Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fun With Rude People

I was on a commuter train the other day and I had a fun experience. It was the busiest train of the day and were packed in like so much cordwood. The seats are in groups of four where two seats face the other two. People tend to avert their eyes a lot and not say much.

In this case, there was a woman who got on her phone almost as soon as I sat down. She made one phone call to her sister and she was discussing various personal things. Then she called what sounded like someone who was a friend that knew her and her family for quite some time.

I now know, if I care to recall, how long she has been married, how long her parents have been married, the health of her father, mother and brother. I know where she went for vacation and how many fishing boats her uncle (on her fathers's) side owns.

So she's yammering on for 20 minutes of unadulterated gossip. Finally, I looked at the guy across from me (he was sitting next to the yak woman) and said in a manner loud enough for the woman to hear, "I didn't really want to know about her entire life, did you?"

Her conversation came to a dead stop and I thought, "Oh, this is going to get interesting."

In a very indignant manner, she glared at me and said, "EXCUSE ME???!!" Then she told the person she was talking to that she had to go because someone had a problem with her talking on the train.

In a calm but matter of fact voice I explained, "I now know far more about your life than I ever cared to know. Do you think the rest of us really want to hear all of the personal details of your life?"

Her respose was totally unexpected. She looked at me as if to cast out a demon and said, "You're an angry man. Why are you so angry?" As I mentioned a moment ago, I was very calm. In fact, I was downright amused because I knew she'd get irritated and I'd get to have a little fun with her.

"I'm not angry," I replied barely looking up from my book, "I just think you're rude." Again, she accused me of being angry. So I said, "Listen, here we are in a very crowded train and you're forcing everyone around you to listen to a very detailed and personal account of your life and those you associate with. What makes you think we want to hear all of that?"

"DON'T talk to me!" was her response and then I was even more amused. I wasn't expecting an apology but her blatant refusal to recognize her rudeness was amazing.}

So I said "You're just upset because I'm not afraid to tell you what everyone else can hear you is thinking, which is that we do not want to hear the intimate details about your life."

And then came the not-so-original reply "Don't talk to me! Oh, and God bless you."

I did't pursue it further, but I almost did. I considered standing up, getting everyone's attention and asking for a show of hands who thinks it's rude for someone to carry on an extended personal discussion on a crowded train. I refrained out of consideration for the other passengers. I didn't want to put them on the spot.

Even though the woman wouldn't admit to me she was being rude, I know she'll think of me every time she gets on her phone on the train or other crowded area and I can almost guarantee her calls will be shorter.