On politeness, and abuses thereof

Coming out of the supermarket today, I was assailed in the foyer by a lady in her early 30s standing in front of a poster advertising some kind of pet shelter charity, asking me:

"Do you prefer dogs or cats?"

I'm normally quite a polite person, but this lady was clearly exploiting the polite human instinct to respond to a apparently innocuous question as a hook to draw me into some conversation about the terrible conditions dogs/cats would exist in were it not for the sterling work of this shelter. Once you try to exploit my politeness, darling, you lose all your rights to it.

"Depends: roasted, or stewed?" I replied, and strode out to the car park. A sharp intake of breath and "Oh!" from behind me suggested that I'd hit my mark.

I've had it with the attempted exploits on decent behaviour - politeness, courtesy, fear of giving offence - with the aim of using it to further a political or commercial agenda. I've seen enough of it to be able to recognise when someone's trying it on, and they can expect a withering contempt in response. If more of the public took this approach, it might just dissuade the offenders from this abusive anti-social dialogue.

(For the record, I'm a cat person. Wash in my own spit, the whole deal.)

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