05 August 2008

Eleven Signs You Are Subtracting From the General Quality of Life

It may be because I'm getting older, but lately it is the smaller social transgressions that are most prone to drive me to fury and distraction. The average person may not be able to fight City Hall, or slap vapid celebrities into submission, but one can take responsibility for one's own actions and behavior. Anyone can conduct themselves with a measure of respect toward one's fellow beings and pay a little homage to the Golden Rule. It's easy. Just takes a little mindfulness. And yet it's done less and less. Grown-ups curse loudly in public parks when surrounded by dozens of impressionable kids. People receive phone calls and text friends while in theatres and moviehouses. People spit.

Will the following list of minor crimes against civilization change anything? No. Will it make me feel better? A little. Is it worth the time and effort? Probably not. Whatever. Here it is. Have a nice day.

You are severely subtracting from the general quality of life on this planet called Earth if you are guilty of three of more of the following. Except for the first. Guilt of that alone makes you reprehensible.

1. You cut in line.

I'm not going to equivocate about this. If you cut in any line—at the grocery store, the airline check-in, the taxi stand, the queue for Mr. Softie—and it is not a Grade A emergency, you are a douche bag. You are the worst sort of person and any right-thinking mother would express regret at having given birth to you. This includes people who form "additional lines" at various places of business; those characters who hover near the front of the line and pretend not to notice there is a queue, and then make their move when people aren't watching; folks who only have a "small thing" to take care of, and apologize to all for going to the front of the line; people who don't queue up, but bunch up near the front in no apparent order, as if the concept of a line had not yet been invented and had never occurred to them; people who clearly aren't next, but call out their order when the counter man says "Who's next?"; and people in cars who inch up to the front of a long stream of autos waiting to exit or merge, and then prevail upon the kindness of some driver to let them into the lane.

You suck, people! You know you suck. Your time is no more precious than that of the citizens you passed over. Your needs are no greater. You're impatient, selfish, careless, no-account scofflaws, and St. Peter will keeping you waiting in a holding pen if you ever make it to Heaven.

2. You react with indignation and become aggressive when people catch you skipping in line.

These perhaps are actually more repugnant that the ones who are guilty of only number 1. Unfortunately, those who perpetrate 1. almost always perpetrate 2. I've rarely met a skipper who, when caught in the act, is contrite. Typically, they lash out into a stream of expletives.

3. (Men mostly here) You do not rise and offer your seat on a bus or subway when a pregnant woman or elderly person enters.

No matter how often I see this happen, it never fails to make my blood boil. There are few more flagrant examples of penny-ante inhumanity. Two riders: you're lazy; the other may collapse from exhaustion. And yet you sit. Insult is added to injury when a woman, seeing no men volunteer, is forced to give up their seat for the needy passenger. Sullen male youths are the worst offenders. They usually pretend not to see the woman or elder.

4. (Again, for men only) You take up more than one seat on the subway or bus.

I don't care what you've got between your legs—It doesn't require another seat! For many young men, the spread-legs position appears to be a sort of passive-aggressive challenge to the world, daring the population to demand they sit up straight. Asking them to make way almost worsenes the situation, because they always do so unsmilingly and with great effort.

5. You and two or more of your friends walk abreast on the sidewalk.

Here's something that may not have occurred to you and your buds: other people use the sidewalk. People just like you. It's true. Why, there may even be some on the very block you're striding down. Hey, look out! They might actually be right behind you! How'd that happen, huh? And why are they so made at you?

Whether you're the cast of "Friends" and the Swiss Family Robinson on vacation, keep it single file in New York City. You can chat when you get to the Starbucks or Subway or Red Lobster or wherever you're headed.

6. You dispense of your cigarettes by throwing them to the ground.

Tossing a butt to the sidewalk and walking away only looks cool in the movies. In real life, it creates litter and causes small fires. And pisses people off. It's this sort of behavior that compelled Bloomberg to make you guys second-class citizens.

7. You do not take tax and tip into account when ponying up your portion of a restaurant or bar tab.

It doesn't matter how innocent a look you slap on your face. You and everyone at the table knows what you did, and they resent you for it.

8. (Drivers only) You enter the box of an intersection when there is no space for your vehicle on the other side of the crossing, and the light is yellow.

In a just world, the law would allow passengers to scramble with our dirty shoes, cleats, boots and strollers over the hoods and roofs of cars the block the crosswalk.

9. You do not return an e-mail within 48 hours.

And no, I don't fucking care how busy you are! If you can not handle the flow of e-mail, you can not handle your job. And I'm not talking spam or junk offers. I mean legitimate inquiries related to what it is you do for a living. You're no busier than the person who sent you the e-mail. I promise you. It's just your ego that's a little more active.

10. You do not refill the ice trays when you empty them.

A petty concern. I admit it. Until you open the freezer on a hot day looking to cool down your luke warm glass of water and find all the trays dead empty.

11. You are peeved by this list.

You skip in line regularly, don't you?


Unknown said...

You've hit on my peeves as well. What makes cutting the line worse is when you complain to the organizers of the event they do nothing. I've complained about line cutters on my blog too. It hasn't helped but it makes me feel better. http://www.cntrysigns.blogspot.com/
If more of us write about it hopefully the message might get back to these rude people, but it doubt it. :( I hate to say it but I blame a lot of the rudeness of kids on the fact that there is no parent at home to raise them. But that's another rant for another day.

Ken Mac said...

#11. You treat other people's neighborhood like your personal place to let off weekend steam, i.e., shouting at the top of your lungs at 2am, peeing or pukeing in the street, playing loud hip-hop from your car as if we all love Jay Z. Punk!

Ken Mac said...

oops! I meant #12!

Anonymous said...

Can't quite understand anyone who does any of this madness. Then again, we must be some of the most courteous NYers alive. I've gotten peeved at these types of people at least 5 times in the last year ... each. When I see a smoker drop their cig on the floor, I step on the cig in rhythm with my walking. When I see someone try to cut in line, I make a motion backwards or even use my shoulder to establish position. When my kids were on a trip and a pregnant woman got on the train, one of my students got up from his seat for the lady, even without my behest. And these are things you're supposed to do, but ppl don't know how to act. Sounds elitist, but little things like this make common courtesy common. DUH!

Tim said...

12. You don't walk on escalators. Bonus points for people who don't even stand to the right to let people by.

Erica said...

Rock on, brother...I couldn't agree more. In fact, on a recent trip to Park Slope on the Coney Island Avenue bus, an elderly Russian woman boarded at Avenue U and asked a young man, sitting in one of the "you must give this seat up if..." seats, if she may please sit down, and he boldly announced: "I'm sitting here!" Fortunately someone else got up and gave her their seat, but I couldn't help but to inwardly judge him for the remainder of his time on the bus. A real douchebag, he was.

Urban Cyclist said...

I'm with you here other than being confused by the need to gender #3, which I think is not necessary. As a woman I have no greater need to sit than a man does. I understand when giving a seat to a pregnant woman is common courtesy, but do not agreed that men are somehow more obligated to do so than I am.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you're wrong on #3. As a woman who's been pregnant (and, later, toting a small child) on the subways, it's the "sullen male youths" who have always been the most likely to give up their seat.

It's the middle aged white guy reading the paper or checking his Blackberry who pretends he doesn't see me or my kid.

.Nicotine.Queen. said...

Can you blow up this list as a billboard in Time Square?
(except the smoker one, but I forgive you)

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Kristen: Guess we've had different experiences on subways. I'm sure you're right. There's enough inconsideration to go around!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree; it is the "sullen youths" who I too have seen offer seats. It's the suits and the hipsters who never offer them.

Another to add to the list, and I must say this is a recent phenomena...people who RUSH to get a seat on the subway, often right out from under someone else's ass, who then get off at the next stop! Strangely, they are often hipster guys. Maybe the effort required to wear those ugly knit caps is too much for them to bear standing up!

And whatever happened to "keep to the right"? Walking should work like driving; everyone keeps to the right and this way things keep flowing. Walking now makes me feel like I've got the ball and I'm rushing for yardage, avoiding those who come at me from every direction.

It's official-I'm too old and cranky to live.

Damaged Goods said...

Although it's general knowledge among New Yorkers that this type is first class asshole I will mention it anyway. One who gets on the train during rush hour, and just stops by the door even if there is plenty of room inside. Then he (almost always is) gets annoyed when they are shoved and yelled at. I wish I could give them a swift kick to the stomach, pushing them off the train.

L'Emmerdeur said...

1. Note to smokers: If you slowly twist the filter of a lit cigarette between your fingers, the "cherry" will fall to the ground, leaving you with a butt that can (after a bit of further crushing and a few minutes to make sure there are no remaining embers) be thrown into a trash can.

2. If you graduated from kindergarten, you should have learned the golden rule: walk on the right. This applies to:

hallways and corridors

Even in merry England, they may drive on the left, but they walk on the right (and I'd say almost all of them do, at least when they are in England - when they are in New York, not so much. Or maybe the fuckers who break this rule are exiled to New York to tyrannize me).

I find most violations of this rule are Europeans - primarily French and Italians. I assume this is because their cities effectively have no sidewalks.

Midwestern American types tend to violate the "twos company, threes a crowd, four on the sidewalk is not allowed" rule. This is probably because their suburban subdivisions have no sidewalks.

3. Good news: I believe they just passed a law in NY state that doubled the block-the-box fines and allowed traffic cops to give out block-the-box tickets (only regular cops could do this until now).

Anonymous said...

Excellent list! Here's the biggest one for me: You don't let the passengers off the train before you attempt to get on. Popular variation: you don't let the people out of the building/store/elevator before you attempt to get on. It's totally illogical! 2 people can't occupy the same place at the same time, yet these people try to walk through you like you didn't exist. They suck.

I love your comment about walking 2 or more abreast. I have a great example - 3 teenaged boys were walking down 5th Ave in midtown during lunch - completely oblivious, side by side. One of them lifted his sports drink up to chug it, as a result looking at the sky instead of right in front of him. He walked right into my fist.

Have a nice day!

- a 5 foot 2 lady who ain't taking any shit