Summary of on saying please

     The essay written by A.G. Gardiner. ‘On Saying Please’ talks about importance using polite words and phrases like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in our daily life which can change the course of our day. Such words help us to make our life smooth.

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  •      The chapter opens with the account of a lift-man. It narrates an incident that took place in a city office. The angry lift man in a city office threw (hurled) a passenger out of his lift because the passenger refused to say “please”! The adamant passenger wanted to go to the top floor, so he said Top! while the liftman expected him to say “Top-please!”

    When the passenger refused to say “please” the lift-man felt insulted. His self-respect was challenged. He would have been less hurt if someone had kicked him. The pain of a kick on the shins soon passes away, but the pain of a wound to our self-respect may spoil a whole day. The passenger showed discourtesy by not saying “please” but not saying “please” is not a legal offence. The lift-man was fined for the physical attack.

    One can retaliate (answer) a physical attack like the case of a burglar with reasonable violence. Law permits and excuses such violence but bad manners and lack of courtesy are not legally punishable offenses.

    We may feel sympathy for the liftman but violence is not permissible as discourtesy is not a legal offense until you are not harmed physically. There is no legal system against bad manners and impolite behavior. In fact, the law cannot become the guardian of our private manner as not any constitution could cover the vast area of offenses and no covert could administer a law which governed our social civilities, our speech, the tilt of our eyebrows, and all over mood and manner

    But, It doesn’t mean that we can neglect its damages. It impacts our social relationships very deeply. The pain of kicking soon passes away but the pain of the wound to our self-esteem or vanity can’t be forgotten. Our words can spoil or make one’s day. As in the case of the liftman, it was the chain of the behavior of the people that made the passenger rude and ill-mannered.

    Using common courtesy in communication should be the first requirement of civility. ‘Please ‘, ‘sorry’, ‘Thank you’, these are the magical words that smooth day-to-day communication. These words help to establish friendly cooperation and easy give and take while communicating in a society.

    Friendly conductor:

    Friendly conductor:

    The writer gives the example of a polite conductor to show how polite speeches and manners sweeten the atmosphere.

  • Generally, we see the conductor who is unpleasant and regards the passengers as his natural enemies whose chief purpose is to cheat him. But the writer had met a conductor who was very friendly and cared for his passengers. One day when the writer was traveling via bus he noticed that he didn’t carry money with him. In such a condition, generally, the conductors assume that the passenger is trying to cheat him. But here the friendly conductor understands the problem and behaves kindly. Not only this but he offered a ticket free of cost.

    One other day when the writer was on the top of the bus his toe was trampled by the same polite cheerful conductor though the writer was hurt badly he assured the conductor that he didn’t hurt him as the conductor is a nice, good-natured person. The conductor is very friendly and polite; he always takes care and helps his passengers to be comfortable.

    *If it was raining he would run up the stairs to give someone the tip that there was room inside.
    *With old people, he was kindly and cooperative as the son
    *He was also careful and concerned with children as a father
    *He was very friendly and respectful with the young ones and enjoys fun with them
    *He was very helpful to the blind people; he not only set them down safely but also took them across the road or around the corner.

         The writer was very impressed with the conductor’s work. Likewise, bad manners good manners are also infectious if we are surrounded with well-mannered people like the polite conductor then we too behave politely we should take inspiration from such people who are dignified by good temper and kindly feelings

    We must follow little everyday civilities of behavior that sweeten the atmosphere and make life kindly and tolerable for each other. Because the law can definitely protect us against material attack but in case of restore civilities, neither law nor physical violence will help us

    The world at large is a rather dull place, he says, and so such cheerfulness needs to be spread as widely as possible. Moreover, Gardiner is not apologetic about writing a piece in praise of an unknown conductor. He feels that just as William Wordsworth, the English romantic poet, could learn lessons from the humble leech gatherer and the lonely moor, ordinary people too could learn from a man who elevated his modest job through good temper and kindness.

    There is a general feeling that the World War has taken away from man’s daily life the use of civility that had made life sweet earlier. Gardiner asserts that those civilities must be restored to make life with one another easier. This cannot be done with the help of policemen or the law – which are necessary for creatures like man who are far from perfect. Whereas the law can only protect us from physical injury, the liftman’s way of retaliating against rudeness with physical violence too is ineffectual. Gardiner suggests that if rudeness were to be replied to with excessive politeness, sweet revenge might be had while retaining one’s moral superiority. He calls it the victory over oneself – the only victory that matters to end the piece, he recounts the story of the witty Lord Chesterfield for the edification of the liftman.


    There was a time when the streets of the city were very muddy and the only way of keeping one’s shoes clean was by walking as close as possible to the wall, where a very narrow strip of ground was a little higher than the rest of the road. Here Chesterfield came face to face with an uncouth fellow who refused to step into the mud to allow Chesterfield to pass. “I never give way to a scoundrel’, is what he said. Immediately Chesterfield stepped into the mud with a bow saying, “I always do”. Gardiner hopes that the liftman will understand that this revenge was much better than throwing the fellow into the mud.

    To conclude the writer suggests subtle and effective revenge to ill-mannered rude people. If the liftman had treated the rude gentleman with politeness then the lift man would have had the victory not only over the rude person but also over himself and that victory matters.

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