Being Polite Goes a Long Way

“Being polite goes a long way.”

-Dad

My Uncle Ron was my mom’s younger brother and only sibling. As a child and well into adulthood, Uncle Ron was rebel, a tough guy with a soft spot and loomed larger than life. He was about 6 feet tall and carried a husky frame. He had a tattoo of a sky-diving bunny with the word “Paratrooper” under it. I believe he got it while stationed in Korea serving in the Army.

As a kid, all my brothers and I saw was a guy who was cool as fuck.

Uncle Ron worked as a machinist at Anheuser Busch in Newark. If you have ever gone on a brewery tour at a Busch Gardens location, he was one of the guys responsible for keeping the line going, filling the cans and bottles and popping a top on them at the end. Watching the line in operation was mechanical poetry.

Before OSHA was established and safety was more of an advisory than a rule, there were many places where you could get hurt in a machine shop. While fabricating a part, Uncle Ron was hit in the white of his eye with a projectile. Like most tough guys, he just washed his eye and kept working.

Later that day, he felt that something was still irritating his eye and went to a doctor. The doctor agreed that something was still there and referred him to an eye surgeon near Orange, NJ. He asked my dad to drive him and my dad simply said to me “Let’s go. I’m taking Uncle Ron to the doctors.”

To this day, I’m always up for a road trip.

I honestly don’t remember much about the doctor’s visit other than it would take an hour or so. My father said that there was diner across the street and we were going there to get a bit to eat.

As we walked in to the diner, my dad let me right to the counter. He said “Michael, you can get whatever you want.” Now, this was a big deal. Dad was a no-frills guy and this departure was rare.

What the hell…I was going for it.

“May I get a chocolate milkshake?”, I asked – with a little smile on my face.

“Yes you may.”

Geez, was I excited.

The waitress behind the counter approached.

“What can I get you two gentlemen?”

“Coffee, black, please.” my father replied.

“And for you, hon?”

I turned to my dad, looking for one last approval.

“You can tell her, Michael”

That was all I needed – green to go.

“May I have a chocolate milkshake, please?”

A big smile came to her face.

“I’ll get those for you right away!”

Dad’s was simple. Invert cup, place on saucer, add coffee. The stronger, the better. When dad perked his coffee at home in the Farberware pot, it was strong enough to melt a spoon like you’d see in a Looney Tunes cartoon.

The waitress came over with a pot of coffee and my milkshake. I was in my total glory as I saw this fancy fountain glass filled with my shake. I noticed she had one more vessel – the steel cup that the she used to mix the milkshake.

“There’s a little more in there for you, hon.”

“Thank you!” I gleefully replied. I looked inside and there was almost enough for a second shake.

The waitress then turned to my dad and remarked, “Such good manners.”

You’d thought my dad just won an Oscar for directing.

After she walked away, I asked my dad why she gave me some extra shake.

“Because of your manners. You said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Being polite goes a long way.”

I never forgot that lesson. To this day, I go out of my way to be polite. Sometimes it’s acknowledged and sometimes it isn’t. Bottom line is that it didn’t cost me a thing to be polite. From a business executive to a person who holds a door for me, they will always get a polite gesture.

This lesson was passed from me to my daughters. There is a glow of pride when I hear either of them say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to someone. I feel that it was a small gesture that goes a long way.