Several weeks ago I decided (somewhat last minute) to run a local marathon. It made perfect sense: I had raced the Ironman triathlon in July, then abruptly sat on my ass eating candy for eight weeks, then abruptly started “training” for 2.5 weeks, then abruptly ran the aforementioned marathon (kids: don’t try this at home). The goal was to see if I had even an iota of fitness left (no), cry about it (yes), and then get back on track (in the works).
But alas, these details have absolutely nothing to do with this story other than to explain why I found myself in a starting corral with hundreds of other runners on a recent, cool, October morning.
Another seemingly-useless-but-actually-relevant piece of background information? I’ve been slowly but surely developing a deep, deep rage over bad technology etiquette. Like a “there is no fuse, just a ripcord” level of white-hot pissiness. Don’t get me wrong: I love calling and syncing and streaming and texting and dropboxing and iClouding and linking in and tweeting and twerking as much as the next person. But somehow this 24/7 access to technology has allowed us all to stick our collective heads up our collective butts and completely forget the subtle art of social graces in small or quiet public spaces.
Example, you say? I rarely have time for a pedicure. And if you’ve seen the damage that years of endurance racing can do to one’s toenails, well, suffice it to say that I’m doing you a favor by keeping them painted. Still, it never fails that as I sink into the comfy chair, feet happy in warm soapy water, someone comes through the door of this quiet oasis yapping loudly on a cell phone. And for the next 10-15 minutes, everyone there “relaxes” to a soundtrack of, “YEAH. YEAH. LIKE, TOTALLY! WHAT’D SHE SAY NEXT? UH-HUH. UH-HUH. YEAH. RIGHT. DID YOU TELL HER THAT? THEN WHAT’D SHE SAY? YEAH? I KNOW, TOTALLY, RIGHT? YEAH. UH-UH. OH MY GOD! THAT’S SO OBNOXIOUS! I WOULD NEVER HAVE SAID THAT! YEAH. BUT WHY? UH-HUH. UH-HUH. UH-HUH…”
Nothing warms the heart quite like someone else’s overly loud, one-sided conversation. We’re just trying to chill out, steal a few moments of peace. Find out who the Kardashians are dating. And that’s just the tip of the bad manners iceberg that I’ve witnessed.
It may seem I’m way off topic here, but what this means is that I arrived at the start of that marathon with a massive bee in my bonnet over this issue. And now back on topic.
So there we all were—awaiting the start of the marathon. The race announcer asked us to observe a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Then a young lady began to sing the National Anthem—you could have heard a pin drop. Except, halfway through the Anthem, you could no longer hear a pin drop because a spectator was standing alongside the corral yapping loudly into his cell phone. While 1000+ runners and hundreds of spectators were quiet. While our National Anthem was being sung. A loud, obnoxious, non-urgent social conversation.
I could feel the annoyed shifting of the runners around me who were glaring at him and murmuring frustration, the outrage building. And then it happened, folks: A sudden, violent attack of verbal diarrhea spewed out of yours truly: HEY JACKASS! IT’S THE ANTHEM! WHY DON’T YOU SHOVE THAT PHONE SO FAR UP YOUR ASS YOUR SPLEEN ANSWERS THE NEXT CALL!
(Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that polished, but it’s my blog so I can embellish how I please.)
What happened next? Crickets. Then crazy laughter from my fellow runners who were obviously relieved that someone finally said something. (Jackass just continued down the street yapping, by the way.)
Fellow citizens, I’m not trying to be self-congratulatory. While I felt righteous in my indignation, my actions were, uh, a little less than exemplary. But come on. It was a quiet, reflective, emotional moment. Did this person really not notice the silence? Not hear the National Anthem? Not register the stunned stares? And if he didn’t, isn’t that utter lack of self-awareness a whole other problem in and of itself?
I’m not asking for everyone to give up their right to connect through technology. Rather, let’s be more aware in our shared spaces. And the next time you receive a call while sitting next to me in a nail salon (or in a quiet waiting room, or on a train or in a restaurant)? I urge you to show some restraint. Or better yet? Just let your spleen answer it.