Hitting a Nerve

Is common courtesy no longer contagious?


The other day, in a fairly common occurrence, I needed to fax a records request over to another office.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Not having memorized all the fax numbers in my area, I turned to the internet and quickly had their website and the needed information in front of me.

But at the top of the page, before you got to phone numbers and directions, was this statement in bold print (caps as seen):


“Please show RESPECT AND KINDNESS to other patients and staff.

“We have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for aggressive behavior, vulgar language, and violence, whether in person, on the phone, or online.”

A veterinarian I know recently put something similar up, saying: “We DO NOT TOLERATE physically or verbally abusive behavior by clients. We are compassionate and understand you are under stress, but we are also human and deserve respect. Thank you.”

I absolutely agree with this. Hell, I’m the same way.

But what is wrong with people that we actually need to have notices like that up?

Realistically, the vast majority of patients don’t need the reminder. They treat each other, and my staff, with politeness and respect, and we do the same. To me that’s part of the whole sandbox thing. Personally, I prefer my office to have the same atmosphere as a library, and am known to “shhhh” people who are too loud.

But the real point here is that we shouldn’t have to remind anyone else to behave with common courtesy. If you’re an adult, I’m going to assume your parents and teachers taught you the importance of manners and the Golden Rule.

I’ve been in practice for 23 years now, and I’ve never had to deal with this sort of behavior, this frequently, before. Is it that the pandemic, and its economic and social consequences, has gotten on everyone’s nerves? If so, hopefully it will gradually fade away as the crisis does. I’m vaccinated. My family and the majority of my patients are vaccinated. I encourage pretty much everyone who asks me about it to get vaccinated.

But I’m more concerned that isn’t really the issue. Maybe our polarized, divided society is moving in that direction. Common good is now often reduced to us against them, and the conditions of the times have just aggravated a problem that was festering.

The majority of people, of all beliefs, remain decent people. But it’s distressing that the amount of rudeness is increasing to the point where we need to remind grown-ups about its consequences.

Decency and manners, unfortunately, can’t be legislated. If you’ve forgotten yours, though, don’t think others will put up with you.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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