Courtesy is not as common as it should be

There has been a lot of talk lately about our incivility toward each other and how we can’t stop yelling at each other long enough to hear what anyone else is saying.

It would be nice to solely blame our politicians for this behavior, but when you look around, there are still plenty of regular folk who show, by their actions, that their time and their opinions are more valuable and important than anyone else’s.

For example, while waiting in a slowly moving grocery checkout line recently, sans cart or basket and bear-hugging a couple of half-gallons of orange juice, a gallon of milk and a few containers of yogurt, I noticed with relief a checker preparing to open the next-door register.

When he finally said “Who’s next?,” I started taking a step toward him because I was next. Before I could get over there, though, a couple of guys behind me in line lunged forward, almost tripping over me and themselves in their haste to place their items on the counter.

For a savings of maybe four or five minutes of their lives, they stole my spot in line.

And I say “my spot” because by rights it was — I was next in line, and I was patiently waiting my turn.

I don’t know if what these line-jumpers did is officially rude behavior, because it’s not as if I had a physical claim to the imaginary checkout space.

But I was next. It was my turn. And the line-jumpers seemed overjoyed at their good fortune rather than embarrassed at usurping mine. I was just an obstacle to their happiness, if they even noticed me at all.

Not long thereafter, I was standing behind a fellow patron at a restaurant’s soft drink machine. As I stood patiently with my then-empty cup, I watched the guy — already pretzeled at the neck, blathering into a cell phone pinched between his ear and shoulder — push the button to splash soda into his glass.

Just when I thought it was my turn, he paused to allow the fizz to die down. Then he stopped talking long enough to take a drink. Then he pushed the button again to refill his glass, still continuing to talk on his phone. Then he took another drink. Then he pushed the button again.

It’s rude enough to be talking on a cell phone when he didn’t have enough hands to take care of the task, but constantly refreshing his beverage while someone else waited behind him?

OK, I know: These are small-potatoes problems. Maybe these guys are just guilty of being self-absorbed. Maybe they’re all-around jerks. Or maybe I’m overly sensitive, and I need to do what I tell my sons to do: Suck it up, and move on.

I don’t know, though: People who can’t wait their turn, and people who selfishly abuse their turn, don’t necessarily represent the “smoking gun” of a declining culture.

But someone once said that how we treat each other when no one is watching offers a window into our character. The truth is that no one is watching us most of the time.

So a few rude bores won’t bring down our society. But the more we tolerate the self-obsessed, the more likely we are to be taking the first step down an already slippery slope.