No, that is not an overstatement. Though it is true that more individual acts of horror and destruction are committed by genuine criminals and ultra-conservative Christians and Republicans, I believe that our true downfall as a people will be a quieter storm, a calmly corrosive slide into the abyss brought about when one too many everyday assholes pulls one of these dick moves.
The “How Not To Be a Dick” series provides valuable insight into specific scenarios, but these everyday sins are that much more insidious in their banal frequency and lack of consequences. The center of civilization’s soul is already sagging under the weight of these collective transgressions, and their casual regularity can only carry on for so long until the structural integrity of whatever strained beams hold us up are compromised for good.
1. Blocking a Driveway
This is one that will likely disturb drivers more than non-drivers, but one only needs to have it happen once to feel a significant chapping of one’s ass. I was recently visiting a home that’s on a residential street just off a major intersection with lots of shops, and people routinely park on the street in front of their driveway, ostensibly to “run” in to a store for something, but sometimes remaining parked there for an hour or more.
On one such occasion, we were attempting to leave the house and we found ourselves blocked in. There was no note on the windshield of the Blocking Car with their cell number and a detailed explanation of some emergency that had caused them to park wherever they damn well pleased. There was no companion of the driver acting as a lookout in case the people whose car they had blocked were attempting to live their lives unfettered by a total stranger’s selfishness.
There was only me, incredulously asking how people could be so inconsiderate, and the occupants of the house poo-pooing my shock and saying it happens all the time. We went into the shops closest to their corner, wearily shouting at inattentive faces “Excuse me, does anyone in here own the gold Toyota Camry around the corner?” ….until we found the owner.
She offered a compulsory “sorry” in verbiage only, and we all awkwardly walked together to get into our respective cars and go on about our business. I can’t imagine doing such a thing and not pausing to consider that even if you know where you’ll be and you won’t be long, the people you’re blocking don’t, but I guess loads of other people never consider that since it happens all the time.
2. Taking an Accessible Parking Space if You Are Not Disabled
You might be tired. You might be in a rush. It might have just started snowing in July. You might be wearing your Fuck Me Heels and running into the 7-11 for condoms before a fun night out, and like many Fuck Me Heels, they might pinch your toes or chafe your heels or otherwise hurt like a bitch. None of these things excuses taking a designated accessible parking spot if you don’t need one.
This dick move, similar to the first one, is not something I can imagine is ever premeditated, and one of the worst things about its dickishness is that even the most sainted of drivers have been tempted to do it. It can seem so easy, and, depending on the size and layout of the parking lot in question, it might mean the difference between a significant walk and almost none at all.
There could be many designated accessible parking spaces just sitting there empty, temptingly gleaming in the sun or sparkling under that July snowfall, but if you are not disabled, they are not for you. What if that exact number of people with disabilities come drag racing into that mall parking lot at the exact same time and all decide to park and go in to enjoy some Auntie Anne’s pretzels? Those spots are set aside for a purpose, which is not your laziness.
3. Reply All
Situations where using the “reply all” function for electronic communication is truly appropriate, wherein the reply truly needs to be seen by all, are rare. More often than not, one wants to be seen replying to a mass or group e-mail, or their reply is intended for the sender or perhaps some of the other recipients, or they just hit that dastardly button out of laziness, carelessness, or to cover their bases and avoid being seen by other recipients as not having replied.
Eff that noise. In the era of group chats, Google Hangouts, and Slack, why anyone would invade your inbox with an e-mail reply to one person that you happened to be included in the initial inquiry by is beyond me. The “reply” button is right next to that shite one, and in many programs and screen layouts, it’s even easier to access.
Use it. Take that extra moment to reply to the person(s) you mean to reply to, and save the other(s) the grief of deciding whether they now too have to keep up the charade of genial conversation that many Reply All scenarios become in the end.
4. Using Speakerphone or FaceTime in a Shared Public Space
I’ve been on quite a few tours with various musical productions, the longest one lasting just under a year and a half for me. I used to joke that the name of the tour could have been “Private Conversations In Public Spaces,” because that’s what ended up happening more than I care to admit. Between air travel, showtimes, changing time zones, and the individual schedule demands of those that I needed to communicate with, phone calls and Skype sessions had to get in where they fit in, but there’s still some sense of etiquette and decorum to maintain.
The terms of a total stranger’s communication with people in their lives are none of my business, so if you have free video calling and you and your boo don’t go an hour without some Facetime, mazel tov! What you and your boo have to say to each other is also none of my business, so I’ll ask that you step outside, find a quiet corner, retreat to an otherwise empty bathroom, anything but carry on a personal conversation or video call at full volume in front of me in line at the CVS.
Privacy as a concept is rapidly declining in public popularity, so I shan’t tilt at that windmill. But wouldn’t most people actually want a little quiet? Not to mention that even if you are comfortable throwing your personal business out there in public, the public might be made uncomfortable upon hearing it. (Few people know that better than xoJane writers, wink-wink.)
Emergencies happen, calls need to be made, and life has been untethered from landlines for years now. That’s called progress. But to hold a cellphone away from your face in public and use it on speakerphone is the opposite—it’s barbaric.
5. Playing Music Through Speakers in Public
I’ve saved the best (worst) for last. This is the shitstained sister sin of #4. In the NYC subway system, it’s unavoidable. There’s almost always someone playing music or a game with loud sound effects at full volume with no headphones in. They’re playing their game or bopping their head to the beat, avoiding eye contact with those around them, lost in their own private little world.
EXCEPT THEY’RE NOT. They’re not in their own private little world, they’re in a public space, and they’re forcing something that they enjoy into the senses of those around them.
Someone on a train was recently blasting some music that everyone around him was clearly bothered by. I didn’t choose that battle, so I remained silently contemptuous and tried to mentally teleport anywhere but there, like so many people do on the 2 train.
A woman leaned in to the guy and very kindly said, “Lemme ask you something; why not use headphones?” He replied with a sincerity that I wasn’t expecting and said, “I’m sharing my music with everyone, to put a smile on their faces.”
The woman pointed out that not a single person in the train car was smiling, and there was, in fact, palpable misery oozing down all of our faces like motor oil. The guy shrugged and turned his music up.
May God have mercy on his soul.