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Louis Roney

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A matter of manners

Irish philosopher Edmund Burke said, “Manners are of more importance than laws… Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us….”

These days, manners making people more attractive have noticeably decreased in common behavior. Politeness, except in those past middle age, seems often a river running dry.

I could wish that every one of us had a family like mine. They were philosophical and scrupulously honest, and let their lives, rather than their mouths, demonstrate the efficacy of their personal ethics.

“Be on time,” they told me. Being late without a valid excuse is immoral, because time is worth money to most people. Steal a person’s time and you may be stealing his money as well.

A person who is habitually late broadcasts his untrustworthiness and lack of regard for others. Every tardiness by such people delivers a slap in the face.

My family told me to stick to the plain truth, thereby keeping my life open and simple.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive,” my parents quoted to me often enough so that those Sir Walter Scott words from “Lochinvar” have remained in my mind ever since.

“A liar needs a superb memory,” they told me. “When you tell the straight, simple truth, you don’t have to remember any ‘version’ told before.”

“Manners make the man,” I was reminded — exquisite manners and consideration are the “final touches” that crown the presence of a true gentleman.

“If you want to know a person’s character,” my parents said, “observe how he treats those under him, not the way he treats his superiors.”

I heard much re: the great importance of manners in being a proper host and the manners of being the ideal guest in someone else’s home.

“A good guest makes a good host, and a good host ought to be able to make a good guest — but that doesn’t always work.”

While I am spouting off about manners, do I maintain that I, myself, have ever reached my highest ideals? No way!

As a longtime opera singer, I tried to sing on the level with my “god”, Enrico Caruso. Did I ever match Caruso? Never, in my mind — but I kept aiming at the illusive, near-perfect target.

I learned that a guest staying in someone else’s house — someone “they’ll want to invite again” — never makes plans of his own without first checking with the host to see if they “fit in” with the host’s plans.

I was taught to stand when ladies or elders enter a room. I do that to this day, although I’m having a tougher and tougher time locating any “elders.”

On the streetcar, when I was young, I gave my seat to any woman or elderly man who was standing.

“Please” and “thank you” are words that should lubricate all polite human communication.

The letters “RSVP” need attention. “Respondez, si’l vous plait” means simply, “Please respond (to my invitation). Tell me if you’re coming or not.”

A great number of the “modern day crowd” ignores that polite and perfectly reasonable request.

(Special: Will SunRail’s operational costs and its potential liabilities pose the biggest threat to Winter Park’s financial security in our city’s history?)