My good friend John Pearse has a page on his site called John’s Soapbox, and his current topic is rudeness. Well, slide over just a bit, John, and let me climb up on that soapbox, too. I’ve observed the rudeness epidemic with as much disdain as anyone, and inspired by my friend’s online observation, here’s my two cents.
If you’re under thirty, or maybe thirty-five, then this rant might make little sense to you. The phenomenon discussed here is not so recent that you’d have a solid basis for contrast. But the older you are, the clearer the contrast will be, because there is no doubt that people have been getting progressively less polite over many years. And it hasn’t leveled off; it is getting worse.
I’ve given up on movie theaters entirely, and I love movies. But these once-sacred places, where if someone so much as munched their popcorn too loudly they’d be shushed, have degenerated into something else altogether. Last time I attended — it’s been years — the audience thought nothing of frequently commenting on the film, and worse, carrying on long and loud conversations on unrelated subjects. And just as bad, using cell phones. Anyone who doesn't turn off their cell phone when entering a theater or restaurant ought to have phone privileges suspended. And if they make the call themselves, permanently revoked. "Yo, dude. I'm at the movies. So wuzzup?"
Speaking of cell phones; as enamored as we might all be with these cool little gadgets that the devil has given us, the real fact is that their fidelity is not as good as that of a land line. So people speak loudly into them. And because they have to focus so intently on the voice in their ear, they have little concentration left for anything else, such as driving a car or behaving appropriately in public.
Not too long ago, mobile phones were a status symbol. Now, everyone and his 12-year-old kid has one. So why are we all still so infatuated with them? Most people don’t really have that much that they have to say to someone else, especially someone who isn’t even there with them at the time, so they have no social obligation to converse with. And yet they’ll blabber on incessantly, often ignoring someone who actually is there with them.
While someone jabbering on a cell phone in a restaurant might annoy me, someone doing it while driving a car might kill me. But phones aren’t the only culprit when it comes to rude driving; the rudeness epidemic is very much in evidence on the freeways and roads.
I drive mostly on country roads, and some of them are the very same roads that are used when filming car commercials. Big problem here. People have learned how (not) to drive by watching these insidious TV commercials, and when they get on the back roads they think they’re Stirling Moss at the Grand Prix of Monaco. Not just occasionally, it happens all the time. During my seven-minute commute, I can count on at least three or four of these speed-weenies daily. They zoom up behind me, and tailgate so closely that I can feel their anxiety steaming off my rear-view mirror. At the first chance I will pull over, but usually they can’t wait that long; they’ll pass me in the blind, careening off into the distance, taking up three-quarters of the road whenever it bends to the left.
And now for my grand finale, then I’ll shut up. My nominee for rudest of the rude: those who subject an entire neighborhood to the music they want to listen to. After much practice, I’ve learned to stoically shrug my shoulders at most of the offenses listed above, but this one still makes my blood boil.
Now, the very fact that you’re reading this means that you probably know a little about me, and that music is a big part of my life. I think it’s a good thing that people should listen to music. But what is music to one person is often noise to another, and the kind of music that people typically inflict on others against their will is noise to me; noise of the rudest sort. Most would agree that this is not acceptable late at night, but feel that they are obiged to endure it during the daytime. To me there is no excuse for such behavior at any time of day, under any circumstance.
The world was once a quieter place, and quiet is now a precious commodity, just like respect for others. And while some might argue that we each have an equal right to what we want, I say that if you and I are in the same area, and you want noise and I want quiet, then you will win and I will lose. I maintain that the right to quiet is more inalienable than the right to noise. What brand of insensitivity does it take to crank your car radio and open the door, so that you can listen to it from two hundred feet away, while I can hear it so loudly from inside my house that I can’t hear myself think?
OK, I’m done. If you agree, then join me, and my friend John, in not letting people get away with it. Take exception to rude behavior, and maybe together we can nudge society ever so slightly towards a state of mutual respect. And if you don't agree, well then, maybe you’re one of the people I’ve been ranting about.
Nov. 11, 2006