Service of Being a VIP

July 9th, 2015

Categories: Audacity, Bicycles, Etiquette, Students, VIP



I found out why I so often hear crickets after I’ve held open a door to wait for a much younger person to pass regally past; why some youthful cashiers at full price grocery stores are comfortable watching me place my purchases in bags while they don’t participate; why there’s silence in return when I greet a young tenant on the floor of my office building or in the elevator of my apartment and why I must fight for a spot on the sidewalk if I’m walking against heavy foot traffic at rush hour. I’m a native New Yorker. I know how to negotiate crowds at a clip. At least I did at a time in which citizens respected each others’ space.

Helicopter parents 2So what’s the reason for the behavior I described above? These people are VIPs. Here’s proof.

David Brooks [below, left], identified them on page 6 of his book “The Road to Character,” [Random House, 2015], which I’ve begun to read [and so far like very much]. He reported responses to a 1950 Gallup Organization query of high school seniors who were asked if they considered themselves to be “a very important person.” Sixty five years ago 12 percent answered “yes,” as compared to 80 percent of seniors asked the same question in 2005.

 David Brooks The Road to CharacterNo wonder I was almost run over by two bikers as I crossed the street corner during a short walk in midtown yesterday. The light was green for me but they were in a rush; I was in the way.

This VIP approach is a striking turnabout for a person who, as a kid, often heard “The tail doesn’t wag the dog.” In the day we didn’t cotton up much to faux VIPs. We’d giggle at young officers who’d swagger or show conceit or arrogance for no reason when I was the 20-something Air Force wife of a lieutenant the same age.

Do VIPs who have earned their stripes resent all this competition? Do VIPs owe consideration to their underlings? Who changes a light bulb in an office full of VIPs? What happens when an artificial VIP disagrees with his/her boss or instructor or when two VIPs are married to one another? Are so many ersatz VIPs only in America?

VIP room

Tags: , , ,

6 Responses to “Service of Being a VIP”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    What V. I. P status would Donald Trump hold!
    Self proclaimed?
    All above?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Great question. My guess is that if Trump had been in that 1950s high school senior class polled by Gallup, he would have been in the 12 percent that then thought they were VIPs. He was born that way. I imagine it would be impossible to please such a person. If you worked for or lived with him you would have to be comfortable with him taking credit for any of your good ideas and being blamed for any of his bad ones.

    To answer your question, he would answer current and previous. His fans would answer that as well. Those he grates on would say self proclaimed and never was–period.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    VIPs real and imagined are human, and therefore exist everywhere. If the planet was not saturated with inflated beings, peace would stand a chance. This may be an oversimplification, but that’s just about where it’s at.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If your observation is true, and I agree with it, and the Gallup survey has legs, we’re in worse shape now than ever before. Makes me very sad.

    Can’t wait to finish David Brooks’ book as I can predict where it’s going and wonder whether he will suggest solutions for how VIPs build character today. He started with Frances Perkins and how her character was formed, and Dorothy Day, Dwight Eisenhower and I’m now reading about George Marshall. There’s much more.

  5. SEPTIMIUS Said:

    The etymology of VIP is interesting. In my youth it was short for “very important person” and often a pejorative which described those important people, like four star generals and senators, whose power had gone to their heads. It would never have occurred to me to use it to describe very unimportant spoiled brats. But I do see your point.

    You are right many so called “young adults” are obnoxious to an extreme. Regrettably, society has nobody to blame but itself for this mess. I still call my doctor for the past twenty-five years, Dr. S., and he calls me, Mr. S. However, today when I called my financial institution, I got a bright, personable young man, who almost immediately asked if he could use my first name. I needed something and did not want him to guess why I needed it. I said yes and chatted with him about Ischia. (He’d been in the Navy.) Being efficient, he quickly gave me what I wanted. Granted rudeness is far worse than familiarity. I pondered where we went wrong a generation or two ago. I think I know.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Gosh, Septimius, how can you leave me hanging? Did you finish David Brooks’ book or is this your own theory?

    I spent a few hours today with my nephew and his 13 year old daughter. She has impeccable manners and is smart and fun to be with. Clearly I can’t take the performance of one child and make it into a bell weather for her generation but the time with her on a day I published this post put me in a very good mood.

Leave a Reply

Clicky Web Analytics