Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Magic Words

When I was growing up, whenever I asked for-- or let's be honest--demanded something with my mother, she would almost always reply, "What's the magic word?" To even be considered for whatever request I was making, I had to say please. As usual, Mom knew best. Please and thank you are the magic words. They can make the world go 'round.

We have been in Clemson for football games for the last two glorious weekends (be still my tiger print heart). Thankfully, I am proud every time we return to God's country, not only because of how beautiful it is there, but by the hospitality we inevitably receive. Strangers have voluntarily helped us put up our tailgate tent, take down our tailgate tent (side note: that tent gives us some trouble), doors are opened, friendly conversations started. There is an ease and warmth that never fails to make me feel at home. Graciousness and courtesy are as abundant as the color orange around my favorite little town, and it does not go unnoticed.

Five North Carolina State fans sat in front of us at the game on Saturday. I can't even sugarcoat this by saying they were zealous or passionate; the truth is, they were downright rude. As they arrived at their seats, surrounded by a sea of orange-clad Tiger fans, they loudly expressed their opinion that our stadium was not up to their standards (ahem). They heckled an Air Force captain who was receiving an award down on the field prior to the game (really, boys?). Several times during the first half, they yelled to the crowd that Clemson can never beat Florida State (although we beat the Wolfpack 41-0 this week, so there is that to fall back on). I kept hoping that, as their team continued to fall further and further behind, they might quiet down a bit. It never happened. I did love when, at one point, a gentleman in a camouflage Tiger paw hat down in front of them gave them A Look, then turned to his friend and asked in a disgusted voice, "Are they bothering those ladies?" Because a Clemson man might put up with those kind of nuisances, but as soon as a lady becomes a damsel in distress, the game is over.

The North Carolina boys seemed to catch the death threat drift that Clemson fan was throwing in their direction, so they settled into a charming round of armpit farts and spent the rest of the first half shouting things that would make a sailor in a swearing contest blush. I get that we were at a football game, not a black-tie event, but I still think that using a little sensibility would have helped prevent everyone in our section from wanting to high five those the face, with a chair.

Later in the day, I saw a little boy wearing a (very tiny) shirt that read: "Always say please, thank you, ma'am, sir, and GO TIGERS!" In my book, those are good guidelines. But no matter what team you pull for, or what state you might be in, good manners are always in fashion. Why is it that, as we get older, we tend to forget those very basic ways to treat others? We have a saying in the South: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. What does it mean? Simply put, you'll find that the sweeter you treat people, the more likely they will be cooperative with you. When you dictate that someone do something, your results are iffy at best. But try making a request, throwing in those magic "please" and "thank you" words, and I guarantee you will get a much better response. People are drawn to good behavior like a moth to a flame.

These things called manners are not rocket science. They are free. They don't require an etiquette class or an Emily Post guide, just a little common sense and courtesy. Say excuse me. Respect your elders. Don't take things that don't belong to you--this includes parking spaces, accolades, and especially someone else's boyfriend, girlfriend or significant other. Even if you don't believe in the power of manners, there is a thing called karma and it has a long memory and ironic sense of humor.

For the record, good manners are a big part of the reason I married my husband. By our second date, he was such a gentleman that I was completely smitten. He opened doors, carried a handkerchief (which comes in handy when your date is a tad clumsy, like yours truly), refilled my drink, and even stood up when I left the table to go to the ladies' room--which, embarrassingly, prompted me to naively ask, "Oh, are you getting up, too?" Bless my heart, and bless him for knowing how to treat a lady. To this day, he still gets oohs, aahs, and swoons from my girl friends for being so chivalrous.

Mind your manners. Be pretty, witty, and gracious. Even if you don't see immediate results, at the very least you'll keep a good ol' boy from having to take you aside and show you how to behave. Please and thank you are still the magic words, and after all, who doesn't want to make a little magic?

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