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“Excuse Me,” “Please,” “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.” At one point, these four phrases were commonplace. In the past, if you stepped on someone’s foot or accidentally hit them, you automatically said “Excuse me” or “I’m so sorry.” You said it almost without really thinking. You excused yourself for belching, sneezing, staring and passing gas. The words rolled right off of your tongue — almost too quickly, often causing you to identify yourself as the person who passed gas. You said “thank you” for any kind gesture, whether solicited or unsolicited, and “Please” before asking something of someone. Nowadays, it seems as though the words are almost extinct comments in society. People just don’t use these kind words anymore.

If they step on your foot, they simply look at you in outrage, almost as if YOU stepped on THEIR foot, or that your foot inconvenienced theirs by being in the vicinity. They don’t part their lips or even pretend to be sorry for the mishap. Or perhaps they feel that looking you directly in the eye is confirmation enough. Then there are those who quickly proclaim “My bad.” I guess those are the good guys today, right?

I cannot tell you how many times I have been on a crowded subway and watched someone who is trying to exit at a particular stop fail to as much as utter a sound. Instead of saying “Excuse me,” they squeeze and maneuver themselves in and out of pockets of space. Even with a cursory glance, you can see the frustration on their faces as they dodge and weave through a collection of bodies. And yet, they refuse or maybe have no idea that two simple words can ease said frustration and let others know that they are attempting to exit. It is almost laughable to watch someone in one of the “inside” seats who wants to exit start shifting in their chair. They start readjusting their packages, purses, briefcases, etc. in as obvious and hurriedly a fashion as possible. They almost never say “Excuse me.” I often turn to the person and ask if they are getting off at the next stop. They always reply “Yes” in a way that says “can’t you tell by my readjusting my belongings that this is my stop?”

I don’t understand that at all. Why not say Excuse me? Is it too old-fashioned? Is it out of style? Or have we simply grown so impolite and impatient with others that we see them as hindrances, instead of the people we have to share space with? Is this a sign of the times? If so, what does that say about the times that two or three words that could potentially defuse a situation before it ignites aren’t important enough to give a few seconds to? Excuse me, can anybody hear me?