Friday, May 01, 2009

Basic Respect For Others

With my job as a professional speaker and a business consultant I find myself working on the go. I often set up shop in the corner of a Starbucks, or other place that has WiFi. While I can be very productive working in a coffee shop, I am often amazed at the levels of unconcern that other people have for others in society.

A couple of weeks ago three families with young kids in tow sat down next to me and the parents chatted away while the children ran free. I was trying to read, and had been sitting alone... and not once did the parents look my direction.

Last weekend I was working in a Starbucks when a group of ten women came in and rounded up all the chairs to have a meeting. They even had a laptop, projector and screen. They were all around me and never once did a person say "excuse me". I left before the presentation began, and nobody made eye contact.

As I write this I am in a Starbucks. Seven women have appeared and taken over the table next to me. They took my extra chairs (which is fine, and to their credit, they asked before just taking the chairs), but in this small area they are nearly on top of me. They are very loud, and talking on and on about the Swine Flu (and other issues). They are making jokes about the possible health crisis and mocking the situation. The one woman is just back from Mexico and is mocking fake coughs toward her friends and laughing.

What I don't understand is how people can be so distracting in a public location and not take into account the others in the establishment. Especially those who had arrived first. While it is a "free country" and they have every right to have their gatherings in a Starbucks, basic respect for others seems to not be a concern.

I know, I am living in a glass house and throwing rocks. I am sure that I have annoyed people all throughout my life, but I try to be considerate of others. It is true that if I am put off by these people I can always work some other place (but I like working out in public, I gain energy from seeing other people going about their lives). The point is that we need to have concern for those around us or our society cannot function properly.

I am challenging myself, and others, to take a few moments to look around and notice others. If we do not see them, then we continue to live in selfish cocoons. This might make our individual lives seem better, it really does advance the common good.

As I finish this post I wont even tell you about the conversation I am hearing NOW. YIKES. Lets just say "Too Much Information" about personal stuff. Ummmm, beyond being disrespectful to those within ear shot by being loud, think about what you are talking about people.

Have A Great Day.


PS- When the large group of loud women left Starbucks 25 minutes after I finished writing this post, they DID NOT return their chairs that they had moved about to their original places. They just left the seven chairs in a messy circle around the table (and they left newspapers on the table!).... and they blocked the isle. It is very disappointing to see a group of obviously educated and fortunate individuals with little regard for anyone else.

I know they will never read this post, but if they did -- I wonder if they would even recognize themselves?

Observing them made me sad in my soul.


Zita Gustin said...

I've noticed similar behavior when I am out walking. People who are in large groups walking together seem to forget that there are other people on the same path or sidewalk. Without a care in the world, groupthink seems to take over the awareness that there are other folks on the planet.

Many years ago, I was at a retreat and about 10 of us went for a walk on a local bike path. I was mortified when the people I was walking with would not move to one side so that people coming toward us could walk past or bike past.

I mentioned several times that we should allow room for others on the path and the rest of the group chose to ignore my request. It kind of ruined the rest of the retreat for me because these people that I was spending time with had suddenly shown how disrespectful they could be toward others who were not in our group.

After my third request to be courteous went unheaded, I turned around and left them and walked back to the hotel on my own.

Like you, stuff like that really does make me sad.

Anonymous said...

You are being over critical. Our society is open and free and they had every right to meet at a Starbucks. Don't you own an iPod? I think it is rude that you listened to their conversation.

It bothers me when I go into a place like Starbucks and people are working. It makes me feel I have to be quiet. Can't people like you afford an office or work from home?

As for them leaving without putting the chairs back, if it bothered you then YOU should have moved the chairs back into place. Come on, we all know there are hired people at Starbucks who come and straighten up.

Obviously I am joking... people like those women are not just a symptom of why society is breaking down, they are the cause. It is called SELFISH.