Jewish Information Service
9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
"I just discovered that it isn't the Omer that Michael
has been counting every night-- it's the number of
days until school lets out for the summer!"
Make My Day: ,
Call Me Mister!
BY ARTHUR J. MAGIDA
Special to The Jewish News
This is not an age of great '
manners . Kids no longer call
their elders "Sir" or "Madam."
They no longer let old-timers step
to the front of the line at the
neighborhood bijou. They don't•
voluntarily stop their cars at in-
tersections so mothers can cross
with baby strollers or school chil-
dren, clad in colorful pinafores,
can hop, skip and jump uninter-
rupted on their way to their daily
Well, all this, I'll admit, is
probably the grumbling of some-
one getting on in years (much be-
fore his time?• In the late night
quiet of my study or in the pri-
vacy of my car, I mumble to my-
self that the kids, the very people
who will carry on all that is Good
and Noble in Western Civiliza-
tion, are going straight to the
dogs. And I fret that the world, as
we know it, is turning out to be a
short-lived affair, that every-
thing Decent about the American
Way is about as ephemeral as
At such moments, I gnash my
teeth and rend my garments and
think about skipping town.
Either Tahiti or England will do.
Tahiti sounds great because once
you're there, so I hear, you don't
give much of' a hoot about any-
thing. And England sounds
dandy because at least some
manners have been preserved
the,re, even among the Great
Unwashed — the Kids. Heck, just
look at Prince Charles and his
sweetheart, that lovely Diana.
Two sweeter, better mannered
kids couldn't be found anywhere.
But then I pause -- either for
reflection or because I'm tired,
I'm not sure which. And in that
pause, I think about how my own
manners have slipped. I, too,
have lost, some of the basics of
common decency. Rarely do I call
people by the proper terms of re-
spect that I was taught by .Miss
Dyer, my dreaded fifth grade
teacher. Miss Dyer spent weeks
drilling her reluctant pupils on
what to call those in better posi-
tions of life than the rest of us.
Unfortunately for Miss Dyer, she
had such a class of dimwits that
she soon regretted her career
Clearly, whatever Miss Dyer
was trying to get across to us 10-
year-olds didn't take root. When,
for instance, did Tlast doff my hat
to a passing lady? When did I last
pull out a chair for a oman as
we were about to dine? And when
was the last time I referred to the
late Josef Vissarionovich Stalin
as Mr. Stalin, as surely the leader ,
of a great nation should be
called? Or Richard Nixon Mr. Ni-
xon? Or Eva Peron Mrs. Peron?
Or the trendy rock star Madonna
as Ms. Madonna?
It's obvious that there have
been repercussions from my poor
manners. I've been rebuffed
again and again by' the gentry.
Not once has my name — let
alone my picture — appeared in
Towh and Country. Not once has
my pied a terre been featured in
Architectural Digest. Not once
has my family tree been featured
in American Heritage..
I guess a more sensible guy
would say to himself, "Listen,
buster, your family tree is about
the size of a bonsai and you ain't
even got a pied a terre. You don't
even know how to pronounce pied
• a terre. So clam up."
Clamming, I'll admit, is not in
my natuie, especially . when
manners — my manners — are at
stake. But now that I realize just
how, . rude I can sometimes be,
now that I realize that I've
brought shame to the good name
of my fifth grade teacher, I guess
I'd better stifle my kvelling about
the younger generation.
Big deal if it's been decades
since I've seen' a white-haired,
gent ushered to the front of a line
at a movie theater. Big deal if I
haven't been called "Sir" in years
— except by my own kids and
then only on allowance day. I'm
not even sure just what I called
those who had a couple of decades
on me when I was a kid. Well, I
know what I called them behind
their back, but we won't go into
that. For one thing, this is a fam-
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