On a recent morning walk through downtown St. Charles, I noticed a most curious thing: some of the downtown merchants, in an apparent effort to teach visitors social norms for behavior that we, residents of St. Charles, expect everyone to follow, are posting public-education signs about proper etiquette and good manners.
After I noticed the first one, I saw several more signs of a very similar nature in other downtown storefronts, which led me to believe that this must be some sort of coordinated public awareness campaign. These signs, after making note of particular operational rules of the business posting the sign, appear to offer up a mini refresher course on proper etiquette and good manners in public.
Taking a page straight from Ms. Manners, one such sign makes the effort to remind the gentle reader that "Fighting is punishable by City fine."
I would like to offer a tip of my hat to the establishments participating in this effort for offering up, pro bono, this welcome refresher course in just how adults are supposed to behave in well-mannered, civilized society. With all the pressures of modern life, it is so easy to forget that it is best to settle disagreements in public with words, rather than choosing to beat down the person with whom there is a minor disagreement.
I applaud this group of merchants who, rather than using their valuable display space for more marketing, are turning over that space for the educational benefit of the entire citizenry; I think every downtown merchant should follow their lead in this apparent new campaign to help us Keep St. Charles Classy. Heaven knows, without these much-needed exhortations to keep the urge to pummel fellow citizens in check, we might not win Family Circle's "#1 City in America for Families" award again next year.
Much like the award-winning '05-'08 New York City public awareness campaign warning Wall Street bankers about the dangers of mortgage-backed securities, I believe that this new public etiquette educational campaign could have a real impact on the quality of life here St. Charles.
Now that our shopkeepers have set the bar, I think it is high time for our City government to not only accept the challenge, but to also raise the bar. I would like to suggest that the City make public proclamations in support of every downtown business that joins in this crusade and that awards be given for varying levels of commitment to the cause of civil society, similar to how restaurants are commonly rated.
For example, every business posting a sign reminding the gentle reader that vomiting on our sidewalks is frowned upon should be awarded one star for High-Minded Civic Improvement. Two stars for High-Minded Civic Improvement should be awarded to every business posting a sign reminding the gentle reader that City ordinances forbid urination in public. Three stars should be awarded for providing valuable public education on the fact that copulating in public is prohibited under City Ordinances, while the coveted four-star rating should be reserved for those businesses making the effort to remind the gentle reader that assaulting St. Charles police officers is strictly forbidden under City Ordinances.
The shopkeepers doing this public service clearly deserve recognition for their self-directed efforts to educate us all on the finer points of civilized society; one can only wonder what the shopkeepers in Geneva will do in response to try to narrow the cultural gap that has been so clearly delineated by the introduction of this new initiative.
In addition to recognizing the shopkeepers, I imagine that there must be at least a few individuals in our City government who deserve a lot of credit for working very hard, for so very long, to foster the atmosphere in our downtown which created the fertile soil where such a high-minded civics campaign as this could take root and grow.
Stay classy, St. Charles; stay classy.