Commentary  You Are Here: Smile-Manner Squadron, assemble!

I’m not a wonderful person. In fact, I’m shallow, self-absorbed, and narcissistic – in other words, a typical newspaper columnist. But at least I have good manners. Having been raised by a British teacher of the old school, I learned to mask my jerkdom with common courtesy. And that’s why I can’t stand you – the person shouting into your cell phone on a crowded metro. I don’t want to hear about your day, or what happened on your favourite TV show, or that jerk you totally just broke up with, or that your test results came back positive. Especially that last one. You’re standing a little too close for comfort.

And somehow you get away with this. Maybe the polite people are to blame: we don’t say anything to you because of our good manners. Or maybe we don’t say anything because your perfume is suffocating everyone in a 10-mile radius. Either way, things have been rough for polite people until now. Our prayers have been answered by a group called the “Smile-Manner Squadron.”

To be honest, I would support the Squadron based solely on their name – it has a nice “Care Bears-meets-Delta Force” ring to it. But I also support the Squadron’s mission: they’ve been assembled by the Yokohama transit authority to enforce proper etiquette on trains. They’re going to start with commuters who don’t give up their seats to the needy, but the Squadron is also targeting obnoxious music, cell phones, and children. For people like me, this is a dream come true.

There are some downsides to being a Squadron officer: it only pays $15 per day, and most of your coworkers are senior citizens. On the other hand, one of the perks is having your very own bodyguard for dealing with unruly passengers.

Unfortunately, the bodyguards may prove necessary. As The London Times pointed out, “the officers will have no legal authority, no powers to fine and virtually no practical sanction at all. Their success will depend entirely on the high visibility of their bright green uniforms, and their capacity to charm or shame the sitter into becoming a stander.”

Of course, the real problem with the Squadron is that they’re in Yokohama, while you’re annoying me here in Montreal. But your bad-mannered days are numbered. Although it’s too late to teach your parents about birth control, I hope to fix some of their other mistakes. So the next time we meet, don’t act surprised that I’m wearing a bright green jumpsuit and embarrassing both of us. You’re the one who paid for a Nickelback ring tone.

I’m also founding the McGill Smile-Manner Squadron, effective as of the end of this sentence. I realize that this makes me the biggest dork on campus, but it’s nice to be the President of something – even a band of etiquette vigilantes. Any well-mannered person can become an officer as long as they’re self-righteous, and they own a bright green jumpsuit. We’re a lot like the Young Republicans, only better dressed.

So please, drop by a Squadron meeting. Just be sure to keep your elbows off the table.

Bernard Rudny is going to need a bodyguard in the near future. You can volunteer your services at