I wonder if obnoxious people think the rest of us are suckers.

Do they think our pleasant dispositions, our generosity, our sincere caring, our willingness to help, our genuine interest in our fellow human beings is somehow an invitation for abuse?

When they take advantage of others, push to the head of the line, ignore the rules and cheat the system, do they believe they're doing the right thing?

Do they think being loud and bullying people is the best way to live their lives? Do they believe the rest of us are here for their amusement?

Is that the way they were raised?

Minding manners

Every time I left the house, my mother used to holler out the back door for me to "be sweet," no matter where I was going.

Those two simple words summarized my parents' expectations for my behavior.

I was supposed to conduct myself at all times in a manner that not only reflected well on them, but myself, and everybody in my family. I was expected to be nice to everybody, regardless of color, age, or position in the world.

I knew to address people in a pleasant tone, to open doors for ladies, to respect my elders, to watch out for younger children, to be on time, to be presentable, to look both ways before crossing the street, and to speak in complete sentences.

Yes sir and yes ma'am were integral parts of my vocabulary. I didn't talk back. I spoke when spoken to. I played fair. I didn't say bad words in public. I stayed awake in church. I minded my manners at the table. And I never, ever thought of arguing with my daddy.

Two little words

Maybe if I'd been raised somewhere else by different parents I'd be a totally different person.

Maybe I'd be tougher, meaner, more conniving, less trustworthy, more self-centered, sneakier, more suspicious, and somehow better prepared to deal with the harsh realities of life.

Maybe I wouldn't care what other people thought of me, or if they got a fair deal, or even if they lived or died.

Maybe I'd think only of myself, disregarding other's needs, trash somebody's reputation in order to improve my own, lie when it suited my needs, or ignore other people's feelings because they don't really matter.

Or perhaps I'd drive like I was the only one on the highway, believing my destination was more important than all those other people doing the speed limit and driving defensively, because of people like me.

Maybe I'd interrupt people when they were talking, not pay attention to someone when they tried to explain something, or belittle someone because they were physically or mentally different.

Personally, I feel sorry for people like that. I guess their mothers never told them to "be sweet," two little words that can make all the difference in life.

Reach Ken Burger at 937-5598 or on Twitter at @Ken_Burger.