For a man who makes my living by being rude on stage, I am surprisingly concerned with courtesy in day-to-day life. We might not be able to do much as individuals about war, terrorism and bigotry, but we can treat each other with basic politeness. If we all did that it might have some impact on war, terrorism and bigotry. Stress levels would go down, tempers would cool, we might stop killing each other. I canÂ’t be sure but I bet Osama Bin LadenÂ’s problem with the West began when someone pushed in front of him in a Post Office queue.
YouÂ’d think that basic civility was something that is innate, but some people seem to have politeness blindness or perhaps think that their lives are so important that the rest of us must leap aside if we cross their path.
We need to make these people aware of the rules of social interaction. IÂ’ll start you off: If youÂ’ve got a runny nose on the train donÂ’t juggle your bogeys in your throat, get a tissue; only use the middle and right hand lanes on a motorway if youÂ’re overtaking; if you have an umbrella up and someone is approaching, move the umbrella out of their way.
I canÂ’t guarantee it, but if you do these things then war will end. It must be worth a try.
I was in a hotel lift last week. I arrived at my floor, the doors opened, I made to exit, but a middle-aged couple with suitcases were blocking the way. It was clear that I was disembarking and I assumed they would move aside, but they didn't. Instead they started entering the lift. I was forced to exit from the corner of the lift, barging past them a little bit, almost tripping over them.
I was mildly annoyed by their rudeness, but as I walked away, the woman sarcastically commented, "Well, excuuuse me!" That riled me. I turned and said, "I'm sorry, what were you expecting me to do there? I was trying to get out of the lift and you were in the way..." The couple went silent.
Â“Maybe you should be apologising, not me,Â” I observed
The man said, "You're supposed to let ladies go first, you idiot."
Now I got angry. I am a courteous person and still believe in holding open doors for others and letting them go before me (regardless of gender). But he had confused two pieces of etiquette. DidnÂ’t he learn this handy phrase as a child: Â“If you're getting in and out of a lift or on and off a train then let everyone get out or off before you try to get in or onÂ”? ItÂ’s common sense. If people with loads of luggage get on a lift that you're trying to exit then you won't be able to exit. IÂ’d hate to see this guy play Tetris.
He had chosen his moment carefully, the lift doors were closing. I shouted, "That doesnÂ’t apply if youÂ’re getting into a lift, you prick." But it was too late. I almost ran down six flights of stairs to punch him in his stupid nose, in front of his rude wife and not a court in the land would have convicted me if I had.
He thought he had won. But he didnÂ’t bank on me having a weekly Metro column and being petty enough to carry the argument on. You didnÂ’t win, mate. You have to let people off the lift first. Everyone knows that. You and your wife are the idiots.
Thus I win.