Sunday, November 29, 2009

Question: "Do Two Rudes Make a Polite?" Answer: No.

This morning, I came upon this two-week-old article in the New York Times: As the Rudes Get Ruder, the Scolds Get Scoldier.

It's about so-called "etiquette vigilantes" who think that the best way to deal with rude (or at least what they think is rude) behavior from other people is an equally strong counter-offense. One Amy Alkon, self-described "manners psycho" (isn't that an oxymoron?), after overhearing a cell phone conversation at Starbucks, wrote down his cell phone number, called him, and said, "Just calling to let you know, Barry, that if you’d like your private life to remain private, you might want to be a little more considerate next time."

That is:

a. Creepy,
b. Creepy,
and c. Just as rude.

Since when is it okay to fight rudeness with rudeness? I thought that politeness was an act of kindness to your fellow beings. You hold the door open for other people because it's nice, not because you expect to be thanked every time. If someone is rude to you or behaves rude in front of you, rise above it, and maintain your high standards anyway. Don't get down and dirty to their level.

Speaking of rudeness, I don't see nearly as much of it as these "etiquette vigilantes" (another oxymoron) and the complaining commenter class does. (Hey, I just created a new term! "Complaining commenter class" means the people who post negative, soul-sapping comments after Internet news articles.)

I have never been bothered by public cell phone conversations. They are no more loud than public conversations between two people standing or sitting in front of each other. At the movie theater, I have never heard a conversation (cell or person-to-person) loud enough to distract me from the movie. And where are all these beastly, running-amok children that Ms. Alkon and others say are ruining restaurants, stores, and other public spaces? When I see children in public, 99.9% of the time they are acting okay. When you form opinions, it's best to base them on what you see than on what "they" say.

People aren't that rude these days. It's just that complainers have gotten noisier, and have more outlets to do so. It's unfortunately easier to whine about what others do than to watch what we do. I say, watch yourselves first and foremost.

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