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Inspired by spoothbrush -- society needs its mouth washed out (and an etiquette class) - Paint It Black
Living the American dream one heartbreaking piece at a time
Inspired by spoothbrush -- society needs its mouth washed out (and an etiquette class)
Tonight I was reading her entry about a "classless society." What she's referring to is not a society that is free from classes of people, but a society free of the concept of class, wherein civility and standards of behavior are discarded.

I got the feeling she thinks we're rapidly sliding into that particular pit. I think we're already there.

Let me share a snippet from the not-so-distant past that validates this suspicion of mine. The scene unfolded just a little while ago, on the first of this month, when my parents were in town and stopped at my place for a rest on their drive back from FL to MN. lady_curmudgeon, my mother, my father and I had gone to our favorite local restaurant to enjoy a nice dinner. We got there sometime around seven in the evening. The restaurant was busy but not jammed by any means. We were seated in a booth. The booth immediately adjacent to us (behind where my parents chose to sit) was being bussed. Shortly after we ordered our meals that booth was seated with three individuals. There were two guys and one girl in this party. We were "lucky" enough to be treated to every single part of their conversation because they seemed to have absolutely no internal regulation to the volume of their voices.

But that wasn't the only aspect about having them behind us that sucked. I think my father put it best when we walked into the parking lot on our way to the truck. He said, and this is a direct quote... After listening to those people sitting behind us for forty-five minutes I had to get out of there. I don't know about you, but I try not to use the word "motherfucker" more than sixteen, eighteen times at the most in my dinner conversation.

He's not exaggerating the situation, either. I readily admit that I can (and frequently do) have a pretty foul mouth -- but even I have never been nearly as vulgar as those two men were. And they were at a dinner table. In a public place. With that woman (girlfriend?) sitting with them, no less! What the hell, man? As captain18 would say, "That's classy with a `k`." In the spirit of "one good list deserves another," I'm going to augment Spoothbrush's list of things that show an utter lack of upbringing with a few items from my own list. Nothing says "I am uncouth and as socialized as a howler monkey" like:
  • laser pointers and cell phones in the theater [we've all suffered this]
  • changing your baby's diaper on a store's checkout counter when there's a perfectly usable bathroom (with a Koala Kare station in it, no less) only twenty feet away [personally witnessed at my old job as a cashier]
  • posting pictures of yourself at the Playboy Mansion in your cube [I wish I was kidding about this happening at my work place]
  • open and extensive fondling your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/spouse/pet/whatever in front of children while you're in public space [saw this during last summer's company outing and there's just so many horror stories within the various fandoms]
  • embracing the fruits of ignorance
  • ...and making excuses for people who do any of the preceding.
Maybe we hit the height of our civilization back in the early 1900s and have been sliding downward in a linear manner ever since. Maybe this degeneration is more accurately described as a bell curve, I can't say for certain. I only know that the utter inability of any one person or group of people to comment negatively on such behavior without being shouted down by the masses is enough to ensure this trend is not going to disappear and will likely accelerate.

And people ask why I never want to go out anymore...

Another quick means to an end


13 thoughts or Leave a thought
From: almanzo Date: April 11th, 2007 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Idiocracy is real, and it's coming. We might already be there. I think it wasn't over-the-top enough.
asetwoman From: asetwoman Date: April 11th, 2007 04:33 am (UTC) (Link)

I tend to think that there will always be rude people; it's just that certain particulars of being rude change with the times. Did you ever read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or see the original movie? Violet Beauregard's biggest sin in the book was chewing gum. This was a very very rude, very naughty thing to do when that book was written, but the version of the movie that came out a couple of years ago had to rewrite her to make her much more obnoxious. Gum chewing just doesn't cut it in today's society. Far too tame.

I'm not saying your examples aren't extremely rude and lacking in class. They are, but people are always going to say that about the outliers, and there will always be outliers. It's just that what's considered far outside the politeness norm will change with time, as it always has.

Seriously, though, where are you seeing the masses vocally defending people changing diapers at a checkout counter or public fondling? I don't see most people acting like this or defending it. I see a certain small number of people engaging it and attracting much more of our attention than the larger number of polite people do, and I see most people expressing disgust at such behavior when asked. So I'm not sure where you're seeing criticism of such being shouted down. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying.
asetwoman From: asetwoman Date: April 11th, 2007 04:55 am (UTC) (Link)
And allow me to clarify, since I'm not doing the sensible thing and going to bed.

I'm absolutely not making excuses for the rudeness, but I can't agree that it was better in the old days. My point is that people were saying the same things in the old days, it's just that the things they were complaining about were different back then. Where I draw the rudeness line is where someone's behavior negatively affects those around them. The three people you sat near at dinner probably made your dinner a lot less enjoyable, which to me makes their behavior very rude. Changing a diaper at a cash register counter is unsanitary, which also negatively affects others. Ergo that too is rude. I just don't long for the days when women going out without a hat and gloves was considered scandalous and improper, however, because that never negatively affected anyone except in their own weird perceptions.

I'm focusing on politeness as a subset of civility because it's less subjective, in my mind (heh, no contradiction intended) than the question of class. And it's more important to me personally. But I'm probably overthinking this anyway.
twanfox From: twanfox Date: April 11th, 2007 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)

The History of Sex

While your commentary doesn't directly have anything to do with sexuality, the wife and I wound up watching a show on the History channel called the History of Sex. In that, they reviewed some of the sexual mores throughout time. It was interesting to see how there were times of particular promiscuity, particularly with the aristocrats of the time, and how the middle class, wanting to distance themselves from what they viewed as immorality, adopted a rather conservative view of sex. This was so apparent that it extended into the medical profession and limited them in their examination of the human body. I found that interesting because, in some cases, you can see that conservative behavior now in reguards to the perceived immorality of homosexuality, something that in various times past, was not considered immoral at all. In parallel, I'm sure that the trend you see towards a 'classless' society is also apparent in this aspect as well, seeing how there has been a slow trend back towards a more open display of sexuality.

In contrast, though, I don't necessarily think this is leading towards a downfall of society or is it any better or worse than the far reach the other way towards conservatism. It reflects a cycle in society, a 'wobble' between being restrictive, prim, and proper and being open, disrespectful, and self rightous. Probably not the best choice of description, but hopefully close. I would imagine that this trend would continue until some major element of society decided that it was enough and pushed back in the other direction.

P.S. This isn't defending those that do what you say, since I find such disrespect deplorable, but simply stating this all as observation.
skorzy From: skorzy Date: April 11th, 2007 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)
This VERY subject has been on my slow burn for many years. People wonder why I detest crowds, and *this* is a primary reason.

I've often railed about how expletives are much more effective when used sparingly, rather than a standard vocabulary. I constantly bristle when I hear anyone abusing them. In your restaurant situation, I would've gotten up and *left*.

I'm not sure its really a reduction of class, but more a rise of self entitlement and personal arrogance that necessitates trivializing your neighbor's significance. I think this might be the dark half, or perhaps the beginning of the decline of "American" culture. I don't have enough knowledge to judge if this is uniquely a "first world" problem of developed civilizations, but my gut tells me that this isn't *just* an American problem. I'm quite sure you'll find this same social deterioration in Canada, Britain, Germany, France..etc.

The really scary part is that I recognize that behaviour in myself sometimes! I catch myself and go "whoa... what the hell?" Is it my defense to my environment or a symptom of this culture? I don't know..but at least, I've still got the common decency to recgonize it and *correct* it... and if necessary, apologizing when necessary.

Dammit.. now I"m going to be thinking about this topic off and on all week! :)
linnaeus From: linnaeus Date: April 11th, 2007 12:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
posting pictures of yourself at the Playboy Mansion in your cube [I wish I was kidding about this happening at my work place]

In my defense, I'd like to point out that it took me forever to get into the grotto, and I really like the way that picture turned out.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 11th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Picture proof

I still cannot believe you got Feren to wear that little two piece bikini into the grotto. I thought the assless chaps incident was the worst. I was wrong.

BTW: How much Gin did that take? Wait. Nevermind - I don't want to know...

Shanedoll ;)
brianblackberry From: brianblackberry Date: April 11th, 2007 01:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually I think you made the point more clearly then the original poster who included purchasing large vehicles and fancy electronic stuff as 'classless'. Personally I can deal with people buying SUVs to drive a mile on a summer day if, as you point out, people learn to have a bit more class in their speech, mannerisms, and respect.

changing your baby's diaper on a store's checkout counter when there's a perfectly usable bathroom

Why was that even allowed?? That would of been an automatic "no way" in my book, with like you said, the perfectly good bathroom (yeah, those Koala kare things are everywhere)
doomsey From: doomsey Date: April 11th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
amusingly, the tribune ran an article on this topic today.
loboguara From: loboguara Date: April 11th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's worse in some places than others. It's why I like it here, people ARE generally nice and considerate. Like the other day...urban diner, in the city.

Older gentleman with young kid in tow, saying they're from out of town, wanting to take grandkid to see a movie, asks cashier about location and times. Of the people at the counter, an older sort immediately offered the entertainment section of their newspaper, and two younger sorts, including a backwards-ballcap-and-ECKO-shirt-and-gold teen, immediately pulled out cellphones to check local movie listings for the guy. (I did too, before I'd noticed.) The cashier wrote down directions to the local stadium theater, other people chiming in that yes, that's the best one.

I LIKE that. The only thing ruining it at times is the influx of people who invariably go out and get into SUVs with Massachusetts plates, people who are rude and impatient and demanding. We call them "Massholes."

nymphara From: nymphara Date: April 11th, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

The main problem is

That we all have the god given right to be stupid. We should remove these people from the gene pool for being so, but what can you do? I'd suggest you try the schwartz...
kinkyturtle From: kinkyturtle Date: April 12th, 2007 10:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: The main problem is

My suggestion is to secretly dope the nation's supply of cheap beer with contraceptives. If we do this constantly for about 20 or 30 years, the stupid people will become too old to breed.

Hmm. Maybe we should also put in ginkgo biloba or some other brain-enhancing drug while we're at it. Might help a bit...
nymphara From: nymphara Date: April 12th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: The main problem is

I like the way you think...

13 thoughts or Leave a thought