I’m a laid-back person.* Generally, I don’t have a problem floating through public spaces, excusing the occasional fellow consumer’s outburst, the temper tantrums of others’ children, bad manners, bad dress, bad steering of shopping carts — whatever. People live their own lives and have their own standards for what’s acceptable public behavior, and I take it as the price of being out in public that sometimes I’m going to see/hear/experience things that are less than ideal. It’s why I travel with headphones. I figure I’ve unintentionally done a fair number of things that have made others mad, and so my default position is: well, OK, that happened, let’s move on.
But there are two things that have happened recently that have frustrated me and started me down the path toward simmering anger that I’ve often observed in, well, some of my less laissez-fare friends. So I’m starting to get where the desire to hibernate comes from.
One: Twice, now, in the last two weeks, I’ve sat next to someone who is watching a video on their laptop in a coffee shop. No big deal, right? Except these people have both neglected to wear headphones, and have instead been broadcasting the video for the whole store. Both times, it was actually what I assume was academically-related material — a lecture in one case, a news special in another — and both times I wanted to fling my coffee cup at the user. I went right past “reasonable frustration” and into a “how dare you!?!” reaction. Both times, I also saw the manager of the coffee shop (two different places) notice that this was happening and then decline to do or say anything — which made me wonder if it’s become acceptable behavior. I considered asking the person to turn the sound off in both circumstances, but felt that if the management wasn’t going to step in, neither could/should I. The end result, of course, is that I may not return to these stores as frequently, which sucks because both places are stores I like. (Probably, in a week or two, I’ll forget this, or I’ll go back with the resolve that next time I won’t sit idly as the noise happens).
Second thing: No fingernail clipping in public. Ever. The noise of fingernail clippers drives me insane, for whatever reason, and the practice of using them in public (as the woman sitting behind me at a restaurant did today) is unfathomable to me. You can’t wait until you’re in your car? I guess, at the point the clippers come out, you’ve convinced yourself that your booth is completely out of sight and mind of all of the other patrons of the small diner in which you’re sitting; you’ve paid $6 for a burger and fries, therefore entitling you to temporary ownership of your immediate surroundings, right? Clearly, all the comforts of home should be offered, including the right to groom yourself and leave little bits of dead skin on the table for the waitress to sweep up. Lovely. (Worst ever experience with this: I had a job interview where the woman interviewing me began clipping her nails mid-interview. I got the job, but the memory lingers).
I go out of my house to work all the time. I’m probably guilty of turning my table at the coffee shop into a little personal den sometimes — computer, book, notebook, headphones, etc. — but I still remember that I’m in public. I’m in someone else’s view, I’m in someone else’s space. I guess I assume that others live with a similar code, and maybe I’m wrong in that. Maybe more people than I’d like to think believe that buying a $4 cup of coffee also allows them to establish their own embassies within Starbucks, little strips of land where only the rules of home apply.
It makes me angry, and it makes me sad. I want the Rules of Common Courtesy to be established, and then I want them to be posted everywhere. Wouldn’t it be a better world?
And when did I become Miss Manners?
* What’s scary is I think nearly everyone believes this of themselves; but I feel I have some proof of this, as I’ve been told by people in different situations that I am, in fact, very laid back. Zen-like. Even, once, nun-like. And I work for and toward it, so… that should count for something.