Friday, January 25, 2008

Be a Crank

I think that "civility" may ultimately be the downfall of civilization. It seems to encourage and reward bad behavior and penalize good people that try to follow the rules. I guess it's an example of the freeloader problem in evolution where useless genes reap the benefits of living among better individuals.

For example, last night I went to a one-time showing of "Marathon Dreams." I purchased the tickets online a month ago and knew it would be sold out so I showed up half an hour early to save a seat for me and my wife. I put a jacket on her seat and a vest on mine, told the lady next to me I'd be right back but that the seats were taken, and went for a popcorn run. As I'm coming back I see a scruffy young man pick up my jacket , move it over, and take one of my seats. I slide in and tell him he just took my seat. He looks up at me and smiles and tells me, "I don't see you sitting in it man." I'm pissed because the guy has just stolen my seat and so I simply tell him if he doesn't move then I'll get an usher. "No," he says, "Well, maybe if you had asked nicely..." and proceeds to act like I'm being rude and trying to make me feel bad for saving a seat and how if everyone saved seats then the whole theater would be saved and late comers like himself wouldn't be able to find adjacent seats. I'm thinking, "Ummm. Yeah, that is the way it works..." But all I want is my seat so I just nod my head and smile and wonder what he'd look like covered in 64 ounces of soda and a large popcorn. He finally gets up and moves. But for the rest of the night I wished that I could have punched him in his smug, self-satisfied face.

You see, in civilized society you can't do that. We don't assault people and we don't call them names and we don't dump crap on them. We try to follow the rules so we can all get along and we expect others to do the same. Which is why it's so frustrating when others don't do the same. Because it's all really voluntary. Society breaks down if people don't voluntarily comply because enforcement is difficult. But this little guy didn't learn a lesson. He'll go away in his delusion that he did me a favor by surrendering the seat that he'd stolen and continue making life difficult for people just trying to get along by playing by the rules.

Unfortunately, I see more and more of this. People are too polite to complain about bad service. Companies sell defective products knowing people don't want to go through the hassle of returning them. They under staff their support lines so that frustrated customers will stop calling. Then they assume their products must be good because no one calls to complain. They get monopolies and put out crappy products and then say that if their product was so bad then people have the choice to switch to something else knowing full well that they have a captive audience because they've methodically put their competitors out of business.

One more example. After that auspicious beginning, the movie was almost unwatchable. The bulb in the projector was so dim that it was almost impossible to see. I was in the middle of the back row and didn't want to cross in front of people during the movie, but I did hunt down the manager afterwards to complain. Apparently I'm the only person out of a sold out house that did so. Why? Was everyone else too polite? Or maybe it was the fact that I had to ask 3 employees and hunt all over the theater before I could finally get the manager? Even then he radioed the projectionist who replied that there was no problems with the picture. When I insisted that there most definitely was a problem the projectionist finally came back that the bulb was very dim and appeared to be going out. I got my tickets refunded, but I wonder how long that bulb had been bad and how many projectionists and movie viewers put up with it without notice or complaint.

So, my challenge to you is to make it a point to politely and insistently complain when things aren't right. And back up those around you who are doing it instead of mutely looking on like the people around me at the theater while someone tried to steal my seat. If you don't then you have no right to complain about the problems around you.

1 comment:

erlybird said...

Stop the killing in Dafur!! Well, ask NICELY and we might! Yeah, yeah. I did ask nicely, I did...the first five times. And now I am the asshole.

And so it goes. That is why I could not bare to watch that Adam Sandler film called Anger Management. I have been in similar situations to the one where his character is on the plane and is asking nicely for more peanuts from the flight attendant and is told to "calm down". When you described your moment at the screening I could feel it right along with you. It is very good to be calm, don't get me wrong. But it is also important to point out the inane, the unjust and the illogical. I am simply tired of being labeled the asshole for doing it.