Hump Day: Whatever happened to common courtesy in public spaces?

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Last week, I went for a coffee with a friend of mine to discuss business. We touch base from time to time, exchange notes on a variety of issues and throughout our conversation solve all the world’s problems no matter what their complexity.

It’s not a good chat until you’ve solved the world’s problems with clichés over a strong cup of coffee. Lest you anger your guest with an opposing opinion and end up wearing the aforementioned hot coffee. It’s best just to nod and agree on everything.

‘I agree that goat manure could solve the world’s energy crisis, too. Yes, I’m sure your 95-year-old great-grandmother could win the Boston Marathon. Yes, I heard Elvis Presley was giving a concert at Magnetic Hill this summer, as well. The pope is an alien robot? Yes, I’ve heard that.’

You’d be surprised at the things to which you nod in agreement when the other person is itching for reasons to throw coffee in your face.

The coffee shop in which we were sitting has lots of tables, including more secluded ones where you can chat more privately. The place isn’t cramped by any means. In fact, that morning, there were no other tables taken in the area of the coffee shop where we were. It was just us – that is, until ‘he’ showed up. ‘He’ is the guy who decided to plunk himself down at the table right next to us – barely an arm’s length away – despite there being at least a dozen other tables available.

I looked at my friend and rolled my eyes. Obviously, this dude hadn’t heard of personal space. Yes, I know we were in public, but it’s an unwritten rule of coffee shops and restaurant that you don’t sit down right next to the only other people in the place when there are a large number of other tables available. It’s common courtesy.

This guy obviously doesn’t know about the Law of the Urinal, either, which is similar to the Law of the Restaurant. You see, if you’re a guy and you’re standing at a urinal in a long row of empty urinals, the only time another guy will come and stand right next to you is if you’re shooting a scene in a gay porn movie. Normally, the unspoken and unwritten Law of the Urinal dictates that you not stand at the urinal directly next to someone else unless it’s absolutely necessary, i.e. all the other urinals are taken. Otherwise, it’s a bit invasive.

The same goes for coffee shops and restaurants. Why in the world would someone choose to ignore empty seats strewn across a large restaurant and sit next to the only people there? Sure, perhaps restaurant staff sat them there to keep everyone together. I can understand that. But why choose a place right next to someone of your own volition? Either you’re socially clueless or terribly nosy and want to listen in.

angry coffeeOh, but it gets better. Not only did Mr. Invasive sit next to us, he almost immediately accepted a cellphone call – and he didn’t care who heard him. He was talking so loudly that I couldn’t hear my friend and both of us were continuously saying, ‘What? I can’t hear you!’ Eventually, we said it quite loudly and boldly, wondering if he’d take the hint. Not surprisingly, he didn’t.

Oh, but it gets better – again. Not only did he sit right next to us and then proceed to take a call, he turned toward us (imagine!) to make sure we heard every morsel of his enthralling conversation about furnace filters – or whatever it was about. By then, I was openly staring at him directly with a look that would intimidate a pack of hyenas.

With that said, remind me to never stare down a pack of hyenas, because I’ll soon be dead. He wasn’t intimidated at all because he just kept on chit chatting while my friend and I tried to carry on our world-changing conversation as best we could.

Oh, but it gets better – yet again. Eventually, Mr. Invasive had a guest join him. I thought, ‘Well, now he’ll get off the phone.’ Nope. In fact, he spent the next 10 minutes continuing the call and talking as loudly as can be – oblivious to the people at the table right next to him – and the one at his own table. We couldn’t help but overhear him since he was practically sitting in our laps. It didn’t sound like anything earth-shattering that couldn’t wait for half an hour. To my recollection, I don’t remember hearing, ‘How long have you been having chest pains? Do you see the baby’s head coming out? Just play dead and the grizzly bear with ignore you’ or ‘Tell Mom I love her and I’ll see her in heaven one day.’ Finally, Mr. Invasive hung up.

Oh, but it gets better – again, Part III. Then his friend took a call and proceeded to chat for the next 15 minutes. Thankfully, Mr. Invasive’s friend was more discreet and we could barely hear him.

If you’re keeping track, we’d been sitting next to Mr. Invasive and his friend for nearly 30 minutes and they’d spent a grand total of five minutes in conversation. Otherwise, they were on the phone with others. By then, we’d been in the coffee shop for nearly two hours and had spent the past half hour practically yelling at each other in order to be heard over Mr. Invasive’s phone call Finally, we decided to leave.

Mr. Invasive and his guest kept on chatting. I hope the guest didn’t need the bathroom during their conversation. He could be in for a surprise. I’m not sure what happened after we left but the friend’s trip to the bathroom could very well turn out to be an uncomfortable one Mr. Invasive standing right next to him to verify his progress.

My vote in the next election goes to the candidate who wants to legalize Tasers.

One Response to Hump Day: Whatever happened to common courtesy in public spaces?

  1. OMG! Love this one…Many years ago the Canada Summer Games were held here in Saint John. My sister & I decided to go out to the field at UNB after work to take in some Track & Field.
    We picked up a couple hot dogs and pop and made our way up a few steps on the entirely empty bleachers.
    We were only there about five minutes when two older ladies crawled up the stairs and proceeded to sit right beside us…My sister & I couldn’t help laughing….you couldn’t put a piece of paper between us!