As I boarded the subway recently, I found myself sitting beside a young man wearing earphones. He was violently rocking back and forth, listening to his iPod at top volume, which I could hear clearly. He suddenly jumped out of his chair, yelled "Shit!" and lunged for the closing doors of the train.
His anti-social manner got me thinking: Though technological advancement is an integral, crucial part of our modern world, something needs to be said about the loss of social interaction — face time, if you will — and the encroachment of others into our personal space.
Mobile phones are something I personally couldn’t live without. Yet I believe in the necessity for cell-phone etiquette. Consider how rude it is when someone is on a personal call while making a transaction at the bank before a teller. It dismisses the teller’s human presence completely. A person who opts for personal service rather than the automated bank machine should have the decency to give that individual behind the counter some acknowledgement.
The same goes for ordering coffee, buying groceries, or lining up at the post office. Not only is it rude to the server, but to the rest of the people in close proximity, if you continuously talk on the phone. No one else wants to hear your private but invasive chatter.
And although they look cool, the Bluetooth earpiece is one of the worst culprits for rude behaviour. With their earpieces in place, people walk down the street, yattering away, seemingly talking to themselves, yet distracting others with their voices and gestures.
Just last week in a service lineup, a young man appeared, hands-free, talking in a loud voice about personal matters, and frequently cursing. It was uncomfortable for everyone around him, especially since it was impossible not to listen.
The iPod is great for allowing people to listen to music at their leisure. But when the volume is such that everyone else is also listening, it defeats the purpose of being a personal device, and again, invades others’ head space.
When Walkmans first came on the scene in the ’80s, they were all the rage — a personal music device utilizing tapes — but soon, so many accidents had occurred as a result of people not being able to hear what was going on around them, there was talk of banning the things. I once witnessed a young boy get knocked halfway down a mountain on skis when he was unable to hear an out-of-control skier yelling to get out of the way.
And sadly, a friend of mine was recently killed when he failed to hear an oncoming test train while riding his bike on a regularly unused track.
Whenever possible, try to be more aware of your surroundings, and sensitive to other people nearby. Turn your volume down, and hold off on answering your phone until you can do so without disturbing others around you.