Rude people: We encounter them everywhere - in line at the grocery store, sitting in movie theaters, even at our own dinner tables.
Talk to waiters, customer service people or your neighbors, and you'll hear that rudeness getting worse.
"I've worked in retail for 10 years, and people are definitely ruder," said Shannon Murray, from Cortland. "Even if you give them what they want, they're still rude." Murray currently works in the customer service department at Target.
Tribune Chronicle / Melissa Miller
Employee Shannon Murray helps a customer with a return at Target.
Certainly stress or illness can play a part in our attitudes. And we all have bad days. But rudeness seems to have hit epidemic proportions.
"People might think that it's worse on Black Friday or the day after Christmas," said Murray. "But I would say that people are rude all the time."
Cell phone behavior is the cause of much discussion when people talk about manners. Is it rude to take calls when you're with a group of friends? What about texting at the dinner table? Can you tweet during a meeting?
"The last time a cell phone went off during a service while I was preaching, it was mine," admits Mary Prior, associate pastor at Rock of Grace Church in Kinsman. "Someone picked up my purse and ran out."
Prior says the church has a PowerPoint slide that reminds people to turn off their phones before the service, but she believes people just forget. It's very embarrassing for the person and more distracting to the people around them than it is to the pastor, Prior feels.
"I don't really care if people talk on the phone or text when I'm out with them," said Brooke Parsons of Warren. "Although I would get off the phone pretty quickly - my mother taught me well."
"To me it seems like the attitude you put out there is the one that's reflected back to you," said Parsons, who works as a server at Big Family Sports Grille in Niles. However, sometimes that just doesn't work for her. "A few weeks ago we were busy with a big event at the Expo Center and my charms just weren't working," Parsons said. "Everyone was really rude."
Stress can bring out the worst in us. Illness and financial concerns are a double whammy.
"The first of the year can be really tough," said Stephanie Ting, owner of Main Drug in Kinsman, when asked if she thought people were getting ruder. "People haven't met their deductible for the year, finances are a concern. It's really hard for them, and that makes it harder for us."
"It is different here than in other places I've worked, though," Ting acknowledges. "Maybe it's because it's a smaller town and we know most of the customers, but people here are much more pleasant."
Vulgar language is a topic Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, tackles on a regular basis. She advises against pointing out the inappropriate speech; she thinks that wouldn't be very good manners either. But it does seem that, as a society, our language is changing.
"I remember what my sixth-grade teacher said about people who use bad language - it shows their ignorance," said Prior. She believes people sometimes aren't even aware the language they're using is rude. "People use inappropriate language in the checkout line, in public settings, really everywhere and it doesn't seem like they even realize it's not respectful."
"Any time you deal with the public, you'll have to deal with rude behavior," said Karen Mateer, assistant director at the Kinsman Public Library. Mateer has attended training sessions and brings information back to the library staff about how to deal with difficult patrons.
"It's important to try not to escalate the behavior," said Mateer. "You may even want to physically back away a bit or try to end the conversation as quickly as possible while being as pleasant as you can be."
Many people do believe that, on the whole, we are ruder. "I'm not even sure people know they're being rude; they're unaware or haven't been taught respect," said Mateer. And she didn't think it was young people causing this shift but that it's every age level.
"When someone is polite and you relish it, that might not be a good sign," said Ting.
Maybe we should all strive to make "please" and "thank you" a regular part of our vocabulary.