(I actually wrote this in September, but it sat in my draft folder waiting for tweaks I never got around to. So in order to get on with new ideas, I’m posting it well after the fact.)
As I type this, I’m sitting on the ground in front of my local library, trying to calm down and fighting an urge to throw my laptop ass hard as I can in no particular direction. I remind myself that not only leave me without the tool I most need to earn any kind of income with no funds to replace it, but depending on the exact direction, could conceivably crack some glass in the door or other damage that would be essentially cosmetic, but still leave me bill that I am even less able to afford than a new laptop.
What is the source of this agitation?
Well, as is my tendency when the library closes for the weekend and I have things undone online, I am sitting outside the front window (where the signal is a little better and there’s shelter from the rain and/or screen-glaring sunshine). In the corner of my eye, I noted a figure crossing the street, apparently making for the front door of the library.
This figure apparently attached no significance to the fact that someone would be sitting on the concrete on the library’s “porch” typing at a laptop rather than being inside. He also didn’t bother to look at the databoard, or the hours posted in the window (to be fair, the hour sign is small and in a window with a bush in front of it, which discourages people from approaching it too closely ).
After tugging on the locked doors, he turned to me. “Is the library closed?”
(Insert facepalm and image of high-pressure steam coming out of my ears)
He’s hardly the first person to ask me. In the months I’ve spent sitting in front of the library on Saturdays (and occasionally Fridays, when they close earlier than usual). It gets very irritating when people can ignore/disregard four different indicators that the library is closed and don’t consider themselves to be the least bit rude to intrude on a total stranger without so much as an apology to ask for information that’s right in front of him–if he’d only bother to connect his brain to his eyes.
“No,” I tell him. “I like sitting out here on the concrete in the rain rather than being inside.”
He notices the sarcasm, but is totally clueless as to why intruding on a total stranger without so much as an “excuse me” to get information any half-brain could get simply paying attention to what his eyes are delivering would provoke such an unfriendly response.
“Can you tell me–without the sarcasm–how long it’s been closed?”
In hindsight, I wish I would have said, “I’ll tell you, if you tell me how many indications that the library is closed that you disregarded.” Or perhaps, “Can you apologize for your manners, or have neither of your parents told you that it’s rude to interrupt people?”
Instead, I told him how long it’s been closing at 1:00 p.m., rather than 4:00 p.m., and how stupid it was that a person couldn’t figure out a place was closed from all the clues in front of his face.
He walked away, yelling at me that I was the stupid one for sitting where I was–as if I had any alternatives. In his mind, there was nothing impolite or inconsiderate or RUDE in asking whoever was nearby whatever he wanted to know, but someone sitting alone has no right to be irritated or react negatively to a total stranger barging into her space and treating her like some kind of customer service station, simply because of where she happens to be sitting.
He attitude is–unfortunately–all too prevalent in today’s society. The ability to generate a text message and fire it off at any time, googling anything whenever the thought occurs to them . . . it’s gotten to the point where too many people feel entitled to have an answer to anything they want simply by putting an inquiry to whatever is closest to them.
Actually, it predates the smartphone and internet as we know it. When I worked in a sports arena, I’d watch people walk right past the restrooms on their way to ask me (a person in arena uniform) where the bathroom was.
Whatever is happening, it can’t be entirely blamed on today’s “interconnectedness,” though the smartphone and Web 2.0 have certainly accelerated it. I wish I knew what we could do to reverse this, but I can’t even suggest a course to slow it down–aside from severely restricting internet access (especially via cell phones) for anyone under 13 and make it harder to own a smartphone–but I know too many parents are already too addicted to their smartphones to deny them to their kids.
Well, here’s my little drop in the bucket:
For those of you reading this and thinking that the guy’s didn’t do anything wrong, and that I was overreacting to a harmless question: Interrupting people is rude, and one does not have to be engaged in a conversation with someone to be interrupted. In fact, as my story shows, a conversation can be an interruption. And I, for one, am sick of it.