Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Silent Courtesy

Reflecting on a column in the WSJ (1/15/11 Eric Felten), I agree that we have "this tendency to careen from extreme to extreme - either allowing and enduring behavior ungoverned by the slightest scruple or enforcing ridiculous regimens of hypercorrectitude. Missing is the virtue that sits in the middle, the common sense of common courtesy." In his article he discusses Amtrak's Quiet Car concept and how its use has gotten blown out of proportion. It is a place for no cell phones, no music thumping from headphones,etc. However, it is a "cauldron of simmering rage" where silent scolds frown upon a rustle of paper or a quiet conversation.
It's daunting, this fine line between life and technology and humanity. We participate in everyone's public cell conversation. We can't tune out the bleed of headphone tunes. Everything is louder, and there is no privacy. How can we restore order and common courtesy?

Roped off space to restore manners seems ridiculous.

I stand vigilant, shushing talking movie-goers and hating texters. I appreciate service counters that request a patron not use a cell phone during a transaction. For goodness sake, talk to the checker and take care of your business. There has to be some order.
I shall use Trinity Writers' Workshop as an example. A writer reads a piece, has fifteen minutes. A timer buzzes, then listeners are called upon one at a time to critique. Oh, enthusiasm sometimes allows a few blurts, but in general everyone gets a turn to speak. It's all handled in a dignified fashion and much is accomplished.
Silence is the universal refuge ...our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail
Henry David Thoreau
Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy
Ralph Waldo Emerson

1 comment:

  1. I so agree! I have banned cell phones from my dinner table adn all holidays at my house.

    I also detest the person who doesn't actually answer the phone (keeps it on silent/vibrate) but can't seem to avoid checking it every 30 seconds while supposedly listening to someone else speak.

    Not only is it rude, it clearly communicates that the one speaking is infinitely less important than those who might call or text.