Yesterday at Starbucks I had spread out my newspaper on the footstool in front of the comfy chair I was using. When my coffee order came up, I walked a few feet to retrieve it. A woman and her four kids piled into my chair and the chairs nearby.
I walked back over kind of expecting the woman to figure out I’d been sitting there but she ignored me. I actually said, “Excuse me” as I gathered up my stuff and relocated. She was oblivious.
In the scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal. But it is indicative of the decline of civility. Stuff like that (and the woman talking on her cell phone who cut off two lanes of traffic to turn left from the far right lane) hit my buttons.
Part of me wants to politely say something like, “Excuse me, but you’ve taken my seat.” That wouldn’t be rude but I’m not sure it would be helpful. It takes a great deal of optimism to think that somehow people like the woman and her brood might gain some insight.
Instead, and against my own lower nature, I decided that the antidote to behavior that isn’t civil is…civility. To rise above without feeling superior, to recognize the rampant self-absorption and distraction in our culture and ultimately to recall the words of Phileo Judaeus who said, “Be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle.”