aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

What's in a name?

I went down to the bank today, only to find the ATM temporarily out of order. So I had to go inside to cash a check. There, a teller I've never met before handled my transaction. After receiving my check for cash, she asked me, "How would you like that, Arthur?"

I was startled, to say the least. Now, of course, she knew my name from my check and account. After I got my cash, as I turned to go she said, "Thank you, Arthur."

I've been bugged for some time about the way the tellers at this bank assume a familiarity that has no foundation in any relationship. I don't know any of them personally, so I don't appreciate having them use my personal name. Up till now, they've said, "Thank you, Mr. Collins" -- and even that grates on my sensibilities.

When I was learning how to greet the public in my early working days, we all said, "Thank you, sir." Or "ma'am" (or "miss"). Even today, if I were selling doodads at the fair, or handing out flyers on the street, that's still how I would address everybody, except those whom I knew personally. But more and more places these days have people presume upon a relationship they haven't bothered to build, and it just comes across as rude.

I suppose they've been taught to call all the customers by their proper names in an attempt to appear friendly. But all they do is show that they ain't got no fetchin's-up, no class. (And don't even get me started on waiters and waitresses who keep interrupting my quiet meal -- and my personal conversation -- to chat me up. It's all I can do to not tell 'em to buzz off.)

Now, keep in mind, I am anything but stuffy. I am on a first-name basis with hundreds and hundreds of people; I call almost all my parishioners by their first names, from Kindergartners to Nonagenarians, and they do the same for me. I'm not big on titles. But I was taught that there was a difference between public and private manners. Why, when my mother would sub in my junior high classes back in my youth, I would address her as "Mrs. Collins" -- in that setting. Last time I was a Scoutmaster, when we were conducting a formal ceremony (like a flag-raising, or something), I would address my 12-year-old Senior Patrol Leader as "Mr. Irvin" or "Mr. Jarvis."

Gad, I feel like the last citizen of Atlantis, washed up on the shores of Cimmeria -- except that even barbarians would have a sense of dignity in how they addressed each other.

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