We hear you. You emanate coolness. Your conversation is stunning. You embody everything hip, happening and relevant in our modern society.
And yes, I’m totally judging you. You’ve left me and the ten people behind me patiently waiting to order our $4 cup of sugary bliss no choice.
Before that ghastly Jay Z song came blaring out of your right ass cheek, I was quietly entering a state of contented bliss. For a brief moment, my senses dove into the sweet aromas of caramelized sugar and the calming hum of the espresso machine, my mind downshifted and I touched the calm recesses of my mind.
And then you pissed all over my bliss.
Now we’re subjected to a series of one-sided tantrums worthy of the Jerry Springer Show.
We could give two shits about your ex-wife spending your bonus check on her new boobs. We don’t care that your teenage daughter is carrying the seed of your neighbor’s delinquent son in her precious womb and social services has given you custody of that depressing shit-show. And we certainly don’t want to hear about how your fantasy football team slayed it yesterday and how your days as the high school quarterback are really paying dividends in the midst of your midlife crisis.
And why in God’s name would you have that conversation in public! I’d hesitate to reveal such information to my therapist, much less a room of complete strangers.
Unfortunately, I’m not describing a rare occurrence or just ranting because some social anomaly crosses my path every time Mercury enters retrograde. No, I have this encounter every fucking day.
And so do you.
Which leads us to explore a few deep and possibly challenging questions.
At what point did we, as a society, believe that airing our dirty laundry in public for all to hear, was an acceptable behavior for our public spaces?
When did the commons fall prey to the narcissistic among us who believe that yapping loudly in a cell phone about rather intimate topics constitutes acceptable behavior?
Has our mentality of online anonymity seeped into our face to face interactions causing a massive hiccup in common decency?
You’re not wrong in being both annoyed and perplexed by this behavior. Amy Alkon, author of the book, Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, cites research pointing to how disruptive cell phone conversations are to people in a public space.
“A growing body of research suggests that a conversation that bystanders hear only one side of, such as a cellphone call, is disturbing to the brain in a way a two-sided conversation is not. Apparently, your brain tries to figure out the side of the conversation that you are not able to hear. (Your brain does this automatically; it isn’t something you can just decide not to do.)” http://observer.com/2014/12/bring-back-phone-booths-and-other-ways-to-battle-rude-cell-phone-yappers/
Alkon also suggests multiple options for rectifying this assault on our brains. She advises cafes and restaurants to issue cell-phone free zones or install phone booths (rather extreme, but we’re probably moving in that direction) and politely alerting people of their rude behavior.
And for those stubborn among us who don’t care how their actions impact others, Alkon suggests we initiate a little shaming. She suggests the following line for the next cellphone yapper who can’t take a more subtle hint, “Excuse me, sir…would you mind using speakerphone so we all can enjoy both sides of the conversation?” F*cking brilliant!
Alkon dives deep on this topic in her book, along with many other modern anomalies to human behavior. Her book can be found at this link and her advice for navigating our current human landscape is priceless.
What bothers me most are the underlying statements that such socially endorsed behaviors say about us as a whole.
By both allowing these behaviors to continue and occasionally doing this ourselves (gasp) we’re endorsing the fact that we no longer respect the people around us and the impacts of our actions upon their well-being. That statement might be a stretch for some of you, but think about it.
Talking loudly on the phone in a public space shatters the experience of those sharing the same space. Such behavior states to the people nearby that “I don’t give a f*ck that you’re in the same space as me, you’re going to listen to my conversation anyway because I’m too lazy or rude to step outside.”
At what point did we lose the ability to remain mindful of those around us?
Why are we so disconnected from the impacts of our actions on those around us?
Is it narcissism? Desensitization? Ignorance or just a modern side effect of life with our devices.
How do we live in such a reality?
I’d like to think that as an evolved society currently contemplating sending people to Mars, we can navigate the tough questions regarding behaviors and evolution that should be addressed. I’d like to think we can once again return to a time where public spaces vibrate with the sounds of people enjoying one another’s company.
I’d like to think we can return to a time of normalcy and respect the space we all share with one another and simply let the phone go to voicemail.
Or better yet, leave our dopamine addiction device in the car and enjoy the presence of the strangers around us. Who knows where human interaction might take us?