When I was young (okay, it was another century), I learned to walk to the left of the footpath (not pavement, not sidewalk — bloody Yanks) and always, if I was with a woman, on her left. Not too hard, the left bit; no, not the bit about me being with a woman, but I digress.

What is it today with people — let’s say from the age of just sub-double figures to their 40s? The only place they’d find the words ‘consideration’ or ‘courtesy’ is in the dictionary, and God knows most of them would only know there’s a dictionary at all because they saw it by mistake on a pull-down menu on their computer not that they’d know how or why to use it.

Footpaths are for walking A to B — not as a meeting place for six bogans, smack in the middle, saying meaningful things such as: “And then HE goes, ‘so what?’. And I go, ‘yeah, what?’.” Roundabouts are obstacles meant for the roads. And those bloody women, two abreast, with prams broader than Nigella’s bum, and kids dressed in designer Ugg boots and Ray Bans, taking up the thoroughfare. Sorry, old person, we have right of way, we’re well-to-do mummies out for a soy-decaf latte and a babyccino, without too much chocolate. It keeps them too active, you know.

And what about those people who walk straight out of shops, with nary a look either way, to see who they may or may not shirtfront? Courtesy?

Then there’s the supermarket and those inconsiderates who leave their Pepsi bonus pack, diet pizza and corn chip-laden trolleys in the middle of the aisle while they search for a bargain two-for-one baked bean offer or a giant, cut-priced pack of beef jerky. To the left, please: it’s not just about Bluey Gillard and her numbers (or lack of them) in Canberra.

And bikes on footpaths. Older than 12, I believe, and you have to ride on the road.

I walk most mornings alongside James Packer’s charity bin (aka Crown Casino) and watch boxheads on bikes fly through — pedalling as hard (okay, I know the spellings wrong, but it’s the sentiment) as a Columbian drug dealer trying to unload before a bust. They have no concern for the pedestrians and duck and weave like Tony Abottt on climate change. Why can’t the rozzers set up a camera there and add to the state’s already bulging speed-camera coffers? As far as I can tell there are signs — the speed limit is 10km/h.

It’s not all that long ago that I was on Spencer Street in the city, walking towards two bike-riding postal workers (and I use the term ‘workers’ loosely) coming in my direction on the footpath. One kept her line straight at me, expecting me, no doubt, to veer away. Nah, I thought, it’s called a footpath. As she collected my shoulder and lurched into the wall, I turned and said: “It’s called a bloody footpath for good reason.”

What about hygiene? Is it that hard to cover your mouth when you yawn, cough or sneeze? No is my guess, but nearly every morning on the tram I see ill-mannered people spreading their personal fluids. Did they flunk their upbringing exams?

It was all summed up for me the other morning when I stood back to let a 20-something woman get off the tram first. She just stared blankly, no doubt wondering why. And don’t get me started on the art of conversation — that’s a story for another day…

The details: Go to this wikiHow page on developing good manners and just take some of it on board. Who knows, you may just become a better person…

Peter Fray

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