People in Glass Houses

I was sitting on the train, trying to work. I work well on the train. I stare off into space from time to time, but for the most part I get a lot done….except when someone is talking loudly, or listening to music without headphones (yes, some people do that).

This woman started by the first, talking loudly to someone who expected her somewhere but, you know (she said) she was on the train and she’d be there when she could. That we learned, because we could hear every word. (“We” is me and everyone else in the whole compartment).

Then she put on some TV show or something, and again, I could hear every word. When I work on the train, I have a bunch of cables running everywhere. I plug in my laptop, I plug in my phone to the laptop because the hot spot works a bit better, and I have on headphones. I also often have my external drive plugged in. Just saying that moving somewhere else requires a lot of disconnecting and reconnecting, and is not something quickly done.

So I let it go, her noise, for about ten minutes, because I could imagine maybe that she just want to see or hear one little thing, and I didn’t want to complain right away. About ten minutes later, though, I stood up and asked her if she could put on headphones. I sounded irritated. I was.

She doesn’t seem to have headphones, but she does turn it down to about the level of a normal conversation and I’m able to work in peace.

And the end of the train ride, though, she starts in. “Are you always so aggressive when you talk to people?” I reply, “Only when they are being rude in the first place.” Blah blah blah, this starts something where she feels she’s in the right because I asked her to put on headphones and was irritated. Then she gets up and leaves her empty coffee cup on the table for the cleaners to pick up after her. I comment on this as we’re getting off the train, and she says something like “I don’t accept your negativity.” She definitely felt that she was in the right about everything. She should be able to talk loudly, play her TV show at any volume, leave trash, and require that everyone around her be sweet and kind and accepting.

Here’s the thing: I wasn’t in a bad mood or feeling particularly aggressive, I wasn’t upset about something else. There was nothing else going on except that this woman was being inconsiderate to me and everyone else in the carriage, and I’m supposed to feel bad?

I think so many of us live in a bubble where we’re not held responsible for the things we do wrong. I don’t know that I’m any better about being approached by strangers to correct my behavior, so I understand her irritation. I think most of us behave in public as if we were being watched, and behave in private sometimes much differently.

I think this blurring of the public/private thing is the cause of a lot of problems. People are never racist or sexist or anti-Semitic in public, but these things definitely still exist privately. The new world we live in is letting those private thoughts out in public, and venerating the jerks who do this for “telling it like it is”. The thing is, we should behave in private like we behave in public. Some believe that God is watching them, so that keeps them in line. Others just believe in right and wrong, and what’s wrong is wrong, even if no one is there to see it.

Foro’s a little upset with me for speaking so unkindly to the woman, but I wasn’t looking for a teaching moment. I just wanted to get some work done. I wanted basic public politeness.

If she hadn’t gotten to me with her noise, however, I might have been able to do more than just get the TV show turned down. I might have helped her learn that she was being impolite, and that she shouldn’t do that. I don’t know if she was capable of changing, but I didn’t try.

Foro is my source of forgiveness. The fact that I’m in my fifties and ga-ga over a stuffed cow means that there might be hope for me yet.

Foro looking at me sternly…..

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