When and why did rudeness become the norm? Whether the behavior occurs because of someone’s deliberate actions, indifference or someone’s choice to be oblivious to everyone around them, there are very few basic courtesies left.
There’s no better place to see glaring examples of people who forget how effective please and thank you can be when utilized correctly and often than at New York or New Jersey Penn Stations at the height of the weekend commute. People parade through as if getting to their destination is far more important than anyone else’s, regardless of age, pregnancy status, physical impairment, race or religion; these ride people will bowl anyone over if it means getting to a train, seat or just the front of the platform. Even worse, they sit on the outside of a double or triple seat and exhale if you ask them to move over so you can rest too. And, forget the people with their bags on the seat, feet up, or have a loud cellphone conversation; to them you don’t even exist. But, nothing makes me angrier than getting practically knocked down by a grown man. To me, there should never be a time when a man brushes pass a woman to walk through the door she opened, grab the last seat from her or squeeze in to an overly packed train or bus so his parts, which should be reserved for a significant other, are touching me.
I’m not even going to really discuss the people who burp or fart but don’t say excuse me. The ones who sneeze or cough in the air without covering their mouths. And, there are the people who sit on top of you, touching your body, without trying to slide over or apologize for violating your personal space.
This is not to say that New York City subway riders are much better commuter rail riders. The difference is slight. However bus riders tend to be the worst at rush hour. They ignore signs that instruct proper etiquette like giving up seats to the elderly, handicapped or pregnant. In fact, the majority of the time, the only people I encounter during my commute that say, “Excuse me. Please or Thank You,” are homeless people unaware that they’re asking a woman with an autoimmune disease, struggling to get to work and keep a roof of her head, for cash.
No, most of the people I see walk with the heads down engrossed in their smartphone, tablet, newspaper, magazine or with their headphones so loud whatever horrible song they’re listening to get stuck in my head. A good portion don’t look around them while walking and texting or talking so they slam into you as if you were both in bumper cars. When that happens to me I give them a nasty, some would say a stereotypical angry black woman, look and continue on. If the impact is enough to annoy me, I demand an apology by saying, “you could apologize or at least say excuse me.”
Then, there is the march to the exit off the train which usually involves hordes of people jockeying for space as if they are in traffic; maneuvering their bodies into the slightest space. This amazes me because all the effort usually only puts this desperate soul only one escalator step or two above me. When I feel like engaging someone who has stepped on my foot or bumped into me to get there, I say, “you were must’ve been late when you left home but if this cutting in front of me means that much to you go right ahead.”
I found leading by example does shame some people into behaving better. I can’t tell you how many times, despite my aching joints, I’ve given up my seat or let someone go ahead of me. Often I look around and see smiles or get a nod of praise by the other people who failed to do the same.
In these moments, my faith in humanity is restored because I know I’m not the only person with “home training.” I just wish more people would slow down, be less self-involved and practice good manners. Until then, I will ask the same questions as the reggae band Magic: Why You Gotta Be So Rude?
Thank you for reading this.
Nika C. Beamon is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House. In 2009, her first non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful, Single Black Women Speak Out was published by Chicago Review Press. She’s also the author of two mystery novels.
#WhyYouGottaBeSoRude #nyc #Newark #misdiagnosed #ChronicIllness #Nikabeamon #magic