Let's talk about manners (aka, "Y'all need some ack'right)

Today we're going to talk about manners. I'm not referring to modern day codes of etiquette for cell phone protocol, or whether or not it's gauche to send wedding invitations via Twitter. I'm talking about the kind of social behavior dictated by simple respect and consideration for others: saying "please" and "thank you," and the rest of the fundamentals that aren't any more complicated to master.  

It all started out with a ball of spit, discharged on the sidewalk just feet away from other passersby. The hawker didn't care and kept on walking. Then it happened again, a few days later. Same thing, no regard. And several more times after that. Perhaps this is nothing new, only now I'm more sensitive to it, but people are spitting in the streets as though mankind's fate hinges on keeping the concrete damp and foamy. And I've been seeing worse too: men peeing in phone boxes, against walls, in between cars, and trash cans—in the middle of the day (is this some gross protest against Starbucks locations closing?).

These manners I'm referring to—or the lack thereof—have nothing to do with class, race, or gender (the public urination is a mostly male-driven offense, but I've seen a woman do it too). Fights are breaking out in McCarren Park's newly-opened pool on a regular basis, where the only binding statistic is that everyone's there to cool off and swim, and no one owns a private oasis of their own. Even the police who have been called in to babysit are getting assaulted, which makes me wonder if it's only a matter of time before our pool privileges get revoked.

When did we forgot how to act like adults—like human beings, even? Everyone seems so angry and willing to fight these days. And the summer heat has only worsened things by creating a kind greenhouse gasoline effect. You'd think these 90-degree days would reduce us to lifeless, pacifistic slugs, but they've only stymied our ability to call on our better judgement, it seems.

One of  Gal Friday's coworkers, a southerner, likes to say, "Y'all need some ack'right." Whether it means we could use a lesson in how to behave properly, or we need a good and punishing wallop by someone named "Ack'right," his barely articulate point is clear enough.

Earlier this week some guy, a total stranger, grabbed me while I was trying to buy tickets at a movie theater kiosk. It was 10am. Whether he was looking for a date or a victim, he crossed what should have been an obvious line. Only it wasn't that obvious to him. He didn't run away when I yelled. And he didn't leave me alone, either.

Some prickly old-timers—the ones who recall and even romance over Times Square's grittier, seedier days, and the violent, crime-riddled epoch of the 70's—will tell you the city's nothing like it used to be. It's lost its edge, it's too gentrified and pishy-poshy, and homogenous with commercial chains on every block. And to some extent, they're right, making it all the more infuriating when someone thinks it's ok to trespass on your personal space, putting his physical id above your basic rights. Rapists and robbers know what they're doing is wrong. This guy, and the ones who more frequently harass my friends, don't think anything at all, and that's precisely the problem. Think right, then ack'right.