Sign of the end times: I’m in the Wall St. Journal

Posted in blog post on May 21st, 2011 by Merrill Markoe

Here is the piece they published.

But in case any one is interested, below is the piece before it was cut down by editors. It contains a few extra theoretical jokes. And if you were wondering how a piece like this is born in the first place: the topic was assigned

A Renaissance in Rudeness by Merrill Markoe

Perhaps you read about Lakeysha Beard , the 39 year old woman who was charged with disorderly conduct for talking loudly on her cell phone in the designated Quiet Car of an Amtrak train, as she traveled from Oakland California to Portland Oregon. According to the Oregon State Troopers who finally escorted her off, she had talked non- stop for 16 hours, despite repeated complaints and warnings.

At first I viewed this story as a perfect parable of modern-rudeness. I began to make a Gilbertian list in my head of other people I’d like to see similarly restrained.

I wished for the arrest of people who refused to maintain eye contact during a conversation because they were texting; giddy at the thought of cell-phoners in theatre audiences, restaurants and long lines being taken away in hand cuffs. But my joy was cut short when it occurred to me that even bothering to have a negative opinion about the above was casting myself as a relic from another age. I might as well be quoting quaint pieces of advice by Emily Post about ill mannered people who crinkle the cellophane on their candies during a matinee.

Add up the numbers and it becomes clear that everything we  knew about the working of manners has shifted. Lakeysha Beard is the brave herald of an emerging renaissance of rudeness.

In the old rudeness, rules were made to keep people from intruding on your privacy. In the new civility, the idea that you would have the nerve to claim any place that gets satellite signals as your private space is what is rude, because you are interfering with someone else’s individual rights of expression. By entering any public or private space, even if you hold the mortgage, you are signing a generic release form, agreeing to be an extra, if not a principal player, in the blogs, feeds, videos, webcasts, podcasts and status updates of whoever else happens to be around.

Even in the Rest Room, you are with the multitudes. And everyone you see is in touch with everyone they know. The person in the stall beside you is talking to people in their dorm, who are skyping. The one on the other side is posting a picture of your shoes on their Tumblr.

In this updated model we are 7 billion people, each preoccupied with our own individual broadcast. If for some reason, someone is bothering you by talking too loudly on their cell phone, …. well, what’s stopping you from calling someone yourself, Mr. Selfish Solitude?  And if the person you call is only half listening because they are playing Modern Warfare 3…well, so? By trying to put restrictions on the behavior of others, aren’t you the one who is being rude?  What kind of an egomaniac are you to assume you are so fascinating that everyone should just drop everything else they are doing whenever you show up? Why should your story about what happened to you at work take precedence over the 439 people on Facebook who have been waiting for an hour to get a ROFLMAO?

In the new civility, it is you who is being inconsiderate, demanding the right to sit there quietly while everyone else is busily connecting. Who do you think you are, withholding LOLS and LIKES from those who have LOLed and LIKEd you? Don’t you care enough about everyone you’ve known since grade school and the friends of your friends to at least post a picture of your dinner?

So we see that LaKeysha is not a bad example. She is the  harbinger of what is to come. In her details there is much to learn. For example: after the Amtrak authorities determined that Quiet Car rules had been violated,  LaKeysha was still permitted to talk for sixteen hours before she was escorted off. That train rolled through eleven more stations before the police made her feel “disrespected” By then, she was only one hour away from her home.

Here we see that within the new civility, there are indeed limits to be imposed on public cell phoners. Sixteen consecutive hours now defines the moment where acceptable phone calling disintegrates in to nuisance.

But these limitations are temporary. One day when we all have receivers implanted in our skulls, and no one ever sits quietly, not even during brain surgery, perhaps LeKeysha will be praised in text books as the woman who liberated the skies from remaining cell phone restrictions… finally freeing men, women and children to talk non-stop on flights all the way to Australia and beyond.

And… I gotta run . Sorry to be rude but Drew Friedman just posted a new picture of Shemp on Facebook. I want to be the first to give him an LOL.


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