On Being Rude

This is another of an occasional Series of Short Takes on salient issues of the day.  Unlike most of these, this one is neither religious not political, although if you’re looking for a way to get in your daily quota of being-offended-by-someone, then you’ve come to the right place.

Some of our children – four, I think – attend a local charter school.  We love it.  Anyway, since there are no buses for charter schools, all the kids get there by parent transportation.  This leads to large lines at certain times of the day, as all the parents come to drop off or pick up their kids.  As the geography of this thing sits, there is a long street that leads directly to the front door, and parents are encouraged to queue down that long street.

But there is also a side street that enters that long street about halfway to the school.  Once, when the school was new, the queue went down that street, but it has since been posted that that is not the way to come.  Still, even today, occasionally someone enters the queue from that street, effectively cutting the wait in half.

Apparently, this irks some people.  Yesterday, my wife found a sign hanging from the fence along the street that said “Butting in line is RUDE.”  Interestingly, and quite out of character for her, she got out and took the sign down.  We’ve been talking about it some since then, and I have a couple of thoughts.

First, rude is in the eye of the beholder.  I frequently have to cut off some rambling story by one of my clients because I do not have unlimited time to listen.  I’ve gotten to be fairly good at this over the years, and ordinarily they take no offense, but once in a while they get a bit miffed.  I used to apologize in those cases, but I’ve stopped doing that.  The fact is, I can’t apologize for you being offended by something.  Since I’ve done nothing wrong, nor have I done anything with a heart at war with you, I’m not sorry that I did what I did.  I am sorry you feel the way you do, but being sorry is not the same thing as apologizing.

So is it rude to cut in line?  Well, to me, that depends.  Why are you doing it?  Do you need to get somewhere immediately?  Is there an emergency?  If there were, wouldn’t I be glad you had enough sense not to wait in line for everyone else?  I think I would, or at least, I would hope to be sane enough to be glad. In those cases, no, I don’t think it’s rude to cut in line.  What about if you just don’t know?  What if you’re a dad, like me, and you’re basically clueless about how one goes about doing this thing?  Is that rude?  I don’t think so.  What if you’re just better than all the rest of us poor schmoes and you think you shouldn’t have to wait?  Well, that’s probably rude, then, because its a product of incorrect thinking.

But a larger point is this: I don’t know, and I don’t care.  Perhaps you are inconsiderate.  Perhaps you need taking down a peg.  Perhaps you are rude and “ignernt” (as some Utahns pronounce “ignorant”, meaning uncaring and unfeeling towards others.  Yes, I know that’s not what that word means to others).  If so, then I feel sorry for you.  Perhaps you have a genuine emergency.  If so, then I cheerfully encourage you to cut in line.  Perhaps you are actually ignorant.  In that case, given a chance, I’ll be happy to help you understand better, but until then, hey, don’t worry about it.

There’s a bigger problem lurking here than people that cut in line.  If you’re stewing over this so badly that you feel the need to spend a couple of hours making a 3′x4′ laminated sign (using the Battlestar Galactica font from the 1980′s, which tells me other things about you), then you need desperately to seek psychiatric evaluation.  I realize that what the cutters are doing is wrong.  I realize that it sets your day back by 30-45 seconds when they do it.  I realize that you are the soul of virtue and rectitude, and you would never be so ignernt as to cut in line.

Actually, though, that’s not true.  You have the same problem that the cutters do.  You blame the cutters for treating you as an inferior object, but you are engaging in that same behavior toward them.  The difference is, they’re at least bold enough to risk the scorn of others by openly displaying that contempt.  You’re not.  You haven’t the guts to treat others the way you really feel about them.  You hide behind the rule.  This seems silly.  If you really need to save time, why don’t you cut in line?  And if you don’t cut in line because you’re too considerate of others, then what’s with the sign?  Or are you only considerate of those that are acting the way you want them to?  Do not even the publicans so?

Being a fairly strict rule-keeper my own self, I get a lot of opportunities to condemn other people for not being as strict in the plain road as I am.  I do catch myself sometimes chafing when other people seem to be breaking the rules and getting away with it.  I have consciously tried, though, for going on 20 years now, to stop, to catch myself when I start being annoyed that someone, somewhere, might be having more fun than I am, and to pause for a moment to consider exactly why I’m keeping the rule in the first place.  I should be keeping the rules because doing so makes me a better, happier person.  And if that’s true, reacting with offense toward someone who is breaking the rules is irrational.  Who’s the victim here, anyway?  And if the rule is so stupid that I’d actually be a better person if I broke it – and folks, there are a whale of a lot of those kinds of rules – then I better just man up and break the rule, not chafe over someone else that has more guts than I do.

This isn’t such a short take, is it?  Well, sue me.  Or better yet, just let it go.  I’d stay and chat, but I have to take my kids to school.

I kind of am in a hurry, too….

3 Responses to “On Being Rude”

  • Tod Hansmann says:

    Wise man say, offense is a choice on behalf of the offended. I tend to think that if I offend you, you are putting yourself in my power, for if I can break through your defenses and make you angry, you are mine.

  • Catherine says:

    I love this. Too true! And good for Jeanette taking down the sign.

  • You’re right, of course, but I can’t drive my kids to school without becoming homicidal. My problem is not so much rule breaking as lack of consideration for others but it amounts to the same thing. My solution is to just drive my kids to school but that doesn’t really improve me as a person it just lets me avoid temptation, which now that I think about it, does have some merit in and of itself.
    My point is… well I have no point. Can’t we all just get along?

Leave a Reply