In the South, you say "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am," and you respect your elders. They brought you into this world, and they can take you out of it. Infinity is set in New Orleans, so the Southern culture is a big part of the interactions between the characters. Nick is expected to be polite and to address his mother and other adults with respect. Considering some of the adults are thousands of years old, they're really elder, so that means they deserve mega respect. At least that's the way they'd like things to be…
Questions About Respect and Reputation
Why is Nick's reputation so important to him? How does he deal with the fact that he is not popular? Does he try to change that?
Does someone deserve respect just because he or she is older than you are? What if that person is an 11,000-year-old demon? Does that make that person worthy of respect?
How does Nick earn respect from those older than he is?
Chew on This
Nick may be poor, but respect is a currency more valuable than money.
At the end, Nick decides not to kill one of his bullies, because he wants to have a reputation as a good guy. His long-term reputation is more important than short-term satisfaction.