January 11, 2012

Dear Clusterflock

How do you deal with the unbearable rudeness of strangers? I’m serious, here, guys. It’s starting to really affect my life.

It could be anything — the guy who cuts you off when you’re clearly waiting for the men’s room, the guy who switches to the fucking right lane after he sees the “right lane ends 1000 feet” sign, the elderly couple who really ought to know better than narrate through the entire showing of The Artist (even after you finally yell “hey” after he says “he didn’t do it” – BANG!), the woman who starts doing her makeup next to you on the train, the omnipresent imbeciles yelling into thin air (oh, they’re on the phone).

I’m thinking of never going to another movie again (damn kids nearly ruined Red Riding Hood for me), or moving to a cabin in the woods. I’ve been checking Craigslist for jobs, but so far, nothing.


  1. Joel Bernstein on January 11th, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    I figure it evens out with all the rudeness I project at other strangers.

  2. Deron Bauman on January 11th, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    You rang?

  3. Joel Bernstein on January 11th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Then again, I’m kind of a sociopath.

  4. Deron Bauman on January 11th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I’ve struggled with this quite a lot myself. I have a wide streak of shouldness going through me. I think when it’s at its worst, for me, I’m suppressing anger or disappointment or struggling to carry forward when all I really need to do is sleep.

  5. Dave Vogt on January 11th, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    In my experience, it’s worse here than most places.

  6. Sheila Ryan on January 11th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Move to the Midwest? I dunno, but it’s been my experience that people are really nice here.

  7. Kelsey Parker on January 11th, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    I feel your pain, Casey. Some days it feels like I’m screaming inside my head so much I can’t think. The world can just be too invasive. Like Deron said, usually that’s also when I’m in need of some extra sleep.

  8. Joel Bernstein on January 11th, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Counterpoint: I’m from the Midwest.

  9. Sheila Ryan on January 11th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    From the Midwest, Joel.

  10. Sheila Ryan on January 11th, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    It’s the saps who stayed behind who are really nice.

  11. Sheila Ryan on January 11th, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    I’m sorry, Casey. It sounds awful. I’ll try to think about it and not be such a schmuck.

  12. jch on January 11th, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Completely unhelpful in the grand scheme of things, but for particularly bad days (esp. in the car), listen to a recording of yourself reading David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water.” Okay, maybe just for in the car, but potentially helpful here and there. Otherwise, what can you do but cry?

  13. Michael Grant Smith on January 11th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    People are always nicer someplace else. The rotten little shits.

  14. Michael Smith on January 11th, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Ride your bike to and from work and suddenly rudeness be comes flagrant disregard for the lives of others.

    But, I mostly ignore it. Perhaps something is wrong with me. I assume that people, in general, just don’t get it and then I forgive them for it. Also, I allow myself to revel in the small kindnesses of others. Like the woman who smiles and waves from her car every time she sees me in the bike lane.

    When it does come down to it and I can’t handle a certain day or a certain person or everything and everyone I bitch about until I feel better.

  15. Casey Cichowicz on January 11th, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks everyone. I agree that it probably often says more about my current state of mind than about them. The two feed on each other. I’ve always found people to be very nice in Sturgeon Bay, WI. Maybe I’ll move there.

    I’m curious if anyone else has an impression of regional differences. Especially transplants. I second guess any observations I’ve made (urban/rural, north/south). It’s hard to separate from “everything was better when I was a kid”, I think (I don’t think things like that pissed me off, probably because I was being a jackass too). I’m skeptical whenever we talk about “Virginia drivers” or “Maryland drivers” (all drivers are idiots, except, obviously, myself – if I cut you off, well you deserved it!) and so I haven’t quite bought into the whole notion of east-coasters-as-mean and west-coasters-as-chill. From Kelsey’s comment it sounds like it’s not always better on the west coast.

    I sometimes think about my year and a half in NYC and felt like there may have been less rudeness there – as if they’d done a better job of coming to terms with being crowded together. Less of an “everyone for themselves” mentality, and more of a sense of the greater good. I’ve never been to Japan or China, but I have this possibly misguided notion that, for instance, no one yammers into thin air on the trains, they know that’s no good and adopted texting long ago. And their phones are probably always on silent. Perhaps I’m making this all up.

    Perhaps I just need to breathe, ride my bike, sing along with the radio, and forget. And I also probably need to check out some more DFW, JCH.

  16. Sheila Ryan on January 11th, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    I am so very nice at a distance.

  17. Deron Bauman on January 11th, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I do have to say that some places are different. I remember turning onto a block in Austin that was reduced to a single lane down the way, and not a single car was out trying to cut in or cut ahead. There were at least a dozen, maybe two dozen, cars in that row, and they moved smoothly and quickly because no one was being a dick. I plum fell over.

  18. Michael Grant Smith on January 11th, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    When I visited China, the people would queue for trains and whatnot very forcefully, and yet in a non-confrontational, eyes-to-the-ground sort of way. The sensation was very close to that of being swept away by the proverbial tide — there was no malice, just an irresistible force.

    In Boston, on the other hand, they pretty much look you in the eye when they kick your legs out from under you. A very angry city, in my very brief time there. Maybe I just piss off people, even at long distances and through walls.

    My experiences in the South have conformed to the cliche that Southerners are friendlier, more laid back. Everyone is very nice, except for the transplants, who all seem to be angry as if they lost their car keys.

    In Chicago, the locals thought our Ohio accents made us sound like hillbillies. We don’t have accents! The people in Chicago talk like characters from gangster movies, though. Oh, and they think Ohioans are friendly because we’re from the South! Assholes.

  19. Amanda Mae on January 12th, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Remember you can’t know the unbearable sadness that everyone is hiding just below the surface, the accumulation of unfulfilled dreams, hearts broken by the cruelties of others, and the sometimes devastating realization that what it is you are living is, in fact, your life.

    I think that’s all we can do when faced with the cruelties of the world, think of the days we needed a bit more grace ourselves and extend that to others. Yes, most people are walking around in survival mode, moving from one moment to the next without consciousness, but count yourself lucky for being someone who can still notice the world around you. And, for better and for much worse, still be affected by what you find there.

    That being said, all we have to look out for is each other. If we don’t speak up when someone cuts a line or is acting out of turn, how will the problems ever go away?

    “I walk the world with a skin so thin
    I can wear no adequate protection
    everything comes crashing in.” – Deb Talan

  20. Carole Corlew on January 12th, 2012 at 7:57 am

    “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm,” said John F. Kennedy. But I think it’s because the D.C. area is made up primarily of transients. Most people aren’t from here and they aren’t going to stay so why be nice. I know southerners who are just as rude HERE as the yanks can be. Plus the place has filled up so getting anywhere is a nightmare, especially post 9-11, and people are in a bad mood about it. The roads are so much worse than they used to be, the subway breaks down too much. Etc. Etc.

    The Iowan speaks up in movie theaters. “HEY! Can you keep it down, we’d like to HEAR THE MOVIE!” People generally are shocked into silence. I also tend to choose certain movies, like the ones at Shirlington, the small art house in south Arlington which does not tend to draw talkers. The Iowan likes more mainstream movies, though, so he shushes people. And he can seem pretty crazy when annoyed.

  21. Michael Smith on January 12th, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Things are certainly different in different places, but I mostly suspect it’s how people are inconsiderate and rude, not whether they are.

    Take California, we have the reputation for being laid back, chill, etc. Which, I think, is often true, as long as we aren’t driving somewhere (and in many parts of California, everyione is always driving somewhere). My memory of Boston is one of shock as my step-brother lead us, 3 pedestrians, into a busy intersection against a red light. Every car stopped and waiting for the pedestrians to get across. Pull that stunt in Sacramento and you’d be lucky if anyone stopped to scrape you off the pavement.

  22. Carole Corlew on January 12th, 2012 at 11:36 am

    The public transit buses will flat out kill you here, Michael. Beware the bus.

  23. Michael Smith on January 12th, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Carole, same thing here. A Californian bus driver is a person who is forced to drive around all day. They have no respect for private property or lives.

    I once saw a bus clip a small parked car (like a miata or something) and the car somehow got temporarily caught up in the bus’s rear bumper and pulled out into the street. The bus did not stop. It just picked up a passenger and turned right.

  24. Dave Vogt on January 12th, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I know I’ve griped about the greater DC metro region before, and I think Carole hits on all the biggest points.

    If I can offer any advice to anyone visiting this area, for the love of all that is good, stay away from the fucking diplo plates.

  25. Casey Cichowicz on January 12th, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Carole, it just so happened I was at Shirlington during the Artist incident. Nor did my shushing help. I hope it was a fluke, because I like that place. Even if Our Butter Station was out of order.

    But it’s true, I can be kind of an asshole when inconvenienced, even though I try very hard to remember it’s usually not their problem. (No point in trying to make the case to the people at the Starbucks I go to that making people order twice – first to order, second to pay – doesn’t make sense, or at the ice cream place where they hand me my ice cream cones and then ask me to pay.) I also am now just relatively amused that to drive into the Ronald Reagan building, you just show ID (where they do a mental cross-reference against the terrorist watch list — and keep your guns under your seat, or, if you’re going to put them in the trunk, under a blanket, because they might look there) whereas if you walk in, prepare for a full airport-type scan.

    Ok, I’ll stop whining. Amanda Mae, I’m going to tape your thoughtful comment to the back of my clenched fist for a while, and see if I can slowly release.

  26. Carole Corlew on January 12th, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    I am sorry, Casey. I’m glad to know that because I’ll stop telling people the Shirlington house is a safe haven. I’ve been annoyed going there lately anyway, the hotel showed up and there goes the neighborhood (I can’t park where I used to be able to, in the library/theater garage). I used to live up the road and could walk, but no longer.

    I guess there’s just no going to the movies anymore.

  27. Amanda Mae on January 12th, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    To be clear, humans in theaters pretty much abandon all pretense of personhood. I essentially became a film critic so I would never have to go to the movies with the general public.