In a sparkling, seasonally decorated mall, during the beginning of the holiday shopping craze, something so simple yet so profound in its significance, made my day. What was it?
A man tipped his hat to me.
Now on its own, a tip of the hat is a lovely, beautiful gesture to a time when there was politeness and grace in society. It is still done in the streets of Europe all the time, charming and mannerly.
But it wasn’t just the idea of the charm and politeness of the gesture of a man tipping his hat in passing—it was the person who tipped his hat to me that made an impact and, made all the more poignant because of the divisive times in which we are now forced to live. The hat-tipping gentleman was a man of color, somewhere in his seventies to judge by the white hair and beard.
The store was overheated, I was tired and overdressed in a hooded sweatshirt and waiting for an item to be gotten from a storeroom. Shoppers rushed by, intent only on getting to the next bargain. Bored I checked my phone and blew out a long sigh. It was at that moment that a man passed me in front of me and tipped his hat. Pleasantly startled by this display, I smiled.
“Thank you,” I said. “What a pleasure to see that. It’s rare these days.”
The man stopped. “Well,” he said smiling back, “when I was a boy, an older gentleman told me that whenever you pass a lady, you should tip your hat. It is simple manners to do that. Now, I’m the older gentleman and I give the same advice to young boys I know.”
Lady? Well, why not! The word lady is a good one. I am a strong well-educated woman with an excellent career. I totally support, and respect rights for all and my strength allows me to accept all others as my equals. Why should the words ‘lady’ and ‘gentleman’ be considered old-fashioned? They only mean someone with morals, manners, and kindness. A lady can be a steelworker or a senator. A gentleman can be a stay-at-home dad or president of a corporation. The word lady made me smile again. I told the older gentleman that he had made my day. We said pleasant good-byes, he tipped his hat again, and walked away.
I thought about how our country is so racially divided that it is destroying the very fabric of normal life. The interchange of pleasantries between the man and me gives the lie to anyone who is racist. We are the human race and nothing else. I saw a gentleman, he saw a lady, and that was it. Simple, pleasant, polite.
This act of having someone tip their hat to me did make my day and it also made me think about how far our society has departed from common every day politeness. Words like ‘thank-you, please, excuse me,’ are sorely missing. They’ve been replaced with inconsideration and sometimes downright rudeness. Because we don’t want additional hassles in our lives, we are sadly resigned to it. And that is wrong. So wrong.
Our country is, unfortunately, divided by many things—dirty politics at the highest level of government, the unequal distribution of wealth, religion, sexism, genderism, sexual harassment and assault, and race. Why, in the 21st century, are women are still considered fair game for groping and racial epithets spouted by politicians? How downright disgusting.
Manners are a forgotten part of daily life or something that is relegated to the past. Name-calling, bullying, and how-to-break-the-law-and-get-away-with-it seem to be the new norm. How and why did any of this behavior become acceptable? What’s happened to us as a society?
My day was made by an older gentleman who tipped his hat as he passed by me. It was a simple, yet very wonderful thing to do. I will smile each time I remember it. Maybe, possibly, there may be a glimmer of hope for society to begin using manners again. I think there’s a strong need for ladies and gentlemen.
© 2017 copyright Kristen Houghton all rights reserved.
Kristen Houghton’s best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation has been voted one of the top five new mystery series by International Mystery Writers. Houghton is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, and a children’s novella. A former political contributor, she now writes breaking news articles, human interest pieces, and The Savvy Author tips for writers, for The Huffington Post.