Please throw your garbage on the floor, Mrs Worthington …

           The whole world seems to have become incredibly rude. There is a lack of manners, a lack of consideration for others and a distinct lack of social skills.

            Freshly minted for the new millennium, there are two glistening new versions of the humble shop assistant. The Grunting Charmer and the Interested Interactive.

The Grunter doesn’t even look you in the eye. Your purchases are flung haphazardly into the plastic bag so dishwashing liquid oozes out and stains the front of your Chow Down magazine, and your change is hurled across the counter. Most of it goes on the floor. Do not expect words of more than one syllable, and be prepared to wait for a price check on the Extra Stiff Multi-Recycled Toilet Tissue. It’s a given. The Grunter is also clueless in the smiles department.

            The Interested Interactive is merely an upmarket version of the old tried and tested ‘Have a Nice Day’ model – it’s only recently been launched on the market, and goes something like this:

            SHE: Well, have you had a lovely weekend?

            YOU: Fine, thanks. (Friendly but alert and slightly alarmed – having expected transaction to have reached its logical conclusion.)

            SHE: Did you do anything exciting, then? (As if you’re going to divulge what Harrison Ford said to you in the privacy of your own mind … NOT.)

            YOU: Er … not particularly. (Even given your distinct lack of cooperation, the Interested Interactive simply can’t let it go at that. There is yet more of the script to deliver.

            SHE: Do you have anything nice planned for THIS weekend? (Excuse me? Like, whose business is this, anyway?)

            Are you expected to actually stand there and document your week for a total stranger, while shoppers behind you wait impatiently to purchase half a dozen bread rolls and a jumbo pack of incontinence pads? Are they desperate to get in there and extol the wonders of their own week? Does this inquisition come in the training manual? Do I get fries with that? Who gives a hoot what I did last week – even I don’t care, and I was the one who did it! The asylum should be called immediately.

            Ruder still are people on masse. The Warrior Queen and I went to a show at the Sydney Entertainment Centre once. Even more spellbinding than the entertainment was the behaviour of the audience. Whoever did the choreography for that one should get an award – the St Vitus Award for Perpetual Motion.

            Firstly there were the latecomers, straggling in at any damn time they pleased. Tripping over people’s feet, blocking the view, apologising loudly as their feet became tangled in your handbag straps and your Maltesers bounced merrily between here and Central Station. What happened to punctuality? It punctuated, that’s what. It’s obviously now merely a suggestion.

            As the evening continued, you could have been forgiven for thinking there were intervals on the quarter hour – people wandered in and out like Farmer Brown’s sheep – for snacks, toilet breaks, navel scratching sessions in the foyer – it was fascinating altogether. They couldn’t bring themselves to sit still for even a couple of hours. It’s the Commercial Break Syndrome. Because they’re used to being able to roam around at will every few minutes in their own homes, viewers are programmed for it. New age bladders have evolved, with the capacity to hold only 15 minutes’ worth of beer and fizzy drink, and stomachs capable of containing half a dozen cheezels before evacuation calls. Then it’s time for the theatrical equivalent of ‘fridge and dunny trip’. You could pick the ABC viewers, though – steadfastly glued to their chairs with handbags full of polite sherbert lemons clutched to their laps. There for the duration – David Attenborough trained.

            Even if you could forgive the fidgety-britches’ behaviour and high pitched screaming during poignant moments, the aftermath resembled a post-holocaustal garbage tip. Aisles were strewn abundantly with drink cups, greasy wrappers and spilled food – a disgusting display of human detritus which made you wonder what the living rooms of Australia must look like, given nobody seemed to have grasped the concept of carrying anything to a bin. The cleaning bill will add to the price of tickets for next time.

            What’s wrong with us? Don’t we respect people, property or the planet anymore? At the end of the day, there’s probably a lot to be said for David Attenborough.

            Some people ought to try watching the ABC …







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