I seem to recall – and not too horribly long ago, either – that people used to at least approximate being polite. I’m pretty sure we as a nation used to encourage being polite, sharing, and thoughtfulness. We used to try to make our kids be those things starting before kindergarten (Sesame Street pops to mind). And during kindergarten. And school.
Not anymore. Nope: now everyone seems to be a narcissistic asshole. So tied-up and consumed by themselves to not even take a fraction of a second to THINK about anyone else.
Cases in point: I fly a lot for work, and I was sitting in an airplane last week when the jackass in front of me decides to slam his seat back into me. Didn’t look behind him to see if anyone might be bothered. He didn’t even lean his chair back in a fashion I might have had a chance to notice and shift out of his way. That was bad. But it didn’t stop there: next he decided to start bouncing in his chair, repeatedly driving the seat into my knees over and over again. I tried to get him to stop, but was unsuccessful. So I was forced into being a jerk back and repeatedly kneed him in the kidneys.
Or have you driven recently? Anywhere? It used to be that certain areas of the country were notorious for having bad drivers (aggressive, incompetent, lolly-gagging, etc). Not anymore. Now driving involves taking your life in your hands and hoping like mad nobody fouls up so badly you die. No one uses turn signals. They drift lanes when turning. They cut corners early on lefts. And if you happen to find some kind soul who DOES signal, they’ll turn the blinker on as they’re moving into the new lane.
I hate gum. I hate the smell. I hate the sound. I hate the sight of it. Especially when the jackass chewing it chews with his mouth open (wasn’t that an express no-no growing up – you chew with your mouth shut?); or worse: if they’re blowing bubbles and cracking it.
I tell people I hate gum, generally in no uncertain terms, and ask they not chew around me because it really bugs me.
Some folks when I tell them this seem to have the decency to stop. Most don’t. Some chew louder just to piss me off. Others don’t care, and keep doing what they’re doing because they can. It used to be that folks had a common courtesy to chew with their mouths shut. No more.
It used to be that folks would at least pretend to respect the teacher (in class), presenter (in work meetings), or whathaveyou and refrain from being assholes – at least in those settings. I’ve had professors inform the class on the first day that gum chewing, food eating, etc would not be tolerated. I’ve seen kids proceed to do those verbotten activities, and get upset when they’re told to leave class.
The church I grew up in had a standing policy to not eat during the service. A candy or cough drop was fine (you suck on those), but chewing was right out. The leadership (and members and attenders) wanted everyone to be able to listen without being unduly distracted by unnecessary activity. If you were really so bored or tired you needed to do something to stay awake: stay home – or go to sleep. Lack of preparation on your part was no excuse to distract everyone else in the room with your incessant moving or chewing. It was a church service, not a park. It was a worship time, not a buffet. What you did in your own time was your business, but when in the specified meeting, you were there for God. And you could at least pretend to care about what was going on.
It used to be that you could count on “public venues” (such as a theater, train, concert, etc) to be pleasant places to go where people were generally considerate of others.
Sadly, this seems to no longer be the case.
I don’t hold an idyllic nostalgia for bygone days, but it was nice when people weren’t in a constant rush, and they’d take even a second of their day to stop and think about what they were doing and decide to NOT do it because it was likely to bother other folks. It was nice when you could count on knowing your neighbors. It was nice when folks would take more than that second, and actually intentionally go out of their way to help somebody else.
Maybe I’m a romantic, or a damn fool. But I wish we could return to a nicer society where folks would take a second to at least warn the poor slob behind them on the plane they’re about to lean their seat back.