Our hurried world

By Katherine Fletcher

Two weeks ago, I was working the till at my fast food job downtown during a busy lunch rush when four teenage girls approached the counter. They held up the line by assaulting me with silly questions (“What is the calorie count in Diet Pepsi?”) in singsong voices. As I was putting up their tray, two of the girls reached over the counter and played with the stamp for the frequent buyer cards, helping themselves to free stamped cards. Once they received their order, the girls took off with the saltshaker, which is meant for use at the counter. After the girls left, I shook my head and thought, “How rude! Tsk! Some teenagers…”

We live in such a hurried and scurried world that we tend to forget our manners. Our always-on-the-go lifestyle leaves us stressed, tired, frustrated and angry, which often makes us culprits as well as victims of insensitive actions. Modern technology is a catalyst in this social combustion reaction. Is there any wonder that cell phone use tops most people’s list of rude behaviour?

That said, it shouldn’t be a surprise that my pet peeve regarding customers involves cell phones. I cannot stand it when a customer orders food while taking on a phone. It’s difficult completing an order because many of these customers are so engaged in their phone conversations they will turn away from me. It’s rude to me and to everyone waiting in line behind these arrogant people.

The combination of a busy lifestyle and modern technology also gives individuals an ego boost. An increasing sense of self- importance often begets rudeness. Consider the customer chatting on his or her cell phone: he or she is indicating a high degree of clout by showing off his or her connections; he or she is trying to look busy because busyness equates with self-importance. However, such a person comes off as disrespectful.

Modern communication tech- nology–e-mail and cell phones­–create an interaction paradox in our society. We are all con- nected, yet there is some sense of loss of community. We live in a world in which lots of people want to keep to them- selves, want to avoid human contact. Have you ever noticed on the LRT or a bus that most people don’t want to sit beside strangers?

People are fed up with increasing rudeness and are consulting thousands of etiquette books to put an end to this trend. But there will always be rude people out there. I will encounter them at work at least once per shift, and I will just nod and smile, trying to keep my cool.