Rudeness. It has become a disease. It has the pervasive nature of the common cold in winter. This illness appears to have no exceptions. It infects both young and old, driver and pedestrian, rich and poor, male and female, is cross cultural and multi-national. There are so many types of rudeness and impoliteness out there, that it would be impossible to address them all, but let’s have a look at some of the things that now occur as part of our every day life.
Drivers and pedestrians. In my top bugbears of the rudeness pot. The bigger and more expensive the car, the less the driver has to abide by general driving rules. Did you know that? Truth. If you happen to be already breaking the law and talking on your mobile phone, there are no rules whatsoever. You may: bully people out of the way, not bother to use your indicator, drive really really slowly and pay no attention to what’s going on around you, ignore yield (right of way) signs, and so on… For pedestrians, these drivers can ignore amber lights (hello? still crossing the road..!) and sometimes even green pedestrian lights. You can park your car wherever you wish, although mostly outside the off-licence or the Quik-E-Mart. If you happen to be a Taxi, you get extra special points and can park your vehicle up a tree without worrying about it. Is it only drivers? Absolutely not. Those of us going by shanks’ pony are just as susceptible to bad behaviour. We can cross the road wherever we like, and actually use hand gestures to hold traffic for ourselves. We also love to run to the middle of the road, and then drop to a leisurely amble to reach the other side. When walking on the footpath down a road, we have the right to step off into the road at any time, no matter how close you are to us. We can also, as we see you approaching, choose to cross the road at that precise moment. This right is augmented when in a group (especially if you are in uniform and in your teen years.)
Lack of Etiquette. Within our own social circles, we expect a level of politeness. I invite you to dinner, you’ll invite me back in a few weeks. If I’m having a party, it’s your responsibility to let me know whether or not you’ll be attending. Basically, it’s biblical. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Unfortunately, they won’t. Being impolite in polite society is not good. And it’s a terrible commentary on our race. When I was little (younger), I used to be “threatened” with finishing school when my manners slipped just too much. So now, forgive me, but I know how to set the table and make it look nice, and I like to put the milk in a small jug when serving coffee to guests. For my troubles, I’ve been labelled “posh”. Pshaw, is what I have to say. I’m about as posh as a hotdog, but I can appreciate what’s easy to do the right way. And it rubs off, I can tell you. After being in my house for awhile, you won’t want your coffee in anything less than the little green cups with their saucers and spoons. But I digress. When did it become a matter of course to call on the night of a dinner when already quite late and say you’re sorry but you’ll be another half hour because you stopped at your other friend’s house? It never did. Thank. Reciprocate. Revisit.
Being old doesn’t mean being horrible. By old I mean elderly: 70+. There’s a big anti-ageism movement where I live. It”s all about looking out for the elderly, and giving them the respect and kindness they deserve. I’d like to think I treat this age group as I did my grandparents. Happy to help, to chat etc… However, I often feel as though there needs to be another movement, that counters those of that group that blatantly use their age to be rude, hostile, and sometimes, just downright nasty. Please don’t push me aside in the queue, or make me trip backwards as you reach to get the item you want, which happens to be in front of where I’m standing. Don’t skip the queue either! And please, don’t ever tell me to “Get of of my way!”. It’s not nice. And it makes me not like you. Don’t point at me with your stick/cane because I happened to be driving in the road when you decided to cross illegally. And don’t ever poke me with said stick/cane. It’s really not nice. It’s these experiences that made me begin a “just because…” type of joke. “Just because I’m old means I can treat you badly.” Wrong.
General public rudeness. This covers pretty much everything else. It seems to be particularly prevalent in the supermarket. I have good days and bad days when it comes to handling supermarket “attitude”. The fruit and vegetable section is by far the worst. If I want to look at the butternut squash, five other people will suddenly develop an interest also. I’ve started concentrating first on something I don’t want, say turnips, waiting for the hordes to arrive, and then racing over to the spring onions in peace. Queueing in general is also a dangerous area. Some people just really want to be in front of the person in front of them. They breathe down your neck and make small huffing noises to convey their displeasure. Once, because I didn’t close the gap between myself and the person in front of me enough, I was asked to “move up please”. But the best so far took place in the post office. There I was, holding a small parcel. Not a letter, that might not have been seen. A parcel, as in, a BOX. I’m standing there patiently in the queue talking to the person in front of me whom I happen to know when a woman comes in and does the whole violation of my personal space. “Are you in the queue?” she asks the friend I’m talking to. I look at her. I look down at my parcel. He looks at her, then at me. “Yes,” he says, “And so is she”, gesturing at me. Was I invisible for a moment?
Then there’s the whole mobile phone lark. Some people clearly think that when using a mobile phone, they need to pretend that their phone doubles as a megaphone. The quieter the place, the worse they are. “Hi Lorcan! Yeah, I’m just in the middle of a minute’s silence for something or other! We’ll go for a few scoops later, alright dude!?” Or when you open the door to leave a shop, and someone walks through without thanking you, or looking at you. When you say: “You’re welcome!”, you just get a nasty look. I’d love to say that this is all water of a duck’s back, but it wouldn’t be true. It irks something awful. There are pram bullies, mummy monsters, laddish louts, drug addled idiots, yuppie yobs and so on and so forth, et cetera, et cetera.
I find solace in the fact that I am not alone in being affected by this plague. the delightful Amy Aikon also feels strongly enough about Rudititis to take action, as outlined in “I See Rude People”. So to those of us who still have the ability to be shocked by bad manners, I ask you this: Why has society become like this? I’ve struggled with the answer. The more instantly gratifying the first world has become, the more of a negative effect it has had on us. Gone are the days when we could plan lunch with a friend a WEEK in advance and have both people turn up, as arranged. Now we cancel on the day, citing some feeble excuse. I think we have forgotten how to truly care. There’s so much pressure on us, where everything is time, or money, or both, that the simpler things in life have all but escaped us. We live in a world of yesterday’s tomorrows, sacrificing the present. We have become self-alienating, but continually shift the blame elsewhere. I suppose I can always hope that Karma will get the rudees at some point, but to be honest that hope is feeble.