As a Buckhead booster, I admit I pretty much see it all through rose-colored glasses. But, as a native of our city, I have to admit some dramatic changes have taken place, and they are not all what I would have choreographed.
We are exposed to so much violence on television and through other media that we feel an obligation to protect against it. That’s when we begin to distance ourselves in the arena of pleasantries.
Of course, some change is a byproduct of other change: Increases in population can certainly be blamed for some attitude changes.
For instance, we seldom see horse-drawn buggies on the roadways anymore, so men have no reason to walk the sidewalk curbside to protect our female companions. Although I may be admonished for writing the following, with so many women in the workforce now, it’s no longer considered bad manners to let them pay for part of the meal.
As a former politician, however, what I dislike most is the overt avoidance of making eye contact when passing one another on the sidewalk or building hallway.
Thinking back, I can recall when it seemed everyone knew everyone, so there was no fear associated with strangers. But Buckhead is not your grandfather’s small town anymore.
I recall with some nostalgia visiting my dad’s office at the downtown William-Oliver Building as a youngster and seeing the best behavior of lawyers and other professional men in the elevators. They always removed their hats if women entered. How nice.
When I grew up, we had the standard Emily Post proper manners book on the same shelf with Webster’s dictionary, of equal importance. Child care was included.
Recently, because of the increased traffic congestion caused by the I-85 bridge collapse, we’ve had more complaints regarding poor manners on the roads.
Our Buckhead Coalition saw a need to help local drivers into and out of driveways by offering them free signs asking others in traffic to “PLEASE Let Me In The Drive,” or, conversely, “PLEASE Let Me Out Of The Drive.”
We equate “hospitality” with a happy face and this takes on an even stronger degree of civility when we’re branded as “Southern Hospitality.”
What I request is that you not give up. A smile begets a smile, and there are lots of them out there … at least I can vouch for such in the 28 square miles of Buckhead.
It’s a happy place, where all are welcome and road-rage is restricted.
Sam Massell is the president of the Buckhead Coalition.