In My Own Shoes: The evolution of society is more like a devolution

In My Own Shoes: The evolution of society is more like a devolution

The Westerly Sun

Something’s not quite right.

Remember years ago when you needed a fill-up? Every gas station was full-serve, and that meant an attendant wearing not only a uniform, but a smile. You were greeted warmly, your oil was checked, the windshield was washed, and maybe you even got S&H Green Stamps just for making a purchase.

Fast forward to today.

You get nothing. Nobody cares about the level on your dipstick, you pump your own gas at most stations, and no one even knows what a Green Stamp is anymore. Want your windshield bug-free? Well, do it yourself, fella. And how do you distinguish who’s the attendant? There's no uniform. There's no greeting. No line of chorus boys in starched white outfits singing, “We are the men of Texaco, we work from Maine to Mexico ....”  No, your guy is probably the young man on the cellphone, the magenta streak in his hair, and the terse reply when asked for directions.

Why should we be surprised that the gas station attendants no longer wear uniforms when the doctors don’t either?  Yesterday’s doctor was a professional in a suit or dress with a white coat over the ensemble. Today’s doctor wears jeans, boots, and anything from a scrub shirt you can buy in the discount store to a T-shirt or tie-dyed affair. Where’s the stethoscope? That used to be a dead giveaway of which guy in the crowd was the doctor.

Waiters and waitresses used to look so good! Whether it was a diner and the waitress wore a blue dress with turned-up white cuffs at her biceps and a Betty Crocker ruffled apron, or a fine dining restaurant where every waiter wore a tuxedo, had spit-and-polished shoes, and an expression of caring, the wait staff used to look perfect. Today there are still uniforms, all right, but often they are usually chinos and golf shirts emblazoned with everything from the restaurant’s logo to “Need Beer?” And the attitude of that wait staff is priceless. Just let me set the scene for you:

You enter the restaurant with your three friends; and the host, whom you will recognize as the one who’s playing video games, poses a real intelligent question, “Four for dinner?” Nah, we just came by to wait for the bus. (Note: This question is from the same employee manual that gets the waitperson to say to you when you are sitting with a dish totally devoid of any crumb of food, “Are you through?” Nope, thought I'd lick the plate first.)

Whether it’s the gas station attendant, the doctor, or the waitperson … when the uniform went south, so did the personal service. So did caring and respect and wanting to do the job right because it was their job to do so.

Thinking back, remember the milkman all in white with a cap that got routinely tipped to customers, the postal workers who always wore the colors of the USA with freshly starched shirts and precise ties, and the teachers who dressed for the most important job in the world? How about their students who wore dress shirts and trousers, skirts and jumpers, and folded their hands, paid attention, and listened. The only time anyone wore sneakers was in the gym, and the crowd outside the church on Sunday morning wore the finest clothes they owned. People said “please” and “thank you” and called each other “Mr.” and “Mrs.”... and “Yo” was just one part of a child’s toy.

But then the ’60s came, we had a “revolution,” “did our own thing,” and somewhere along the line we forgot that the other guy wanted to do his thing too. So we answered it with four-letter words and the “me generation,” and a new way of dressing and behaving.

And today here we are ... a modern society with too many freedoms and not enough rules, with little respect, and absolutely no regard for the other guy. We wear what we want when we want and with whom we want and pass that down to our kids.  

I’s still uniformity, but a new kind of uniformity. They call it part of the “natural evolution of society.” Evolution?

Personally, I think Darwin would cry.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 16 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She is the author of three books and can be reached at or 401-539- 7762.


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