It is Possible To Have An Entitled Expectation That Others Behave Politely

by admin on July 27, 2014

Not a story, but more a question regarding door-holding etiquette and who owes what. I used to have this disagreement with an old boyfriend on a fairly regular basis, and was wondering if the admin and commenters could weigh in, out of curiosity for what the “right” answer is. My ex found it unacceptably rude if, after someone held a door open for him, they didn’t respond to his “Thank you” with “You’re welcome.” I was of the opinion that having already done you one favour by holding the door, the stranger is in the clear, so to speak, and owes you nothing. Especially if they respond in another way, like smiling or nodding or something. It seemed very demanding to me to insist that someone who has already do e something nice for you must then go through an extra little song and dance to keep their politeness from being rude. But my ex would grumble and huff about it later and insist that thanks deserve recognition, and by not responding “correctly” the door-holder was being rude and disrespectful. Who was in the right? 0726-14

If one goes through life expecting to be rewarded for good manners, I think the likelihood of chronic disappointment and disillusionment is highly probable.   We should behave in a kind, civil manner because it edifies the individual, it feels good, and there is the intrinsic satisfaction of doing something that contributes to the overall good.    Your ex has a fairly shallow and superficial reason for why he acts politely in society…when people respond the way he believes they should, he gets an immediate “reward” and if they do not, he grouses about it meaning he is, at least, ungracious.

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

Cat July 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm

My theory is that I am not responsible for the way you treat me. I am responsible for the way I treat you. I’m not your mother or your spouse; you are not my problem. It’s all I can do to control the way I behave.

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RC July 27, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Agreed, admin! Nicely worded. OP, I am glad this person is now an ex.

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Anonymous July 27, 2014 at 11:31 pm

OP, this guy sounds like a pill. He seems to have mastered the “script” of etiquette, but not the nuances. It’s not supposed to be about keeping score, or pointing out other people “doing it wrong”; it’s supposed to be about making other people more comfortable (or, in some cases, politely making people feel uncomfortable; for example, with the Cut Direct). But, my point is, it’s not meant to be a “black and white” kind of deal, of “social conventions,” where you check off each task on a checklist, and if you complete everything, you’re “polite,” and if not, you’re “rude.” That kind of mentality reminds me of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, and most episodes of that show revolve around Sheldon doing something rude or socially awkward, and not realizing that he did anything wrong, and everyone trying to clean up the mess. That might make for good television, but it doesn’t make for a good reality.

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Marozia July 27, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Thank you should suffice, I think. No response is necessary.
An elderly man held a door open for me one day and I said ‘Thank you, it’s nice to meet a gentleman’. He tipped his hat at me and said, ‘It’s nice to meet a lady who appreciates a gentleman’.

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babs July 28, 2014 at 8:50 am

Loved it! I’m going to have to remember that!

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Phitius July 28, 2014 at 9:40 am

This is wonderful, started my day with a smile.

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Lisa July 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm

That’s so cute!

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Rebecca July 28, 2014 at 12:22 am

Oh good grief. I am with the OP. The boyfriend sounds petty.
Now my pet door-opening peeve is when I’m holding the door for someone behind me (so it doesn’t slam in their face) and there is a steady stream of people behind them, and NOBODY takes it from me. So I’m standing there being the door-holder for everyone. At some point you have to let go of the door and let it close on SOMEBODY or else you’d be standing there being door-holder all day.

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Saucygirl July 28, 2014 at 9:47 am

This is my pet peeve too! My husband always holds the door and this happens 99% of the time. It normally ends when I grab him and say “if they can’t take the time/effort to thank you then you don’t need to spend the time/effort holding the door” and I make him let go of the door.

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NostalgicGal July 28, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Here doorholding is quite common and I find that if I make move to let go at three or four, someone will usually take it from me. (not letting it close in face but starting to move and starting to let it close several inches…)

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Skaramouche July 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm

This is my pet peeve also!! I must admit that I’m less patient than you, Rebecca. After spending years as the “universal door holder”, I have finally had enough. I watch carefully to see if the person behind me shows signs of taking over “door holding” from me if he/she can reasonably be expected to do so (hands aren’t full, etc). If not, I let it go just in time to smack the person in the face or the side. Sometimes I still end up unwittingly holding the door as some clueless yobbo sails through without so much as a thank you or a smile but I have seen enough doors hit people that I feel vindicated :D

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Calliope July 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm

You intentionally smack people with a door?

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Mags July 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm

You open it for one or two (however many you feel like letting by), and then you move your body into the stream and go through, holding the door open still but with your arm at the side, and as you pass through, the door will begin to close as your arm follows your body, and then either someone grabs it or you let it close. When there is a stream of people, they have to sort of all give a little push to keep the door open as they go by.

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Shyla July 28, 2014 at 12:59 am

I always thought that the thank you was a response to me for being polite if I held the door. Now I have to say you’re welcome? I don’t want to be best friends. I just want to think of myself as a semi-decent human being for not letting the door slam in your face. I personally don’t like to interact much with strangers. If this will turn into a whole complicated ritual then I’ll stop holding the door.

Admin is right. If you look to strangers for validation, you will be disappointed.

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Tracy W July 28, 2014 at 2:27 am

OMG – the guy thinks that someone who holds a door open for him is “unacceptably rude” if they don’t then go further and say “you’re welcome” in response to a “thank you”?
No wonder he’s your ex.

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NostalgicGal July 28, 2014 at 2:52 am

When I moved here, I found door holding to be a rampant thing; and a gracious ‘Thank You’ was all that was required. And you in turn hold that door as needed. Even if the person held it for someone else, it could be you have a few more ‘use the hold’ and thank the holder in turn as they pass. A ‘You’re Welcome’ doesn’t seem to be required, a nice smile and maybe a nod. Young or old; cane, motie, walker; or hearty and hale; male or female, it doesn’t matter.

It more seems to be just that the response to a Thank You is that in turn you can expect that person to hold it for you next time.

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penguin tummy July 28, 2014 at 3:59 am

As an old prayer says “labour and not to seek any reward”

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LeeLee88 July 28, 2014 at 5:08 am

I get briefly annoyed if someone I’m holding a door for doesn’t say ‘thanks’ or acknowledge me in some way, but op’s ex-boyfriend’s expectations are over the top. Dude, be happy the door was held for you; let’s not make it into a faceted ritual that it really doesn’t have to be. You held the door, the person said “Thank you”, and that’s it. Or vice versa.

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Mojo July 28, 2014 at 5:39 am

If I get a ‘thank you’ for holding a door, that’s quite enough. It’s when I don’t get a ‘thank you’ that they get a slighty sarcastic ‘you’re welcome’ from me!

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Byaboo July 28, 2014 at 7:34 am

Several years ago there was a man shot because he felt he was in the right when he had held the door open for a gentleman who didn’t acknowledge him. He proceeded to follow the guy around and tell him that he needed to say thank you. The other guy walked out to the truck and when the door holder followed to keep harping the other guy shot the door holder. I think if someone doesn’t acknowledge me holding open the door for them then whatever, I would never respond with sarcasm towards them because you never know with people. Here is a link to the article: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/man-shot-after-manners-scolding/nFCRR/

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crebj July 28, 2014 at 9:46 am

See admin’s response. You’re in for a good deal of petty disappointments, I fear.

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rachel July 28, 2014 at 10:01 am

That sarcasm is a huge faux pas. I can’t believe you’d admit to doing that on this site.

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Steve July 28, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Why? Are you under the impression that etiquette is observed by magic, with no societal enforcement?

Failing to say thanks for a door held open is not merely rude. It is a direct insult. It communicates: Of course you held the door for me. You are one of the lower orders. You exist to serve me. An insult like that demands a reprimand.

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Calliope July 29, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Or it communicates that the person who didn’t say thank you was simply distracted, or perhaps they said thank you and you didn’t hear them, or perhaps they’re mute, or perhaps they just received distressing news and they’re too inside their own head to even realize that you held the door. There are tons of possibilities aside from “they think they’re better than me.” It’s rude not to acknowledge someone holding a door for you, sure. But surely it’s not such a huge slight that you simply must “reprimand” this stranger. A truly polite, gracious person knows when to let things go.

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RC July 28, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Wow, I hope you’re joking Mojo. No need to use sarcasm and a biting remark because you didn’t get a ‘thank you’. It’s nice that you hold open doors, and its nice when people thank you, but you cannot control others. Maybe reread admins comment?

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Shalamar July 29, 2014 at 1:40 am

I do that too, Mojo!

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Alli July 29, 2014 at 6:20 am

You also don’t know anything about them. They may be the kind of person who clams up in that situation, or may not speak English.

Etiquette is about making other people feel comfortable. It’s not about getting what’s owed to you.

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Snarkastic July 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

“Thank you” exists in every language. Gracias, Merci, Danka, etc.

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Snarkastic July 30, 2014 at 4:27 pm

I can’t help but look put off when people don’t say, “thanks” or even acknowledge my presence and often say, “You’re welcome” after they’ve gone.

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Ginger0630 August 13, 2014 at 9:00 pm

I do the same thing and I do it loud enough for them to hear! I really don’t care if it’s a faux pas or not, but it’s very rude NOT to thank someone for doing you a favor like holding a door. I ALWAYS say thank you when someone holds a door for me, along with a smile. I want them to know that it was appreciated. If someone doesn’t thank me, I assume they think of me as below them and I will NOT tolerate that!

Of course, I wouldn’t do what that guy in the article above did and follow someone around…that is just creepy and stupid. I just say “You’re welcome!” and walk away and hope they look stupid.

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Margo July 28, 2014 at 6:18 am

Why would Ex stop at that point. If he expected people to say “you’re welcome” when thanked, did he consider that that then required the person who had said “Thank You” to acknowledge that, as well.

As I see it, it’s a 2 part ‘transaction’. Jane holds the door open for John, which is a polite and thoughtful thing to do. John says Thank you, which is a polite and appropriate response.

If the scenario was that Jane walked up to John and said “I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for watering my plant when I was out of the office sick last week” and John didn’t respond in any way, I can see that being rude, so there are situations when saying “you’re welcome” or some other acknowledgment of thanks would be appropriate, but even then, it’s a bit pointless to be grumbling about it.

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June July 28, 2014 at 7:48 am

My father had cerebral palsy, so, from the time we were very little girls, my sisters and I always held the door for him, instead of the other way around. Now that I’m an adult, if I’m at the door first, I always hold it for whoever’s coming behind me, and whether it’s a man or a woman doesn’t occur to me unless the other person brings it up.

Another thing, and I don’t know if it’s universal, or just a local custom: at stores where there is an airlock door (outer door, then a small room, then a second inner door that leads to the store itself), the custom is, Person A holds the outer door for Person B, which puts Person B in a position to hold the inner door for Person A. Like a relay. Everybody I know does it, and, for whatever reason, it always brings a smile when it happens.

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babs July 28, 2014 at 4:58 pm

I agree! Love when that happens. You hold the door for me, I take a few steps and open the door for you. It never ceases to bring a big smile. We have to enjoy the little things these days! :)

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Miriam July 28, 2014 at 7:49 am

I let a lady clutching one item and a hadful of change go in front of me to pay [just after I read this], as I had an armful of things, & was using a credit card.

She said “Thank you”.

I hope you are all proud of me that I remembered to say “You’re welcome”, rather than ‘insulting’ her by just smiling.

She didn’t seem [too?] offended, so I think we are all good!

:D

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Miriam July 28, 2014 at 7:50 am

*handful* of change

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Dominic July 28, 2014 at 8:04 am

I like the earlier comments about “ritual,” which is part of etiquette. It’s when the ritual (or taking it too far) obscures the purpose/function of etiquette that it gets silly (like thanking someone for writing a thank-you note for a gift you gave them).

This dovetails into a current peeve of mine at the office. Lately, when one of us in the general office area sneezes, a co-worker of ours will very loudly say “Bless you!” This is usually followed by a quick “Thank you” from the sneezing party, followed by a “You’re welcome” from the blessing party. I automatically say thank you in the situation; it’s how I was brought up. But the “You’re welcome” is unnecessary in this instance, and only contributes to the general office chatter that disturbs others.

It might strictly be correct to say “You’re welcome,” but it’s not really needed here.

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Shalamar July 28, 2014 at 8:54 am

Somewhat related … I have a now ex-friend who had a bad habit of letting the door close in my face , even if my hands were full. I finally got ticked off enough to chastise him about it. His response was to run ahead to each door and ostentatiously hold it open for me with an exaggerated “m’lady” attitude. When I said “Now you’re just being a jerk”, he threw his hands up in the air and said “Women! You can’t make your minds up.”

That’s one of many reasons why he’s now an EX-friend.

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MM July 28, 2014 at 8:55 am

I’m all for etiquette but I don’t think anyone wants to waste time with an endless stream of niceties. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” “Thank you for saying you’re welcome.” “Thank you for saying thank you to me saying you’re welcome.” “You’re welcome. Thank you for thanking me for saying you’re welcome.”

Actually that sounds pretty reasonable…

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Cecilia July 28, 2014 at 8:58 am

I believe there was a story on E-hell a couple of years ago about holding open doors and the expectation of a “thank you”or “you’re welcome” that resulted in someone getting shot.

Looked it up. It was titled “Taking a Bullet for Good Manners”. Maybe show your boyfriend that story. A man was upset about not getting a “thank you” for holding open a door that he followed a man to his car and that man shot him.

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Ashley July 28, 2014 at 9:01 am

Wow! I have to agree with the previous posters. He sounds WAY off base on this. He sounds like he is caught up in an “who owes what to whom” mentality and an “everyone has to see things my ‘correct’ way” mentality. That isn’t manners. That is keeping score and being selfish. And that is very close to using etiquette to try to get things out of others.

It’s nice when someone holds the door open for me, and it is even nicer when they smile back when I say “thank you,” but they do not “owe” me anything, and there is no “correct” cookie-cutter way to handle that situation. It certainly isn’t enough to make me “grumble and huff about it later.” I’m not special enough to “deserve recognition” for every thank you I say. I am just happy they held the door for me!

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Shoebox July 28, 2014 at 9:54 am

Huh. I tend to respond to “thank you” with “No problem” or “No worries” (no, I’m not Australian, I just like the extra-friendly way it sounds). Now I’m imagining totally blowing ex’s mind.

Seriously, ex is wrong, and Admin is correct. Barring certain formal situations mostly involving meeting royalty, manners are about the intent, not the process. Someone’s done a kind act, you acknowledge it in proportion, everyone moves on feeling a little better. Expectations beyond that are all on the expectee.

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Anonymouse July 29, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I agree. “You’re welcome” seems a little formal in my day-to-day. I usually use “no problem” as well.

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Nissa July 28, 2014 at 10:32 am

This reminds me of a funny story about an ex of mine from high school. I was his first girlfriend, and his parents were very good about teaching him to have good manners. He was mostly polite and respectful towards me. The only problem arose occasionally when he would open doors for me. Sometimes in his eagerness to remember to hold the door open, he would accidentally knock me out of the way to get to the door. I had to politely remind him that knocking me out of the way tended to cancel out the fact that he was holding the door for me. :-)

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lnelson1218 July 28, 2014 at 10:47 am

Wow, I have never really giving this much thought.
I was brought up to hold open the door for the person behind me, or woman with baby carriage, etc, but I can’t say that I have been offended if I don’t get a thank-you or you’re welcome. Whatever the situation would call for.
I am offended if I try to be nice and hold a door and all I get is a dirty look.

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Ellie July 28, 2014 at 10:58 am

This isn’t really a real etiquette debate, it’s shooting fish in a barrel.

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Ashley July 28, 2014 at 11:14 am

The only time I get annoyed in a door holding situation is when I see someone coming and they are texting on their phone and I hold open the door and they walk through it as if it’s some automatic door, and don’t even LOOK at me. I don’t even care if I get a verbal thank you, it’s the people who are SO wrapped up in their own stuff that they would walk into the door if I weren’t holding it that bother me.

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Saucygirl July 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm

I use to work with a really pretty, young girl, and whenever we went out guys would rush to open doors for her. She would sail through, oblivious to what was happening. One day I made her stop and look at the guys. I told her she needed to realize the doors weren’t magically opening, that someone had taken the time to hold it for her, and that she needed to acknowledge that gesture, cause just being beautiful in their presence wasn’t enough. Every now and then (normally, when we are walking through a door being held open for us) she likes to remind me of that, and then thanks me too

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Alli July 28, 2014 at 11:28 am

Sound like it is a good thing he is an ex.

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knitwicca July 28, 2014 at 11:40 am

I used to date a guy who thought it was weird for someone (anyone) to thank him for holding a door for them. Especially if I was the one saying “thank you.”

To be honest, he was taught absolutely no courtesy and was learning as an adult.

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Ellen CA July 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Here’s a follow-up question re. door holding: A stranger holds the door open and allows you to enter ahead of them at an establishment (say a coffee house) where you immediately get into line for service after you enter. By being ushered through the door ahead of the person holding the door for you, you are effectively now getting in line ahead of them.
I usually try to lag back and wave them into the line ahead of me, to their rightful spot in the order we arrived at the shop. Sometimes they refuse to step ahead of me into the line and that leaves me feeling I have essentially cut in front. I see others who don’t give a glance back to the person that held the door as they proceed directly into the line ahead of them. What is the etiquette here?

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babs July 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm

If someone opens the door and lets me in before them, causing them to be behind me in a line, I always motion for them to go ahead of me, or ask them if they would like to. I can’t recall having anybody take me up on it, but the gesture is always appreciated.

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Calliope July 28, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I offer the person who held the door the spot in line ahead of me, as I think it’s the polite thing to do. Whether they take it is up to them. If they decline, you don’t need to feel like you’ve cut in line.

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Library Diva July 28, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Leaping to mind is the phrase “Get a life!” Really, if this is his biggest problem, he should be grateful. It’s nice if the door-holder says “You’re welcome,” but I don’t think they have to. If he was like this about everything, I can see why he’s an ex.

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Guin July 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm

One thing I learned is you can’t police the world. People don’t say thanks when you hold the door open for them, people don’t wave thanks when you let their car merge ahead of you. The habit of people always staring into their phones is making people less aware of their surroundings, I believe. This seems to be the way the world is heading – doesn’t mean I’m going to be angry, doesn’t mean I’m going to stop holding open doors and letting people merge. Every now and then that one thank you restores my faith.

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kit July 29, 2014 at 6:04 am

I don’t think we will ever meet on street, but most of the times I need someone to LET me merge, I am busy enough about traffic around me and waiting for a moment “will they let me merge? will they not? ooh they will, GO! FAST! so as not to keep that nice driver waiting for any longer than absolutely necessary” and then once I am in, trying to keep in flow, that I just don’t have an extra hand (my car has manual shifting to boot) for waving (or give a blink with lights as is done where I live).

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Lisa July 28, 2014 at 12:47 pm

It’s pretty strange that your ex is bothered that much by such a small thing. Good Lord, what would he do if someone actually WAS rude to him?

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Lizajane July 28, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Were you dating Sheldon Cooper?

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Luna July 28, 2014 at 2:34 pm

This reminds me of an incident a few years ago. I can’t remember what favor I did, but when the other person thanked me, I smiled and politely acknowledged her but didn’t specifically say, “You’re welcome.” When I didn’t follow the “correct script,” she glared at me and snapped, “When someone says, ‘Thank you,’ the correct response is ‘You’re welcome.'” Then she flounced off, leaving me and a few other passersby slack jawed.

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Miriam July 29, 2014 at 6:28 am

Seeing your comment made me think: I know how to say “Thank you” in nine or ten languages, I know how to say “You’re welcome” in three, and the equivalent in another ["My pleasure"], and in an unexpected situation would be able to remember it *only* in English!

I love hearing non-English speakers saying “Thank you” and wouldn’t dream of confusing them with a “You’re welcome” unless their accent makes me think their grasp of English is pretty good [you can normally tell the situation by how much effort & mangling goes into the thanks] – a smile, I feel, would be much better etiquette in those situations?

And I have been the person who has practised “Thank you” till it sounds great, only to have the native-speaker think I understand more & speaks to me, leaving me baffled.

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A different Tracy July 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Did you, by chance, respond with “no problem?” Because I hate that. I would never say anything to you about it, but it really rubs me the wrong way. Especially when I’m someone’s customer, and I say “thank you,” and they respond by telling me that the thing they did for me, which they were hired and paid to do, wasn’t a problem for them. Well. How fortunate.

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Stacey Frith-Smith July 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I wonder if the ex felt uncomfortable with someone holding the door- his “insistence” on thanks being acknowledged with “you’re welcome” is a bit controlling. Armchair pseudo-psychology at best (but I still wonder),

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pdolly July 28, 2014 at 5:38 pm

This guy seems to want to be thanked for saying thank you. Weird.

That being said, some people are saying holding the door lets people just walk by them and I’m having trouble picturing that. Here you just let go of the door when they get to it. Usually you don’t even have to stop, just slow down while reaching back to keep hold of the door while the other person reaches forwards to catch it.

My pet peeve is when I’m quite a bit behind someone and they hold the door. Am I supposed to run? Don’t start looking huffy just go, you’re making this situation terribly awkward dagnabit!

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starstruck July 28, 2014 at 10:16 pm

everyone has a pet peeve. its that simple. for this guy , its hearing a, ” your welcome” after he says thank you. its crazy to me people here are name calling this poor guy, things like “shallow” , “a pill” and even more absurd , “controlling”. really? just for wanting a your welcome? harsh!! i mean call me crazy but i was taught to say your welcome after someone says thank you. seems pretty basic to me and not to much effort to say it. no, it doesn’t mean he is entitled to a response, but he appreciate’s it when he hears it. thats all.

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OP July 31, 2014 at 9:23 pm

I’m the OP, and for the record everyone else has pretty much the right idea over my ex’s personality. He was absolutely a controlling, petty, abusive person and as several people have suggested, “he is an ex for a reason.” He certainly did think he was entitled to a response, hence ranting and grumbling if he didn’t get one, and on more than one occasion passive-aggressively snapping at people as they walked by for not saying “You’re welcome,” even if they’d only smiled or nodded at him rather than saying the words.

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starstruck August 2, 2014 at 11:06 am

wow, poor guy sounds like he is in for some major disappointment in life. lol well, i don’t know your ex boyfriend obviously, i just pointed out that i didn’t think he was necessarily rude or controlling because he wanted a , “your welcome”. its seemed unfair for people who didn’t know him at all to call him those things. its funny though, i thought about this story last night, as i was walking out of a gas shell station, a guy held my door open and i said thank you! and he replied your welcome. lol i live in the deep south of lousiana and here everyone says thank you, your welcome and I’ve never in my life had a gentleman not hold a door open for me , and when i say thanks, he always replies your welcome. but your ex boyfriend doesn’t sound like a gentleman so, kudos you you for dumping him! :)

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just4kicks August 1, 2014 at 5:00 pm

We just came back from vacation at the beach. One morning, my daughter and I took a walk to collect seashells. On our way back to the hotel, there was a woman who was struggling with chairs and towels etc. As we passed by her, I asked her if she’d like any help. She gave us a huge smile and said “no, thanks, I only have a few more steps to go, but I do appreciate your asking! You wouldn’t believe the people who not only passed by me, but knocked into me, and then kept going!”
On the other hand….we stopped off for lunch on the way home, and there was a young girl who ended up spilling the two trays of trash she was trying to dump in the garbage can. Our 17 year old son was sitting right next to her table and jumped up (that’s my boy!!!) to help her pick up the trash on the ground. She spun on him and barked, “I’VE GOT IT!!!!” Uhhhh, ok then.

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Enna August 10, 2014 at 11:29 am

What a silly person the OP’s ex is. How petty! I remember once when my sibling and I were at secondary school, to get to the libray you had to go though a builiding and the libaray had an inner door and an outer door. We were going to the libaray and so was a teacher, as we were in front he said thank you four times! He didn’t tell us off for not saying “your welcome” – but we didn’t expect four thank yous either. We’d have been happy with the one thank you.

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