The year was 1936 and this now grizzled and sometimes forgetful WWII Veteran sat in the front seat of the family Chevrolet with his father; a good spot from which a fourteen-year-old could observe and prep for that future day, when he might become a responsible driver. We had just pulled up to the tanks, in front of the local gas station and the proprietor came out to greet us, the ever-present chamois in hand. “What’ll it be, Al,” he asked, to which my Dad replied: “The usual; fill’er up, John.” To which John responded, as follows: wiped both the rear window and windshield; checked the tires, then opened the hood to check both water and oil. When all of these were done, he filled the gas tank.
This wasn’t a special favor accorded to my Dad, because they knew each other. No, this was a routine John followed with all of his customers, as a matter of habit. In fact, most of John’s competitors, plus unknown but similarly involved proprietors, nationwide, followed similar routines; a behavior they considered customarily worthy. There are many habitual actions of custom that have been eliminated from the American ‘Social Scene,’ in the intervening three-score-plus, since 1936; customs considered passé, ‘Old-Hat,’ unworthy of our time or traffic with each other.
Hard now to believe but there was a time in which ‘courtesy’ and ‘consideration’ were habitual indicators of social intercourse, even surpassing the limits of religious and political difference, among a preponderant number of Americans. Alas, our Supreme Court, driven by a conservative agenda and abetted by pursuers of political and personal greed have erased these important indicators from the lexicon of human behavior, now ignored by too many interacting Americans, in this Post-Modern, media-dominated social system.
It’s a too-long-languished language, with which we Americans desperately need to re-familiarize ourselves.
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