Lesson 7
Manners Are Practically Non-Existent

Manners nowadays in metropolitan cities like London are practically non-existent. It is nothing for a big, strong schoolboy to elbow an elderly woman aside in the dash for the last remaining seat on the tube or bus, much less stand up and offer his seat to her, as he ought. In fact, it is saddening to note that if a man does offer his seat to an older woman, it is nearly always a Continental man or one from the older generation.

This question of giving up seats in public transport is much argued about by young men, who say that, since women have claimed equality, they no longer deserve to be treated with courtesy and that those who go out to work should take their turn in the rat race like anyone else. Women have never claimed to be physically as strong as men. Even if it is not agreed, however, that young men should stand up for younger women, the fact remains that courtesy should be shown to the old, the sick and the burdened. Are we really so lost to all ideals of unselfishness that we can sit there indifferently reading the paper or a book,saying to ourselves “First come, first served,” while a grey-haired woman, a mother with a young child or a cripple stands? Yet this is all too often seen.

Conditions in travel are really very hard on everyone, we know, but hardship is surely no excuse. Sometimes one wonders what would have been the behaviour of these stout young men in a packed refugee train or a train on its way to a prison-camp during the War. Would they have considered it only right and their proper due to keep the best places for themselves then?

Older people, tired and irritable from a day’s work, are not angels, either — far from it. Many a brisk argument or an insulting quarrel breaks out as the weary queues push and shove each other to get on buses and tubes. One cannot commend this, of course, but one does feel there is just a little more excuse.

If cities are to remain pleasant places to live in at all, however, it seems imperative, not only that communications in transport should be improved, but also that communication between human beings should be kept smooth and polite. All over cities, it seems that people are too tired and too rushed to be polite. Shop assistants won’t bother to assist, taxi-drivers growl at each other as they dash dangerously round corners, bus conductor pull the bell before their desperate passengers have had time to get on or off the bus, and so on and so on. It seems to us that it is up to the young and strong to do their small part to stop such deterioration.


People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.

—Edith Schaeffer

I would rather see a young man blush than turn pale.

—Mark Twain

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.

—Beverly Sills



在公共交通工具上让座的问题常被青年人反驳,他们说,既然妇女要求平等,那么她们将不应再被礼貌(courtesy)对待,那些出去工作的人应该像其他任何人一样在激烈的竞争中轮流等候。妇女从未声明像男子一样身强力壮。即使年轻男子不同意应该让位给年轻女子的做法,但是对那些老人,病者和负重之人仍应给予礼貌。难道我们真的丧失了所有的无私思想,以至于我们在一位白发苍苍的老太太,一位抱着孩子的母亲或一伤残者(cripple)站在旁边时,能够如此漫不经心地读着报纸或一本书,同时对自己说“先来,先享受”吗? 然而这却是太常见的景象了。