August 19, 2014

The Disappearance of Common Courtesy. ~ Vince Sparks

iphones transit bus

Common courtesy is slowly fading.

*Disclaimer: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.

The milk of human kindness is curdling and soon will be sold as Greek Yogurt.

The propensity for humans to look out for one is suffering. So many people are immersed in this Twitter, Google, Android, and iPhone world. “Get out of my way, don’t stand in my hotspot,” seems to be the common mantra.

People become so engrossed in their own electronic paradise, they stop noticing anyone they aren’t texting, talking or tweeting to. Crowd’s march like zombies with their heads down enraptured by the screen on their cell phone.

They stumble over curbs and into oncoming traffic in their smartphone daze.

Recently, a person made it on the news for falling into a fountain, because she was texting while shopping.

Can there be anything that important, that needs to be texted, that makes someone oblivious to a large pool of water?

Unless I receive a text that informs me I just won a million dollars, I will remain aware of my environment. Shouldn’t we at least look out for one another as a member of the human community? I don’t need to play “dodge a human” on the street, because everyone is busy on his or her smartphones.

Many people have a crazy notion that cell phone conversations take place in a magic cone of silence. Guess what? There isn’t one. People need to show consideration and keep phone conversations to themselves. Riding on an elevator, phone calls should go to voicemail.

Unless the elevator is free of other people, personal conversations should remain just that.

I am not a morning person, and really don’t want to engage in a conversation until I am in my office. I can do without the onslaught of useless morning gibberish. Recently on my early morning elevator ride to work, I was subjected to hearing about Anne and her yeast infection, as she shared the medial ailment with Aunt Hazel. That falls under the category of “Too Much Information.”

Occasionally, I clear my throat to remind the over sharing strangers that I am present, and can hear their conversations. It never works. I respect everyone’s humanity, but keep it out of my personal space. I don’t need to hear such personal drama before I’ve had breakfast. I haven’t even sipped my Dunkin coffee and my appetite is ruined for the day.

Instant communication has made people impatient.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been stampeded trying to get off an elevator. If someone is waiting for the elevator, and the doors open, isn’t it appropriate to wait and see if passengers are getting off? They don’t need to run full speed through the doors. People are so concerned with their own destination; they forget to consider that other people may exist outside of their own agenda.

Please, let me get off the elevator before jumping on. It will make the day go much better for all of us. If I wanted to Dosey Doe with a stranger, I would be at Gilleys with my boots on.

Hamsters in a cage show more awareness of their surroundings.

I haven’t heard of “Hamster Wheel Rage,” but people seem busy trying to run each other off the highway. I believe that road rage is a product of the digital/electronic age. It’s the fact we are too distracted by peripheral gadgets that we lack concentration on our main activity—driving.

If someone is drifting out of the car lane or driving slower than the posted speed, most likely they’re holding their cell phone. They cut people off, make last minute left turns from the right lane, and generally cause hazardous driving conditions.

In New Jersey it is law to only drive using a hands-free device. Yet, I see people everyday driving and caressing their phones. What is wrong with these individuals? Maneuvering a four thousand pound vehicle of steel, glass and plastic at high speeds should make them pay attention. If not for fellow drivers, then do it for their own safety.

Does the grocery list really need to be discussed on the way to the supermarket? Let the debate over baked or regular Cheetos wait until the car is safely in the parking lot. I don’t need to be rear ended, because someone can’t decide what low fat cottage cheese tastes best. Stay off the phone and away from my lane of traffic.

At the grocery store, have that “all important” conversation in the privacy of the car. I try to avoid the smartphone addicts stumbling around the aisles, blocking the path of other shoppers, and having conversations I don’t need to hear.

Again: the cone of silence does not exist in Whole Foods; the nipple-piercing saga should not occur at the Deli counter.

People get so engrossed in their own reality; they forget other people occupy the planet. Everyone needs to be aware they’re not the only one shopping, unless they’re like Barbra Streisand, who’s reported to have a shopping mall in her basement. Why do neighbors or friends see each other in a supermarket and decide to have an impromptu reunion in the middle of the aisle? Please don’t give me that look of disgust when I say, “excuse me.” I am only trying to reach for a loaf of bread. I am not attempting to crash your meeting in aisle five.

It is about working together as socialized, thoughtful people that make the daily flow of life occur without all the inconsiderate incidents. The ease of everything at our fingertips can cause some laziness. The couch potato society has risen from their La-Z-Boy recliners and has ventured into the great outdoors. They’re in search of electronic devices and more fast food consumables.

Also, many people appear not to care about their appearance in public. There is a website highlighting scary attire called peopleofwalmart.com. It is a disturbing photo display of customers in their shopping clothes at the discount capital of the world.

I tell myself the pictures have to be staged, because no one would dress like that in public. Where is our overall sense of dignity?

I understand why companies started Casual Friday in the workplace, but contemporary culture has taken it out of the boardroom. Suburbia has adapted it in a twisted, skewed way. Originally, khaki pants and no neckties were considered casual, but now it is Old Navy pajama pants and slippers. If someone is too lazy to get dressed and can’t get out of their pajamas—stay home. Perhaps it is time to rethink that sense of style.

I really don’t need to see someone’s thong, bra straps, butt crack, or family jewels. I wanted a pleasant afternoon browsing through Target. I didn’t know I would develop Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome while purchasing a Swiffer.

It doesn’t take much to be kind and considerate. It won’t ruin the day to be courteous and hold a door open for someone. Be aware of surroundings. The cell phone is a good tool, but it is not a lifeline. The umbilical cord was cut at birth; we’re all on your own now. Let’s act like it. It takes a matter of seconds to show concern for someone else. A random act of kindness can change everyone’s day.

People will be shocked what they can see when they aren’t staring at the screen of a cell phone.

The beautiful blue sky is above them, not at their feet. The text, the tweet, the game of Candy Crush can wait. Life isn’t placed on hold for anyone.

It keeps moving forward. Get in step and acknowledge other people’s existence.

The drones that want to keep their heads down and continue the relationship with an inanimate object must get out of the way.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Marc Smith at Flickr 

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Vince Sparks