Rudeness has never been in short supply in America. That's to be expected in an egalitarian country with little history of formal deference. There's a tipping point, though, at which something that's widespread becomes the norm. Have we reached it where rudeness is concerned? An ABC News survey sheds light on the matter.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they often see people being "rude and disrespectful"; another 47 percent sometimes encounter this. Similarly, 37 percent often hear people using "bad or rude language out loud in public," while 44 percent sometimes do. Such numbers certainly confirm the impression that public rudeness is rife. But do people find it particularly objectionable? Among those who witness such behavior, a less-than-landslide 59 percent said it bothers them "a lot" when they see people being rude and disrespectful. Fewer (48 percent) are bothered a lot by public use of bad or rude language. Though not always such delicate flowers themselves, women are more likely than men to take exception to such misbehavior. Sixty-six percent of women, vs. 50 percent of men, said it bothers them a lot to see people being rude and disrespectful; 58 percent, vs. 38 percent of men, said public use of bad or rude language bothers them a lot.
The numbers of people voicing disapproval of rudeness seem remarkably low, when you think about it. After all, a poll of this sort gives respondents a free chance to vent their annoyance with other people's trashy behavior. That so many respondents were inclined to forgo this opportunity suggests the extent to which rudeness has indeed become the norm. In some cases, their responses reflect the fact that they're guilty of the same sins. Forty-one percent of respondents confessed that they're not always "as polite as they'd like to be," and 19 percent admitted they often use bad language in public.
The advent of the cell phone has introduced a new genre of rudeness. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they often encounter people "who use their cell phones in a loud or annoying manner in public areas"; another 30 percent sometimes do. Forty-five percent of those who witness such behavior said it bothers them a lot, and 26 percent said it bothers them some. Isn't it a bit odd that people get so worked up about this? After all, uncouth types do plenty of loud conversing in public even without cell phones. The difference is that we get to listen in to the other side of the conversation, too. Perhaps the special animus against cell-phone yammerers arises because they frustrate our (rude) desire to eavesdrop on conversations in toto.