Are you going to fight like this the whole time?
That’s what I finally decided to say. It probably did not have much impact, but at least it released me from the problem.
Lately I have given a lot of thought to how to deal with certain public events. The socially weird ones. For example:
- A couple having a good public bicker on the train ride to work
- Someone on the cell phone – conducting a business meeting or a series of personal phone calls, on the train ride to work (can you tell I take the train a lot?)
- A screeching, overly cry-crying, or destructively noisy child whose parents are acting too adult for their own good
Of course, there are other sorts of disturbances which occur in public. For example:
- A gaggle of teens chit-chatting
- People who are pushy-shovy
- A child who is acting like a normal child, with a parent who is acting normally
But these last two are typical behaviors, just the nature of public interaction. There’s nothing to be done about them. That’s okay – totally.
But the socially weird ones – those are the ones that (in my arrogant opinion) just should not exist. Be honest – is anyone happy about them? Even the ones doing the behavior?
Okay – that’s my disorganized rant. On to more productive thought. Assuming you can agree that there are some public behaviors which are socially weird, what can be done about them? I am willing to bet that everyone has some irksome public behavior in their list of reasons to grump publicly to a stranger.
What do you say?
Thing is, for me, I can often ignore an annoyance. For example, by focusing instead on a blog-rant. 🙂 But should I? Wouldn’t it be more “natural” to embrace my surroundings?
That’s what I tried to do when, after ten minutes of bickering, the nearby couple had not come to any conclusion, other than:
- The guy was “so totally at fault”
- The guy really didn’t believe that, as I could tell by the emotionless grin frozen on his face. He was just being cordial by not yelling back at the person beside him who was drilling and drilling into him in public.
I thought about entering the discussion, and trying to help them out. After all, I’ve been in similar situations – I know how these things go, the petty arguments that seem all too important when they are happening. It’s almost impossible to extract oneself from them, sometimes.
I also thought of glaring. I did that once, which is when I saw the emotionless grin on the poor beaten-down guy. Note: I am not trying to say he was the victim of the argument. I am sure he did something wrong. After all, who hasn’t? But a glare is mere passive agressiveness. It’s almost as bad as having a good bicker, and it helps no one – neither glare-er, nor glare-ee.
But it did sort of catch the guy’s eye, and he knew someone in the outside world was watching their little bicker. Then something magical happened. I gathered my things and stood up. Now, you can tell that someone knows they are doing something wrong when, as soon as you walk near them or look at them they completely engage your stare. I intended to just glare and move on to a different, quieter seat (near a gaggle of chattering teens – much preferable to the bicker-seat). But when I saw the veiled guilt in each of their faces, I changed my mind, and said:
Are you going to fight like this the whole time? It’s kind of hard to sit here and listen to.
It was weak, I know. I’m still not very good at public confrontations.
I should have (wished I had) said:
I know that sometimes an argument can seem really important. But trust me, there’s always a way through without an argument.
Because that’s what’s true, and what would have been more helpful.
How about you? Have you ever improved some public behavior that you found to be objectionable, in a positive way?