22 March 2007

On Rude Behavior

I was on the treadmill at the gym, trying hard to keep distracted, when I came across an article in Details magazine about being a gentleman. Now, most of the 'Lad Mag' genre is icky, and articles about how to jazz up your pickup game don't do much for me, but this one got me to thinking about rude behavior that I encounter on a daily basis, and some that I participate in, embarrassingly enough.

The article in question can be found here, but be warned the site froze my laptop for no apparent reason.

The author talks about the lost art of being a gentleman, about knowing how to order a bottle of wine, how to turn off your cel phone, keep your pants on, and tellingly, "let the ladies go first". I'm all for most of that behavior...as the author rightly points out, dudeus americanus is an idiot who needs to clean up his act.

As I read this, the woman on the treadmill next to me got a telephone call. Her screechy conversation was about her daughter's troubles with attendance at school and how she was apparently in danger of being booted off of danceline as a result. It was annoying.

Normally, I am at the gym every morning when the doors open at 05.30. Yes, 5:30 AM. Until very recently, I thought the gym was pretty busy at that hour. This week, with the return to my sleeping pill prescription, I've had a more difficult time getting out of bed, and so have been dragging myself to the gym after work. I hate missing that early morning workout, because the gym is not only NOT crowded at all at that hour, contrary to my impression, but the people there at 05.30 are much more civilized.

Earlier this week, the man on the treadmill next to me was sweating so profusely that I was getting rained on. I can't even tell you how grossed out I was by that. I couldn't move to another treadmill because there wasn't one to spare. There were people waiting, like swarming sharks, for a treadmill to open up, so I stayed with Mr. Raindrop.

Another day, and this is petty and really obnoxious of me, the guy next to me kept coughing, and it irritated me so much that I kept turning up my iPod to block it out. And then I got a phone call of my own.

About 99.99% of the time, I don't even have the phone with me at the gym, nor do I take my work-mandated pager into the gym. If they can't be without me for an hour a day, well, the whole world is then totally fucked and I can't do anything to fix it. So the pager, phone, PDA and other gadgetry are usually in the car, or at home while I'm running. But I had called a friend on the way to the gym and requested a call back as soon as she got the message, so I took the phone into the gym.

I don't know if I've blogged before about my hearing loss, so bear with me while I explain that I am very hard of hearing, having destroyed it in my teens by clubbing, concert-going, and listening to my Walkman much too loudly back in the days before iPods. I have about a 40% hearing loss in my left ear, and about a 15% in my right ear. If you're not facing me, I can't hear you. If you whisper, I can't hear you unless you're whispering directly into my right ear. Yeah, I know how smart this makes me when I continue to listen to the iPod and turn it up too. Anyway, I told you all that so that you understand why the ring tone on my mobile phone is set to the "deafening" setting. 'Cause I can't hear it otherwise.

Back to the gym, where I'm running along on the treadmill, and the annoying older fella next to me is hacking, hacking, hacking and I'm turning the iPod up, and up, and up to tune him out. So loudly that I don't hear my phone ring, rather I see it vibrating and the lights flashing. I answer it, and have about a 20 minute loud conversation with my friend about cute gay boys that she's met, the actor that I think is cute, the fan forums, the hot guy who walked into the gym in front of me, my hormone levels, her lover, so, in short, sex.

When I hung up the phone, I resumed running (I had slowed to a brisk walk to be able to talk) turned the iPod back up, and stopped myself from belting out the chorus to Saliva's "Click...Click...BOOM". I try really hard to not sing out loud when I have the iPod on, but is is tough. (Great song to run to, BTW.)

It was a day or so later that I read the Details article, and the screechy woman next to me regaled her friend with her screechy opinion about her daughter's spot on danceline. Again, I was turning the iPod up, but I couldn't block her out entirely, she was too loud. I was starting to get seriously pissed off when I realized that Mr. Cough next to me earlier in the week probably hadn't appreciated Lucy's Frank Talk About Sex and Homosexuality any more than I was appreciating her diatribe. Oops.

As I continued to read the advice of Details to twentysomething guys on how to behave themselves and have some class, I was suddenly reminded of my mother's English friend, B. B was someone my mum ran around with about 20 years ago, and the first time I met her, at about 11, I was transfixed by her accent, the first one I'd ever heard in real life. B was (and probably still is) one very classy dame. I watched her every move, trying to figure out just what, exactly, made her so graceful and refined. She was never standoffish, rude, or snobby. She had the incredible gift of making everyone around her feel very comfortable.

Class is something that you either have, or you don't, and no amount of schoolin' is going to make someone like Paris Hilton classy. But class is also about a set of societal norms that we're supposed to conform to, yet another thing that tries to squeeze women into a nice tidy little box, prepared to be a doormat for the world to politely wipe its feet on, on the way to bigger and better things.

There isn't anything wrong with polite behavior. I think the world could use lots more excuse me's, please's and thank-you's, not to mention the fact that we have to now be 'told' when to turn off our mobile phones, because we can't figure that one out on our own anymore. Dude, were you born in a barn? The lack of manners, backsliding into an ever-increasing laissez-fare attitude to public behavior isn't a good thing. But a return to 1950s style societal norms isn't a great idea either.

I'm really on the fence with this one, can you tell? Years ago, I read an article in *cringe* Reader's Digest about rudeness, and the writer rather eloquently told a story about being bullied in a department store and then seeing something similar happen to her three year old niece on the playground. She wanted to rush in, protect the girl from the bully, but instead, she stood back and waited to see what the child would do. Out of the mouths of babes, y'all, because the little girl put her hands on her hips and said to the bully, "You. Are. Rude." And the boor backed up, blinked, and said, "I'm sorry."

Huh. Too bad if we did that to other adults we might get shot. Because it sounds like a great idea to me. You. Are. Rude. Pointing out the behavior just might get someone to recognize their own boorishness and stop and think for a second. In my fantasy, everyone-is-as-nice-as-me world.


erincee said...

OH MY GOD. I hate when I'm on an airplane commuting and the person next to me makes weird CHEWING noises. It grosses me out. Or someone keeps coughing. Or any weird people noises for that matter. I want to stand up and scream SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.
But generally I'm in uniform and would get in trouble.

Lucy Arin said...

Or someone might, you know, sucker-punch you. Cause not everyone is as nice as we are!

I think those little annoyances are universal....everyone has some button like that, and it ends up getting pushed. That's why there's Xanax. *snort*

MotherMe said...

Everyone is rude. Some of us just contain ourselves better than others. ;)


Lucy Arin said...


LOL. And le sigh, because you're so right.

Or people contain it not at all, which is what I was talking about with dudeus americanus, the overgrown frat boys that you see everywhere. And the rise of female raunch culture...and....

(I'm not going to make references to the decline of western civilization, no, I'm resisting the urge...)

MotherMe said...

Decline? Yikes. This is no decline. This is more like an avalanche.


terri said...

it is such a fine line and i can't decide which side i am on - the one that tells me to be a lady and be gentle and kind, or that tells me "fuck being a lady" and to stand up to/for every single thing that pisses me off. i like to consider myself a lady who speaks her mind. and if people don't like it - fuck em. although some days this bothers me enormously as i want everyone to think i am nice. because i am nice. and also not nice.


keep riding the line. be kind to the world, but also stand up for justice and if that means stepping on a few toes....