Monday, July 14, 2008

Where Has Civility Gone?

Let me preface this post by admitting that 85% or so of the country is not like this from what I have experienced so if you are from one of those places do not get offended.
It was Sunday morning and my wife and I decided to go to our favorite bakery for breakfast so we loaded up the kids and headed down town. On the way I called my sister up to join us even though I knew this bakery is on the small side with limited seating but it was early enough that I figured we could grab one of the few larger tables that are available. My sister was waiting for us at the parking lot and helped unload my four and a half year old and six month old daughters and walk across the street to the bakery.
The bakery itself is in an old industrial building converted to multipurpose commercial use. If you didn't know it was there you would never find it, but I discovered it a while ago and have been a slave to its fresh baked delights ever since and hooked my family on it also. It is, first and foremost, a bakery and caterer and only half heartedly serves breakfast and lunch to customers who have about 10 two seat tables in a six foot wide hallway and three four seat tables on front of the counter to enjoy their scrumptious vittles.
We have been there many times and are usually fortunate enough to grab one of the big tables or take one just after someone finishes because it is first come first serve. Sometimes we have to wait a little for someone to finish which is alright with us because the food is soooo good but then you have a situation like one I experienced on Sunday that sets us off. So here is what happened.
We walked into the busy as always place and there were two of the big tables available as we walked down the narrow hallway towards the counter juggling a four year old, and baby in a carrier, past the two seat tables and people walking out. To our dismay a group of young women walked into the other door by the counter and grabbed one of the big tables. Which is fine with me because it is first come first serve and their party was as big as ours and I don't need special privileges just because I travel with two cute as a button little princesses. Just before we got to the other table a big guy with a turquoise bandanna covering his bald head sat down and got it before us. Which again was fine with me, he got there before me so it was his, but as we walked past him, ordered our food and discussed where we would be able to fit our little group, still swinging around a baby in a carrier and a four year old pointing out all of the yummy things she wanted to her aunt, the bug guy was joined at his table for four by his little female companion and that's it, no one else. There were eight empty tables for two behind him but I guess he needed the extra room for his elbows and such. He sat there waiting for his food and stared at us trying to figure how we were going to sit at the small tables with a dumb look and never thought about giving the table up to us. There is the problem.
We have been there many a time while some person sat at a table for four sipping coffee by themselves while we scrambled around sitting at two table for twos feeding two kids and ourselves on tiny two foot by two foot tables(thats a lot of 2's). I know it is our problem for going to this place, but I was raised to be polite. I was taught to give up my seat to an older person or woman with children. I was taught to hold a door for someone behind me. I was taught to let someone with one thing go in front of me at the grocery store when I have a full cart. I was taught to say please and thank you to everyone and I endeavor to teach civil behavior to my children. I just cant understand people who don't do these things and although I usually shrug it off, sometimes it gets to me. This guy saw us struggling to seat ourselves and (probably)never thought about how rude it is to sit at a table for four when you only have two. That is one of the bad things about living in the North East in America, most everybody is out for themselves. My wife, who is from the South where people are more kind and considerate in general, said to me as we left the bakery we should get out of this part of the country. I sometimes think she is right.
What does this have to do with Masonry?
Nothing really, I just wanted to rant.
I wish more people read the book by our illustrious brother above and took it to heart.


Brandy said...

did you say something, like.... "excuse me may we sit here?"

if not, then you really don't have any right to be upset.

passive aggressive behavior is annoying

M.M.M. from the North Eastern Corner said...

Passive-aggressive behavior refers to passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to following authoritative instructions in interpersonal or occupational situations. It can manifest itself as resentment, stubbornness, procrastination, sullenness, or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is, often explicitly, responsible.
I dont see how that was Passive Aggressive?
Maybe we should have asked, but its not polite to ask.

The Palmetto Mason said...

Move down here to the South. Y'all can have my table.

Millennial Freemason said...

I would say in Minnesota, we have our the concept, "Minnesota Nice" at play. Every once in a while, I meet an obstinate person but they are very few and far between. However, with the new Light Rail train, it is interesting because some people that would seem truly accommodating wouldn't get out of their seat for any senior citizen. Maybe we are more Hobbesian than we want to believe.

Anonymous said...

Where has civility gone? Why, to the comment sections of some Masonic blogs, of course.

Thom Foolery said...

"passive aggressive behavior is annoying"

The phrase "passive aggressive" used in this way is an armchair psychologism excusing a person's lack of concern for those around them, pure and simple.

When I lived in the Bay Area I noticed this a lot: a person would do something annoying or allow their child to do something annoying, and would then tell the annoyed parties to "please speak up and let me know if this annoys you," all the while persisting in the annoying behavior. Obviously the person in question is cognizant of the annoyance, because otherwise they wouldn't have mentioned it as a possibility in the first place.

In the Midwest, where "passive aggressive" civility is still the norm, we would instead notice that our behavior or that of our children was beginning to annoy those around us and so we would STOP the behavior instead of effectively making others request it.

Putting the onus on the person who is annoyed to do something about it instead of ceasing to be annoying is the essence of incivility.


howardsanders said...

Brother Jason

Thank you for your post.

I recently saw "Hamilton" on bway and there was an astonishing amnt of deference paid to the character even by abolitionists...

Q: How can a "Man of War" and enslaver be regarded as an authority on Civility?