On Saying Please by A.G. Gardiner
In On Saying Please by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of courtesy, civility, morality, responsibility and control. Taken from his Many Furrows collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of courtesy and the benefits of being courteous to others. The story of the lift-man and his pushing of the man out of the lift leaves two people to suffer. The lift-man who is likely to be charged by the police and the man himself who was pushed out of the lift. Though some critics might suggest the lack of courtesy shown by the man who was pushed out of the life is enough for the lift-man to take matters into his own hand. The lift-man only suffers by his actions. Whereas if he had taken the moral high ground and continued to be polite to the man. He may have in fact changed the man’s approach to him. By showing civility the narrator argues that more is to be gained than if one is ill-mannered or ill-tempered towards another person. If anything the lift-man has lost his peace of mind and possibly his freedom.
The narrator’s example of the conductor is also interesting as the conductor at all times appears to take the higher moral ground despite what he may think of his passengers on the. He never judges anyone and is apologetic when he makes a mistake. Something that is noticeable when he stands on the narrator’s feet. Though an accident the conductor ensures that he apologies and that no offence can be taken. This may be important as Gardiner may be suggesting that just as the lift-man lost his patience and peace of mind. The conductor on the other hand remains morally upright. He is sensible enough to know when he has made a mistake and when he must apologize. Unlike the lift-man who has taken matters personally and as a result has broken the law. Which takes precedence over any ill-mannered approach that one may receive from another person. Legality takes precedence over moral laws in the eyes of society and one is left to deal with a perceived moral injustice by themselves without the support of the law. As to whether the reader agrees with this is a different matter as loss of peace of mind over a moral slight can result in the law being broken or others who are innocent being effected.
Gardiner may also be exploring the difficulties that can be incurred by an individual when dealing with the public. The lift-man acted inappropriately while the conductor on the other hand is wise enough to know that it is better to be sweet to each passenger than to offend them. Not only does the conductor keep his peace of mind but he also ensures that he is not responsible for breaking the law. Though the conductor may feel like doing so. In contrast the lift-man and the conductor are two very different types of people. The lift-man loses control because he feels slighted in some way. That he may be deemed by the man entering the lift as being inferior to him. While the conductor on the other hand does not lose control of his emotions. Rather he continues to be polite, well-mannered and civil to all his passengers. It is by losing control that the lift-man faces the more serious charge of breaking the law. Morally the law is not responsible for how the lift-man has been treated. The law only deals with issues of a legal nature.
It is also clear to the reader that the happier of the two men is the conductor. The lift-man having lost control acts irresponsibly. Whereas if he takes the higher moral ground that is shown by the conductor. He still keeps his peace of mind and acts morally superior to the man who did not say please. Which leaves the reader realizing that regardless of how one is morally treated by another person. The path to follow is not to retaliate or query an indiscretion that may have been felt but to rise above the indiscretion and maintain one’s dignity. At all times ensuring that one can keeps one’s peace of mind without having to lower themselves to the level of the perceived offender. Something which may be difficult to accomplish though worth the effort. As matters of gratitude can have an effect not only on the offended party but also to those in the offended party’s circle. Something which only leads to further disruption and misfortune to an individual. Despite themselves being innocent of any law that they perceive may be broken. In reality it is better for a person to overcome how they might feel having been slighted morally and to take the higher moral ground.