Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Society of People Playing By Different Rules

I witnessed something at Target a few weeks ago that still bothers me. I was there with my wife and kids. Kids are ages 8 and 5. The store was busy and the lines were long. A worker signaled for someone to move to a different line. Suddenly a man started yelling. I don't know if he was mad at a customer because he thought the customer cut in front of him, or if he was mad at the worker for the way she handled the line. He then shouted at the worker. He called her a bitch. He demanded to see the manager. She said "I am the manager." Meanwhile we completed our transaction and scurried out of the way so the kids didn't have to watch this man in action. 

The commotion around the checkout lines is something to be expected in a busy store. I don't know why the man went from zero to angry so quickly and why he insulted the worker with a slur. Aside from thinking "What the hell is going on here?" and "What's wrong with this man?" I also wondered if this was a preview of more vulgar behavior to come. I've written about vulgarity before. I don't think I'm making selective observations. I think there's some truth to saying we live in a vulgar society. I also wonder if the era we're heading toward is one of "I can say whatever I want to say." Maybe this is backlash against political correctness. We've all heard people gripe about political correctness. While a portion of society will continue to be careful and deliberate with their language, it could be that others will go the route of saying anything they want at any volume they desire. 

Many times I have seen people disrespect workers. I didn't view this episode as merely a matter of a customer being mean (and sexist) to a worker. It looked like an angry man who cared not for societal norms that call for civil behavior and measured language. I don't know what's going on. Maybe we're increasingly a society of people playing by different rules. 


  1. Good post. I agree that people seem to be more vulgar all the time, and a ruthless attitude is something that people seem to strive for more these days. It's as if people think that's the way they should act in order to gain the respect of others. I hate when people yell, especially when I see a worker getting yelled at. Most of us have worked in customer service jobs, and have dealt with very rude customers. I experienced sexism myself being a woman in the work force. I was a manager at a store a couple of years ago, but most of the time, surprisingly, people knew I was the manager and weren't shocked that a woman was managing the store. At least gender roles have changed a lot and women are respected in the workplace more. However, there is still a long way to go. Thanks for your post, I have enjoyed looking through your entries.

    1. Hi Sara,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I like your observation about people striving for a ruthless attitude. Food for thought.

  2. Hello, interesting blog. I was trying to come up with a name for a blog I want to start (this process of coming up with a name has gone on for a while haha ) and came across your blog.

    People are definitely becoming more rude and brazen with how they treat and speak to complete strangers. I feel like the whole stick a middle finger when someone cuts you off in the car (because you still have some sense of False safety) to be a jerk is now happening face to face at alarming levels.

    I know someone who grooms dogs and people say the most awful things I've ever heard right to her face about an imaginary hair being out of place. I've also seen someone get threatened to get hurt because they accidentally opened their car too wide and hardly tapped a guy's car. This was coincidentally at target.

    I'm not sure what all is making this happen or why everyone is so angry but part of my theory is that the Internet world and texting world of communication has turned off that part of some people's brains that used to say "Hey maybe this isn't that big of a deal and I should just not get so angry and publicly yell at someone I've never met."

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I like your example about people giving the middle finger while driving. I've noticed that drivers tend to get angry more often when my wife is driving than when I am. I would say we are similarly skilled drivers. Probably average drivers. We both make mistakes on the road, certainly enough mistakes to warrant some kind of reaction from another driver -- maybe a dirty look or something. Rather than a mild reaction, however, many drivers over the years have responded in aggressive ways to my wife when they didn't like how she operated as a driver. Meanwhile, I can't think of a time recently when I've even gotten a dirty look. People pretty much leave me alone when I make a driving error. So I attribute this to gender and believe that drivers are more likely to act rudely and aggressively toward women drivers. Keep in mind of course that this is a basic observation based on the experiences of my wife and me. It'd be interesting to read a formal, systematic study about this subject.