On Saying Please

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A. G. Gardiner - On Saying Please
Alfred George Gardiner (1865–1946), a British journalist and author, is highly regarded in the literary arena. From 1915 he contributed to The Star under the pseudonym (pen name) Alpha of the Plough. The story behind the choosing of the name is interesting. At the time, The Star had several anonymous essayists whose pseudonyms were the names of stars. Invited to choose the name of a star as a pseudonym he chose the name of the brightest (alpha) star in the constellation ‘the Plough’. His essays are uniformly elegant, graceful and humorous. His uniqueness lay in his ability to teach the basic truths of life in an easy and amusing manner. The Pillars of Society, Pebbles on the Shore, Many Furrows and Leaves
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But all the same the law cannot become the guardian of our private manners. No Decalogue could cover the vast area of offences and no court could administer a law which governed our social civilities, our speech, the tilt of our eyebrows and all our moods and manners. But though we are bound to endorse the verdict against the lift-man most people will have a certain sympathy with him. While it is true that there is no law that compels us to say ‘Please’, there is a social practice much older and much more sacred than any law which enjoins us to be civil. And the first requirement of civility is that we should acknowledge a service. ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ are the small change with which we pay our way as social beings.

They are the little courtesies by which we keep the machine of life oiled and running sweetly. They put our intercourse upon the basis of a friendly co operation an easy give and take, instead of on the basis of superiors dictating to inferiors. It is a very vulgar mind that would wish to command where he can have the service for asking, and have it with willingness and good feeling instead of resentment.

I should like to 'feature' in this connection my friend, the polite conductor. By this discriminating title, I do not intend to suggest a rebuke to conductors generally. On the contrary, I am disposed to think that
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