Day 227. We’re Oblivious

I went for a pedicure yesterday. A woman walked in, gave her name, and said she had an appointment for a mani/pedi (manicure and pedicure). Her esthetician disdainfulshowed her where to hang up her coat, and asked her to pick her preferred shade of nail polish. Which she did.

She was then shown where to sit. They had a long row of special pedicure chairs along one wall. She refused. Hands on hips, she said she’d booked two appointments, one for a friend; and she wouldn’t start until her friend arrived. The gal who was doing the pedicure very politely explained she had another client coming in, and she wouldn’t have time.

At this point I should tell you the friend was late.

The woman still refused to get started. And to make matters worse she was looking at the poor girl like she was an alien. Or a speck of lint on her skirt. It wasn’t pretty.

To make a long story short this back-and-forth continued for about five more minutes. Eventually the woman

had no choice, but she huffed and puffed, curled her lip, flounced and sulked. The friend finally arrived, twenty minutes late. Sashayed in, like she had all the time in the world. No apologies. She never called, emailed or texted her friend to tell her what was going on.

Neither one of them gave a rat’s ass they messed up the afternoon schedule. For the two manicurists involved. And for all the clients whose appointments followed theirs. It clearly never occurred to them. In their minds, they were entitled.

Talk about rude. Ignorant, really. Not to mention inconsiderate.

My jaw just dropped.

But when I mentioned it to a friend later in the evening, she hit the nail on the head. “They’re just like so many people you come across these days”, she said. “They’re completely self-absorbed.”

And she’s right.

There seems to be an epidemic of it.

People who walk around, completely oblivious to anyone else’s schedule. Anyone else’s feelings. Anyone else’s needs. Or expectations. And judging from the number of people who suddenly stop dead right in front of you, or cut you off, or barrel right into you on the sidewalk, they’re also completely oblivious of the fact you’re even there. You know, a physical presence.

It’s astonishing to me. One of my favourites is when a couple of people, or a group, get off an elevator, but don’t move away. They stand right in front of it, blocking it, actually, while they chit-chat. You’re standing there, waiting to get on the elevator, but can’t. Because they’re in the way. And even if you say “excuse me”, they don’t hear you, because they are so engrossed in their own conversation.

So the elevator leaves without you.

Same thing with escalators. Don’t you just love it when folks ahead of you, get off but don’t move away. And there you are, stuck! It’s scary, actually, because you have nowhere to go. But there’s no staying on an escalator. What are you supposed to do?

This is going to sound crazy, but I wonder if all the time we spend, on our own, in front of our computer screens has anything to do with this new behaviour. Our verbal skills are suffering, that’s for sure. We can’t seem to write anything longer than a 140 character tweet. Our social skills aren’t what they used to be, either.

Because we’re not interacting with other humans. Not in person. We don’t see their reactions to the things we say. We don’t know if we’ve hurt their feelings. Or annoyed them. Too many of our communications are either emails or text messages. We spend hours and hours every day in our own, little world, with a gizmo in our hands.

The gizmo has become our human connection. And we’re so focussed on it, we don’t even notice the people around us.

We’ve forgotten how to share our space.

41 thoughts on “Day 227. We’re Oblivious

  1. You forgot airports in your list of places where people are self-absorbed. I am too busy watching the people almost get run over by the courtesy vehicles, or other people. Or the people who stop in the middle of the path to look at the arrival and departure signs. Or who are arguing with the TSA over their inspection.

    And I have witnessed the nail salon meltdown first hand. One of the places I go to occasionally handles it very well: the manager finds a new timeslot for the offenders and suggests that they go over to Starbucks and get a coffee until it’s their turn again.

    • I’m glad it’s not just me, noticing this behaviour. It’s becoming so common. And you’re dead right about airports. It’s really bad there. It’s really bad. The go-for-a-coffee thing is a good idea. I’d have to fight the urge to tell them not to bother coming back. These people have no clue what they’re doing. That’s what I find the most shocking.

      • When I’m at a store and in line and someone behind me starts being rude or complaining about the staff, I turn to them and say, “is everything ok? Would you like to go in front of me? I’m just not in as big of a hurry as you and I don’t mind waiting.” Some people get the message. Others not so much. I’m a shit disturber in my old age.

      • I have done that myself; and, to your point, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve always been a shit disturber 🙂

  2. Hi Fransi, I am complaining about that all the time…. My fave is when I am grocery shopping and people stand and chat as a group isle wide, then give you such a look when you say the horrid words, excuse me please, as you try to get by and continue shopping……. Brilliant!!!

    • I assert myself into those situations using the “coin of the realm” so to speak. Walking up and talking very loudly to myself: “HEY I WONDER IF TALKING INAPPROPRIATELY LOUD WOULD BE MORE RUDE AND INCONSIDERATE THAN BLOCKING THE ISLES IN A PUBLIC PLACE?” When they step out of the way and murmur or comment, I just meander past with an absent smile acting like I never noticed them to begin with…

  3. I don’t think your theory sounds crazy at all! I’d also argue handheld devices exacerbate the symptoms.

    On a separate note, I think “mani/pedi” would make a great name for a character in a book: Manny Petty.

  4. You are tapping into something when you talk about how powerfully our lives are shaped in ways we do not commonly recognize. The way we use technology to communicate and the nature of our communication is tied together. Read “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman for a better understanding of how the mediums by which we communicate shape the messages we communicate in a culture.

    My favorite quote was something like “No one ever had a philosophical discussion by smoke signal.”

    Here is a link to an interview with Neil about the book which came out in 1985. There is a part 2 to this as well.

  5. Wow…. I literally hammered the Like button on this one! This may be my favorite post of yours! Not only is this attitude much more common now, but that’s a damn good point about the new “social” media actually destroying our social skills… or at least of those who are more absorbed in it than they are the real world. My social skills are lacking, but I was taught common courtesy by my folks. I wonder what some of these people were taught….

    • Thanks. Hope you didn’t hurt your finger with all the hammering :). In all seriousness, though, you bring up a key point. Your parents taught you common courtesy. So did mine. And like you, I wonder if these people were brought up in a cave.

  6. Looks like you hit another nerve here! I have a very dear friend who is kind and generous…to her friends. She made an appointment with a aesthetician and just didn’t show up because she was busy. This person was a friend of mine and I tried to explain that when she didn’t show up or cancel her appointment, this person lost money. It’s not like a corporate job where the paycheck comes anyway. She didn’t get it. She blew off another appoint with another aesthetician at another practice. I won’t suggest businesses to her anymore because I don’t like what she does.

    • I’m with you! How could she be so thoughtless and inconsiderate? Let alone rude. There are a lot of restaurants here who ask for a credit card number when you make a reservation, for exactly that reason. Maybe spas should do the same. And bill you for the service if you don’t show up. Personally I think it’s only fair.

  7. I don’t think this is “new” behavior. Rude people have been around forever (at least for my lifetime). It seems to be more of a selfish type of personality that is oblivious to anything not on their “I want … ” list. It’s a sad statement of the human condition – refusal to acknowledge and be aware of and respectful of our environment. With that attitude, we can’t build world peace. It all starts at the organic level.

  8. This is also how people drive now – no consideration for the other people they’re SHARING the road with – it’s dangerous, stressful and has completely changed the safety of our roads.
    I think it’s the end of polite society. I don’t know why it happened, I haven’t fashioned a smart thesis on this, but I am starting to think it has something to do with our obsession with feathering our nests – we’re insulating ourselves with stuff and I think it’s sending us back to a class structure where the people who have a lot are allowed and encouraged to be totally narcissistic.

    • It’s happened on the roads for years. Now that I got rid of my car, I don’t see it as much. I agree with your theory in part. Only because it’s not restricted to the upper classes any more. It’s happening in all classes. In fact, I see more of it in the middle and slightly less than middle class than the wealthier folks. Regardless it grates. And it’s sad. Civility has become an endangered species.

  9. So true. I still get shocked by it, even though living in London I see it every day. It seems to be worse in the big cities. Once I was getting off a coach having come back from holiday, and this guy came up the stairs – literally pushed me out of the way and nearly down the stairs without even looking at me…it was like I wasn’t there. Sometimes you have to wonder if they’re even aware of there being anyone other then them present!

  10. I’ve been out on the street downtown here most of the day as we’re having our big Virginia Festival of the Book. There are people everywhere and it’s nice, but I’ve almost bumped into a few along the way! Nice post too true. And the mani/pedi lady? YUCK!

    • That sounds cool. How does it work? Do book publishers show up or authors? Can you buy books? Hope the weather cooperated. And definitely a “yuck” for the mani/pedi lady. She’s lucky I wasn’t the one clipping her cuticles 🙂

      • Authors yes, The signing and buying of books oh yes. Panels on every subject that sort of thing. I’m going in shortly to volunteer for an event. It oughta be interesting,it’s my first time. Nice weather, a bit brisk but sunny and pleasant.

        I’m sure you would have clipped that lady! haha

  11. Today’s popular catch phrase for this type of behavior is that these people have “a sense of entitlement”. I agree with the other blogger who said it’s nothing new. Ever walk up a NYC street during peak weekday times? Get ready to be bumped, pushed and get your toes stepped on. Oh, and those walk/don’t walk signals and crosswalks….forget about it! I feel for business owners because, having been one myself, they are expected to always respect the customer, no matter what. Frankly I don’t agree with this anymore. If a customer is rude I’d be fine with, diplomatically, telling them the world doesn’t revolve around them even if it means losing their business.

    • Me too! Who needs them? Life is too short. And they’re usually the ones who are lousy tippers, if they tip at all.

  12. This isn’t really new behavior. Humans have always been self obsessed there are just some people that are more self obsessed than others. Although I don’t consider myself particularly self obsessed I do tend to space out, so sometimes there will be someone trying to get by me and I won’t notice until they do the throat clearing thing. All you can really do is try to care more because everyone has their own problems.

    By the way I loved the picture you used, very appropriate 🙂

    • Thanks. Glad you liked the picture. Sometimes you just luck out. No, it’s not new behaviour, you’re right. But it does seem to be getting worse.

  13. These people are under every stone Fransi – you left out those rubber neckers who must stop and further disrupt travellers to get a closer to vehicle accidents – ghouls.

  14. Where I live, these offenses occur at Wal Mart most often. It infuriates me at the very lack of common courtesy. On the days that I can’t bite my tongue, I turn around and tell them that they don’t own that space, they are just hoarding it and taking up room.

  15. This post really has made me think, because I’ve only just realised to what extent I’ve been out of “that type” of society, one that is rushing, modern, ruled by technology and “me, me, me”. In fact I had to rack my brains to remember when I last used a lift… forget about trying to remember when I was last on an escalator! Living in rural villages where the population consists of a big proportion of older & retired people – you really do see manners everywhere. Someone gives you the tiniest accidental nudge in the supermarket and you get “pardon madame”. We automatically see who is next in line at the market stall for our eggs and patiently line up accordingly… its just so lovely to live a different life than the modern rat race, and I can see now we have met one of our objectives in coming here.

    I think it is definitely a side effect of technological advancement and societies where people are gadget rich but time poor. This is going to make me think a lot about how I will handle it when I return to a modern, faced paced, environment, or more importantly how I handle the other people there.

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