Thursday, November 19, 2009

As the Rudes Get Ruder, the Scolds Get Scoldier

In this morning's Oregonian, there was a NY Times article titled "Battle lines blur over irksome behavior in public" written by Douglas Quenqua. Here's how it started:

Amy Alkon, a syndicated advice columnist and self-described “manners psycho,” recently encountered “Barry,” a loud cell phone talker at a Starbucks in Santa Monica, Calif.

“He just blatantly took over the whole place with his conversation, streaming his dull life into everybody’s brain,” Ms. Alkon recalled in a telephone interview. Among the personal details Barry shared that day — errands to run, plans for the evening — was his phone number, which Ms. Alkon jotted down. “I called him that night 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,’ “ she said.

So there.

The gist of the article is that while people are fed up with rude cell phone users, isn't it just as rude to exact revenge or deliver a public scolding? Some examples:

  • A McDonalds patron, irritated with another customer's loud cell phone chat, placed a small recording device on the table next to the offender. When asked what he was doing, he responded "Well, since you obviously want me to hear your conversation, I’d better keep a copy of it."
  • A woman riding on a commuter train recently had to listen to a stranger complain loudly by cell phone about his group therapy. The next time she saw him, about a week later, she asked how the therapy was going.
  • Ms. Alkon has a blog where she often posts the personal information shared by loud cell phone talkers.

I'll admit I've been shocked by how clueless people seem to be when they're talking on a cell phone. In public. I've had a conversation or two in my head with those folks and believe me, I got my point across.

But in reality, I lean more towards the solution offered by a company that makes cards you can hand to strangers with sayings like, "Can you please take your conversation elsewhere?" These cards come in a cute little drawstring bag and they cover a few different scenarios such as: inappropriate ringtones, talking too loudly and volume set on 'stun.' Their website says they "offer a gentle way to let the guy in the elevator who’s having an affair or the woman in the next cube who’s checking in with her therapist know that everyone is getting an earful. It's a wake-up call with humor and tact."

Some would call that a more passive-aggressive way to shame someone into being considerate of others. But I keep thinking about some of the thoughtless things I've done - in public - and of how thankful I am that no one turned a spotlight on me.

So I'm going to try to be less scoldier - even in my head.

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