Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Close Encounter of the Worst Kind

So, on Wednesday morning I'm sitting in one of the big comfy chairs at one of my regular stops on the café society circuit, The Good Cup on the Mesa. I've got my feet propped up on the ottoman and I'm reading the newspaper. The place is relatively quiet and life is good.

A woman, about my age comes over and plops down into the comfy chair next to me. She immediately whips out her cell phone and starts dialing a number. I'm thinking to myself, "I hope she's only calling her voicemail to pick up her messages." No such luck. Suddenly she's engaged in a loud conversation as she's seated right next to me.

Great, I sat down in a coffee house and a phone booth broke out.

I don't say anything for a couple of minutes, hoping that the conversation will be short. As the conversation goes on, I think to myself, "it's time to say something."

So I turn towards her, take a moment to make sure that she doesn't look like she's packing a heater or carrying a blade, and say, "excuse me, but could you go outside and finish your phone call?"

She looks pretty surprised, and says no, she's not moving and that she has the "right" to sit there and talk on her phone. I tell her that simply because she has the right to do something doesn't mean that it's polite to do it. She ignores me and starts telling the person on the other end of the phone conversation that someone has the nerve to hassle her about talking on her cell phone inside of a coffee house.

After a few more minutes the cell phone conversation ends. When it does I turn to her and say, "I just think you ought to know that you are a rude witch." (Okay, maybe I didn't say witch.)

She looks shocked. Starts saying something like, "how dare you talk to me that way!" I tell her that since she wasn't the least bit considerate of my comfort why should I be concerned about hurting her feelings?"

She gets up and walks to the counter in search of the manager, presumably to have me thrown out. I'm thinking, "Great. I'm 57 years old and someone is running to the teacher who is on yard duty to tattle on me."

She brings back Beth, the manager, who's astounded to see that of all people in the shop it's me that is the subject of the woman's complaint.

Beth does her Rodney King impression and asks, "Can't we all get along here?" She suggests that one of us might want to move to another seat. We both hold our ground.

Beth goes back to pumping cappuccinos leaving the two of us sitting there. After a couple of minutes the woman next to me loudly slams down her ceramic mug on the table in between us, and as she turns to walk out of the coffee shop says, "I'm sorry you're such a bitter old fart."

I guess one out of three isn't bad.

So, what do you think? Was I right to speak up or should I have held my tongue?

If she had simply been sitting there and answered an incoming call I don't think I would have said anything. But for some reason her taking the seat next to me and immediately whipping out her phone and making a call struck me as being incredibly rude. If she had plopped down and lit up a cigarette I certainly would have been entitled to say something. I found her making a call and talking loudly while doing so every bit as annoying.

I understand that there's a whole generation that sees nothing wrong with putting their business in the street and talking on their cell phones in restaurants and libraries, while ordering at the counter or while checking out at the grocery cashier. I've had students answer calls in the middle of class and think that there's nothing wrong with it.

How did we ever get to this stage? Maybe somebody should have spoken up?
© 2009 by Craig Smith and