This morning I stepped on the bus and asked the bus driver:
"May I have a transfer, please?"
He paused while reaching for the transfer and asked, "Excuse me? What did you just say?"
I knew full well that he knew what I was asking. Other than, "thanks for not running me over when you took out that snowbank", the only thing people ask of the bus driver in the morning is a transfer.
I repeated my question: "May I have a transfer... please?"*
You would think I had given him an early Christmas present. He went into a diatribe about how almost everyone says "Can" instead of "May" when asking him for a transfer. He said that once every few months someone uses proper grammar. As I walked to my seat, smug that my Grammar Goddess mantle was in place, he complimented and thanked me for my proper grammar. He was still smiling when I stepped off at the terminal.
So, why do we need better grammar? To improve the quality of life of our bus drivers.
*Truth be told, just this week I had been thinking how "Can I have a transfer?" seems to be a verbal tic amongst bus riders. I had been saying it myself and upon realizing what was coming out of my mouth, I was horrified. I had vowed to say "May" from that point forward. Yes, those are the types of vows I make - vows of proper use of the English language. Forget vows of allegiance to flags, queen and country, etc, I vow to do things like use proper grammar and eat the last bit of cereal, despite the mush created by the crumbs.