Calgary Sun

Marie Cooper and Bob Andrew from the Kerby Centre look for a seat through the sea of “lounge Lizards” at a

Calgary Transit press conference on their new ad campaign bringing awareness to the need for basic manners.

Stuart Dryden/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

If only the reality was as adorable as a Lounge Lizard, Funky Ferret or Chatty Chihuahua.

Sadly, the cartoon mascots of Calgary Transit’s new etiquette campaign are among the only charming characters riding the system these days — and the brutal manners and bad hygiene of actual passengers has forced transit officials to re-emphasize what should be obvious.

Give your seat up to elderly, disabled and pregnant passengers; don’t blast your music or loudly gab into your phone; stop blocking doors and aisles; and perhaps most vital of all, buy some deodorant.
Such is the sad state of modern manners that transit officials have been forced to print posters and adopt cute cartoon characters, in hopes of improving rancid behaviour aboard buses and trains.

Diplomatically, they say the campaign is only for certain passengers — a minority, of course.

But anyone who rides the crowded rails and buses knows the truth, that good manners and concern for others is fast becoming as rare as an empty seat at rush hour, or a sober passenger on the final Friday night train.

“I think it’s fantastic and I think it’s necessary,” said Maria Doll, a Calgary-based expert on manners.

“People have lost that basic sense of how to interact with other people.”

Doll, a certified etiquette consultant at Leadership Matters, says the deterioration of decency and manners in public settings is something that fascinates her — and she says the answer is at our fingertips.

“I’ve been pondering that as an etiquette trainer and wondering why that is,” said Doll.

“The one thing that really comes to mind is we are so attached to our gadgets and devices, that our sense of situational awareness decreases.”

Thus, the smartphone salvation of every daily transit user — that ability to escape into a digital realm where the creepy guy in the next seat isn’t staring at you and no one is nodding off on your shoulder — is also the undoing of manners.

Doll says people may not even mean to be rude, but the bubble of oblivion provided by iPhones, Kobos and the like is also the reason we don’t notice the granny struggling to stand, or realize our personal entertainment is annoying to others.

“We’re so busy talking and texting, we’re not aware that what we’re doing is bothering other people, or that there’s someone disabled and I should give up my seat, or my conversation is too loud and maybe others don’t want to hear,” said Doll.

That explains bad manners — poor hygiene is a little harder to understand, and to stomach.

Both are part of the year-long Calgary Transit campaign, which will see particular peeves rolled out one at a time, which matching cartoon mascots to make the point: Hungry Hamster, Disco Dog, Blocking Bunny, Birdy Big Bags and Crowding Kitty will follow.

“Generally Calgary Transit customers are excellent customers but there are times where we have some challenging activities on our buses and trains,” said Doug Morgan, director of Calgary Transit.

“We just want to put a reminder out there and let them know some of the things that irritate other customers like loud headphones or not giving up priority seating.

The price is certainly right, given that Calgary Transit borrowed the entire campaign from Vancouver’s TransLink system, and only had to cover costs for printing the posters.

Seniors say the reminder to surrender seats to those who can’t stand for long distances is worth it’s weight in gold.

“That is so gratifying to hear — I think youngsters aren’t being taught to respect seniors anymore,” said Ruth Maria Adria, spokeswoman for Elder Advocates of Alberta.
Marie Cooper, who volunteers at the Kerby Centre, has been riding Calgary Transit since 1955 and applauds the campaign.

“It never hurts for people to learn and think of things from the other side of the fence — one day maybe they will be needing a seat,” she said.

On Twitter: @SUNMichaelPlatt

– with files from Katie Schneider



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