Having recently (a.) spent time on four airplanes, (b.) attended a populous professional conference across two days of “standing room only” presentations, and now (c.) standing at the bar of my local coffee shop committing this rant to digital perpetuity, something has become abundantly clear to me. Too many adults in public places where space is at a premium occupy the most expansive area conceivable including clearly demarcated boundaries intended for other human bodies. This happens on public transportation as well; and movie theaters, mall food courts…really anywhere where humanity accumulates.
Even, as I learned on the aforementioned airplanes, when seats are assigned. (“Oh, hi. We have seats 24a and b.” She then rolls her eyes, tugs her suitcase-sized carry-on from my seat, and moves quietly…NOT to her assigned seat. How do I know this? Because she went through the same song-and-dance two additional times. That’s three total!! Each time making the unsuspecting, boarding-pass-wielding, just-trying-to-get-to-their-damn-seat-and-place-their-reasonably-sized-carry-on-in-a-nearby-overhead-bin passenger feel like the asshole.)
Even when it is clearly stated that one should place the largest carry-on in the overhead bin and then place the smallest carry-on under the seat just ahead. (Nope. It’s like an anti-social reality-show competition to quickly shove every bag, purse, coat, and McDonald’s bag out of the way so that contestants…nay, passengers can immediately decline seat-backs for maximum personal comfort, set up a home office/snack-bar/entertainment center, then remove their shoes…thus forcing us other cattle in coach to inhale cushion farts, germs, stale air, chronic halitosis, odd-smelling food items AND foot funk for 3 hours.)
Even when multiple conference organizers beg attendees to not place bags and coats on seats and to sit physically next to other people near the center to allow the confused masses wandering the halls of village-sized convention centers passage without the need to perform stealthy American Ninja Warrior feats to land in a remote seat stacked with the detritus of defacto bag ladies. (I’m astounded at the not insignificant proportion of people who look surprised, often shocked and inconvenienced, when specifically asked to move their coats, bags, assets, and asses to an interior seat.)
Even when you look me in the eye as I stand at the coffee bar, then glance at your messenger bag and coat on the other seat at the otherwise ample table which is occupied with your computer, coffee, iPad, several books, phone, gloves, and whatever else you’ve decided will properly mark your territory as the alpha douche.
Really, what the fuck people?! I realize that craft coffee isn’t cheap, that airplane seats are cramped and also over-priced, that an overfilled conference space can be off-putting, particularly after you’ve scraped together the costs of flight, transportation, incidentals, hotel, and registration. However, I really don’t know how else to put it…what the fuck?! What absent-minded professor raised you to give precisely zero fucks about any other human except the ones you deem worthy of fuck-giving?
I generally have faith in humanity.
I specifically have no patience for blatant human-to-human inconsideration.
So hey, look up from your phone, your computer, your tablet, your book, and use the frontal lobe and integrated social-linguistic cortices which have granted us survival even though we’re a soft, slow, and weak species.
Take a breath. Look around. Yeah, there are people. Everywhere. And your behaviors impact them. You don’t have to give a fuck, but I encourage you to acknowledge and ever so briefly contemplate the fact that your attitudes and behaviors DO impact others. It becomes exceedingly more challenging to remain aloofly selfish when one considers, even if it be for 5 seconds, the emotions and stories of the people immediately present. Or, look at it this way. All of that negative shit that seems to pour on you, that bad luck, waking up on the wrong side of the bed every day…all of it. You can change that. Just as your individual behavior impacts others, the collective attitudes and decisions of those around you accumulate and impact you! So…if I put negative out, I get amplified and multiplied negative in. On the other hand…if I put positive out, I get amplified and multiplied positive in. Here’s the thing, the outcome for ANY person making lots of consecutive decisions to smile, remain mindful among others, be kind and polite and nice, and take up less space…is a happier, healthier, even luckier person. Shit will go your way more often. You’ll get that occasional coffee or drink on the house. More folks will wave you through that left turn you typically can’t make in traffic. The parking authority officer might just stand and wait for you to put an extra buck in the meter. A little windfall here or hitting on the football poll there. Whether one approaches life selfishly or selflessly, the outcome is the exact same. I promise.
So really, give a fuck.
(From The Oatmeal, for whom I am quite thankful.)*
*The comic is his, the “joke” is mine.