Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can't we all just get along?

A new coffee shop opened across the street from the office where I work. The local paper had a small article and the online version allowed readers to comment. At another location of the same shop a couple people had bad experiences and posted them. The two incidents were a pregnant woman (eight months) who was feeling ill and put her stocking feet (shoes off) up an a chair to raise them. The owner came by and asked her to take her feet off the chair. The second incident was when a couple of families had strollers that were blocking an aisle. Again, the owner told them to move the strollers. In both cases the people did not complain that they were asked to stop what they were doing. They were upset because the owner yelled at them and treated them badly. Some people called the owner "a jerk".

A second group spoke up in favor of the owner saying the original posters were unbearably rude and deserved the treatment they received. Terms used for the (ex) customers included "self-entitled yuppies", "self entitled a-holes", and "self absorbed". The vitriol was strong.

In thinking about it, I think the "self absorbed" title is probably not far off. The customers engaged in actions that I find completely innocuous, but apparently offend a fair number of people. I think "self entitled" probably better describe the group that defended the owner. Self entitled seems a perfect title for people who expect everyone around them to conform to their notion of correct public behavior. As for the owner, yelling at people probably does make him a jerk.

If something poses a danger to you or others, step in and fix things. But be aware we live in a very large world among people with vastly different upbringings and customs. What is outrageous to one group of people is ordinary to another. I am reminded of the Scandinavian nanny who was arrested in New York because she left the baby in a stroller outside and went into a store. In her home city that was ordinary and expected behavior.

Each of us is upset by different things. In the face of this, we should give each other a little slack. If you find yourself getting upset, ask yourself if your feelings are well grounded. In the case of stocking feet on a chair there is essentially no chance of harm being done to anyone. If you feel strongly about feet on chairs, have a serious discussion with a shrink about why that is. If you are irritated by strollers in the way, politely help to correct the situation, but be aware that people are pretty good at avoiding obstacles.

Also, put yourself in the other person's shoes. Almost everyone has had a crummy day and blown up over some small thing. All of us have had other things on our mind and inconvenienced those around us. Let's all sigh and smile a little more at what we perceive to be bad behavior and try to dial down the outrage. Can't we all just get along?


Colin said...

Re: the Scandinavian nanny.

My grandma did that all the time in NY in the '50s and '60s -- and would have done it with me, in the late '80s and early '90s, if my mom had let her. (I'm glad she didn't). She lived in Poland and Israel before she came to the US, but I don't know that WWII would ingrain in me such a trusting aspect.

Anonymous said...

That was me above -- oops (clearly on your computer, again). -Heather

sf said...

Many citizens of the US think the French are snobs. I hear that many in France think U.S citizens are fairly barbaric.
On our road trip back east, we noticed many looked askance at us for attempting to converse with them.
The world is larger and more mysteriously enigmatic than we often imagine in our insularity, for which I love it with all my heart.
And except for cruelty (you didn't mention some parents' abusive dealings with troublesome toddlers),
live and let live are words that have been known to calm the roiling waters of warring morés.