large-hatted head on her hand, she can hide some three-fifths of the arena from the person sitting next her. And yet this has frequently happened.
"Hustling" in the Street
In the street it is possible to be lacking in consideration without actually realising that one is so. Pushing past people who are walking more slowly than ourselves is encroaching upon the rights of others. The footways are the common property of all, and the fact that we are in a hurry, while those walking before us are at leisure, is no excuse for treating them roughly, and incommoding them in any way. Piccadilly pavement is very wide, and one would imagine that in this part of London there would be less of the " hustling," to use an American word, than one sees, for instance, in the City or the East End. And yet on one occasion, and probably on many more, a finely dressed young woman was in such unseemly haste that, in passing a frail-looking old gentleman, she nearly knocked him into the roadway, and walked on without an apology, while a more considerate member of her sex picked up his hat and stick, and gently condoled with him.
Women are supposed to be the gentler sex. Many men contradict this assertion, and say that the women of the present day are lacking in gentleness and thoughtfulness. Perhaps this may be in some degree true, and, if so, it is possibly owing to the state of transition in which the women of to-day find themselves. They have not yet adjusted their own individualities to the changed position in which the whole sex is placed.
Unfortunately, it is chiefly the younger generation who show this roughness, and very often it is the girl who is sweet and charming in her own home who affects a loud, careless, pushing demeanour in the street or at a meeting.
Here, again, is an occasion for the exercise of politeness or the reverse. At some very crowded meetings the lack of space affords opportunities for that disregard for others' convenience which marks the most exaggerated specimen of the lack of manners complained of. When a girl pushes forward to a front seat through a crowd in which hats and elbows are the chief obstructions, she proclaims herself utterly oblivious of the comfort of others, and very mindful of her own. Nemesis sometimes follows quickly on such behaviour. On one occasion, when a well-dressed young woman had acted in the manner indicated, a voice in the crowd said, " Why, that is Miss - ! What a rude young woman ! " And, turning, she recognised in the speaker a lady of high position into whose graces she had been for some time most anxiously endeavouring to enter.
One of the first rules for outdoor walking is to keep to the correct side of the road. Another, but an unwritten one, is to avoid walking three or four abreast, to the discomfiture of other pedestrians. On the parade at seaside places, invalids or delicate persons are often incommoded by a phalanx of young men and women walking arm in arm, and completely blocking the way for others.
It is very seldom that one observes that thoughtfulness and carefulness towards invalids and elderly people that should emanate from some kind sentiment within, and not merely be taught by some manual of manners. For instance, one observes.now and then in public conveyances a lame or frail individual being helped in, and though occasionally someone offers to give up a place near the door in order to make things easy for the newcomer, one fears that this is but exceptional.
There is a story of a young man who paid some quiet attention of the sort to an old lady whom he met casually in the street, and who left him on her death a considerable income. Gentleness and consideration are not often rewarded in this charming manner, but, none the less, they cost but little and do much to develop a feeling of sympathetic, practical kindliness which has an excellent effect upon the character.
Too often, also, one sees that no acknowledgment is given for a courteous action in a public conveyance or the street. A seat in the train may be given up to a girl by a gentleman, and she takes it as a right with no pleasant "Thank you" or slight bow. Such omission not only stamps the girl as ill-bred, but injures her sex as a whole, for one cannot be surprised if the man registers a vow never again to give up his seat to a woman.
Some girls will deliberately place themselves in front of a waiting queue of people at a booking-office, and endeavour to book their ticket out of the proper turn, trusting that no protest will be made. This very often is noticeable in the queues waiting to enter a theatre or concert-hall, when girls frequently try to slip in out of their turn, or calmly invite late-coming friends to join them, without the slightest apology to those behind.
When a girl meets an acquaintance in the street, she too often stops to talk without considering for a moment the convenience of those who are passing. A group of four or five engaged in conversation makes a considerable obstruction. There are dozens of ways in which one can make oneself objectionable, and they need not be enumerated here.
When shopping, it is well to remember that civility is very cheap, and that the assistants behind the counter have long hours, and in many cases a very uninteresting occupation. One of the marks of the true gentlewoman is a quiet courtesy towards those whose station in life is lower than her own.