Hey Jerk, Who Are
You Calling Rude?
by Mad Dog
car can be held together by bumper stickers reminding you to “Practice
random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty,” but if you wait
long enough at the check-out counter while the clerk blabs on the phone
about last night’s date, it won’t be long before you tell the first
Thin Mint peddling Girl Scout you see where to put her cookies.
||Pollsters for the
Associated Press recently found that nearly 70 percent of the people
questioned told them to go to hell. Just kidding, though it wouldn’t
be surprising. See, what they actually found was that nearly 70 percent
of the people they talked to said Americans are ruder now than they were
20 or 30 years ago. I know, you probably find this hard to believe, but
then again who asked you?
Okay, so this isn’t a shocking
revelation. The truth is, I don’t think I could find a single person
to support the argument that people are more polite than ever, not even
if they were a member of the Will Rogers High School junior varsity
debating team. All you need to do to prove it is sit in a restaurant
listening to someone scream into their cell phone as if they’ve
forgotten that it has a microphone and the person on the other end’s
phone has an amplifier, check the mail every day looking for a thank-you
note for the wedding present you sent your cousin in 1996, or try to
make your way onto the entrance ramp of the freeway without seeing
someone’s middle finger aimed at you, which at least is better than
seeing the business end of a gun. See what I mean?
The problem with rudeness is that it
tends to be contagious. If someone is rude, the person on the receiving
end gets cranky and is in turn rude to the next person. It’s hard not
to be affected. Your car can be held together by bumper stickers
reminding you to “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts
of beauty,” but if you wait long enough at the check-out counter while
the clerk blabs on the phone about last night’s date, it won’t be
long before you tell the first Thin Mint peddling Girl Scout you see
where to put her cookies. And it won’t be in your pantry. It’s like
the trickle-down theory except there’s no money involved, not even for
those on the top. It’s enough to make Mother Teresa roll over in her
grave and shout, “Hey, will you pipe down? There are people trying to
be dead down here.”
phenomenon is what’s known as NIMW, or Not In My World. It’s the
parent of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), which is a local neighborhood
The funny thing is, no one thinks they’re rude. It’s always
the other person. The AP survey found that only 13 percent of the
respondents admitted to having made an obscene gesture while driving,
and only 8 percent said they’d been loud or annoying while using their
cell phones around others. Either that 8 percent gets around a lot or
there’s an awful lot of denial going on, and I bet it’s loud denial
being shouted into the phone while you’re sitting on the airplane
waiting for the “turn off your phones” announcement so you can be
grateful for the relative silence of the screaming baby sitting next to
This phenomenon is what’s known as
NIMW, or Not In My World. It’s the parent of NIMBY (Not In My Back
Yard), which is a local neighborhood subset. NIMW is much bigger. NIMW
is when you see your screaming at another driver as being different than
their screaming at you. NIMW is when you think letting your cell phone
play Tie A Yellow Ribbon four times and answering just before the
voicemail kicks in is fun but the next guy’s phone ringing on vibrate
is too loud and obnoxious for words. And NIMW is when your holding up
the checkout line while you go find four items you forgot is okay
because you really need them, but when the woman in front of you has to
fish through her wallet to find her debit card you ask if you can cut in
front of her. NIMW is a beautiful place where blinders aren’t a
fashion statement, they’re a requirement. And everyone else should
wear earplugs so you don’t have to.
means that if you’re a parent you have a lot of responsibility. As
Crosby, Stills & Nash once said, “Who’s got the pot?” I mean,
“Teach your children well.”
So whose fault is it that we’re getting ruder by the minute?
Why parents, of course. Heck, I’ve been telling my parents my whole
life that every character flaw I have — and trust me, there are more
than I’ll ever face up to — is their fault, so why not pin this on
them too? What good are parents if not to act as nurturers, financial
benefactors, and scapegoats?
I’m not alone in pointing this
finger, and no, it’s the index one, smart guy. The AP poll found that
fully 93 percent of those surveyed blamed parents for failing to teach
their children better manners. Not teachers. Not movies. And of course,
not themselves. This means that if you’re a parent you have a lot of
responsibility. As Crosby, Stills & Nash once said, “Who’s got
the pot?” I mean, “Teach your children well.” Teach them to be
polite. Teach them to let others get in front of them if they have a
basketful of groceries and the other person only has one item. Teach
them that cell phones aren’t high tech tin cans and string, we don’t
have to yell for the other person to hear us. And teach them to say
“please,” “thank you,” and “yes ma’am.” If you don’t,
well, the hell with you.
©2005 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them, but not looking over my shoulder, dammit!