Forward Living: When did rudeness become mainstream?

Folks are becoming increasingly rude, don’t you think? From my vantage point, it seems that rudeness is a pandemic that’s sweeping the nation — and it ain’t pretty. 

I’m an upbeat gal, but lately I’ve been put to the test. Last month I dealt with a customer care representative from hell. The operative words here are “customer care.” I will spare you the bizarre details; suffice it to say, the firm was in error. In truth, patience is not my virtue and I’m not Ms. Sunshine until I do my morning yoga and beach walk. That said, I waited not so patiently until 7:30 a.m. to be connected to a representative who wasn’t Ms. Sunshine either; she was rude and surly at best. Realizing I was on a treadmill of futility, my serotonin level began to ebb, rapidly. I requested a manager and “poof” — like magic — the issue was settled.

While I was waiting not so patiently for a car to pull out of a parking spot at Tanger Outlets, another car suddenly appeared from out of nowhere (maybe hell, too). The driver almost sideswiped my car while trying to beat me to the parking space. I rolled down my window and politely said, “I was here first.” She “flipped me the bird,” let out a string of unpublishable words and sped off.

Perhaps, after the recent three-ring circus — aka the presidential race of 2016 — we’ve become insulated against the bombastic rudeness that was ever-present. The whole world was watching, mind you. Sometimes the rallies reeked of rudeness and vulgarity. It will forever boggle my mind that folks cheered on that behavior.

In the same vein, I was eating lunch in a café and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation in the next booth. Four adults were arguing politics while their “all ears” kids soaked it up. I was sickened, then shocked (and I don’t shock easily) by the offensive remarks that were exchanged. Along with their mac and cheese, the kids were ingesting rudeness and intolerance.

I don’t do call waiting — period, end of story. Most of us have caller ID, so returning a call is no biggie. My gripe? While chatting on the phone, the other party receives a non-emergency call and asks us to hang on or, worse still, dismisses us. I only participated in “You don’t mind if I take this call” once — for five minutes. When the offending party finally called back, she was apologetic and embarrassed. She forgot that I was on the line! Conversely, I feel it’s rude and disconcerting when a simple request or question made via text or email goes unanswered. We’re all busy, but if an answer is not forthcoming, a simple acknowledgement is courteous and takes less than a New York minute.

Were you ever held prisoner at a party by folks who talk over you, finish your sentences or refuse make eye contact? Here’s a publishable secret that works: I feign embarrassment while indicating by hand gestures and facial expressions that I have a “bathroom” emergency. Trust me: Everyone will cut you a path. Dishonest? Perhaps. However, it beats telling them to “shut the (blank) up!”

And while we’re at that same party, don’t you love those “honest” folks who are itching to give you their heartfelt, unsolicited advice? What passes for “honest” is sometimes rude and argumentative.

How can we curb this pandemic? Not sure, but try this: Tune into YouTube and listen to and digest Jackie DeShannon’s 1965 hit, “What the World Needs Now is Love.” These lyrics span some 52 years: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” The words are as powerful today as they were back then. Maybe even more so.

Novelist Paulo Coelho writes: “How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.” Whoa — I’m gonna leave it right here. Something to think on before we open our mouths!

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.