Thursday, August 3, 2006

Uncommon sense

I'm not telling you anything you don't know when I say that an amazing number of people are lacking in not-so-common sense and courtesy.

This is not a new observation or a sign of the times. My understanding is that the ancient Romans and Greeks were known to lament the lack of these qualities in their youth. Consternation at rudeness, particularly that of the young, is a time-honored tradition.

Still, displays of rudeness and lack of sense astound me, no matter the age of the offender.

Case in point #1: A woman in the bathroom at work, in a stall, sitting on a toilet, is holding a cell phone conversation. In a stall. Sitting on a toilet. Performing bodily functions, like you do in a stall on a toilet. While talking on her cell phone.

And then, mid-conversation, she flushes.

Several years ago on an AOL message board, I mentioned how rude this behavior seems to me, and how weird it seems to me that any sophisticated, educated person could consider this acceptable. To my surprise, then horror, several people disagreed. It was normal to them.

This may be why I communicate primarily by e-mail, instant messages, and snail mail. If you read my letter while you're sitting on the toilet, at least I don't need to know about it. Or experience the sound effects.

Case in point #2 (also cell phone related): My dentist has a sign posted in her waiting room about considerate/inconsiderate cell phone use. I thought this might refer to people talking loudly. I asked the hygienist, who seemed grateful that at least one person had read the sign. Volume is an issue, she said; for some reason, some people think they need to shout when using a cell phone. That isn't the primary problem, however. They have had a number of patients who make and accept cell phone calls while getting their teeth examined, cleaned, or filled. The hygienist or dentist is supposed to stop what she is doing every time Suzy Patient wants to have a mundane conversation about where she is or what she is doing. To add proverbial insult to proverbial injury, the patients who do this are the most likely to have been late to the appointment.

If it were my dental practice, I'd confiscate the cell phones of known offenders at the door. If you behave like a child with no impulse control, I will treat you like one.

Case in point #3: As I've mentioned before, I've noticed that most people feel compelled to answer their cell phones, as though there were no other choice. When the phone rings (sings, chirps, meows, barks, whatever), I must answer no matter what—even if I am in a restaurant having lunch with a friend, who apparently does not deserve as much of my attention as my cell phone does; even if I am a cashier in the middle of checking out a customer; even if I am an office worker with whom others are trying to have a work-related discussion. Any cell phone call is worth interrupting whatever I was doing and putting off the person who is physically in front of me. These "can't miss" conversations usually involve no more than, "Yeah, I'm at lunch. I got home around 9 last night. Where are you?" etc. Not exactly headline news at eleven.

Case in point #4: A driver is at an intersection with a green light, waiting for the pedestrians to cross before making a left turn onto a one-way street. The driver of the third care in the lane honks his horn. Again. Again and again. Soon, he's lying on it. The pedestrians passing by on the sidewalk don't look enthused about having their eardrums blasted. Even other drivers start looking askance at the impatient one. It is not clear what he wants, except perhaps for the driver in front to mow down, maim, and kill pedestrians who have the right of way in the interest of shaving five seconds off travel time. Finally, the light changes, the pedestrians stop, and when #3's turn comes, he turns the corner with a squeal, almost on two wheels.

Maybe he was in a hurry to get home to relax. I would be, too, if everyone drove like that.

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