How to Be Polite by Telling a Jerk to Stop Being Rude

I was raised to be polite. I say please and thank you. I don’t take up extra seats on a crowded train. I sneeze into my arm. I don’t play music on public transportation. You know, all the normal things that not rude people do. But, unfortunately, some of my fellow humans take advantage of nice people like me (and you) by doing whatever it is they want without a whit of concern about other people. Jerks.

I live in a town with amazing public transportation–so amazing that I don’t even own a car. There is also a town center with wonderful street musicians and other performers. I often give money to these people. I truly enjoy listening to most of them. And if I don’t? (Like the guy who plays the pan flute.) I can just walk away.

There is one woman who loves to sing for money, but she doesn’t do it on the street. Instead, she gets on a tram, where you’re trapped for at least one stop, sings a short song, and then asks for money. That, by the way, is illegal, but the police aren’t focusing on it, and she jumps off after one or two stops anyway.

She drives me utterly insane. I refuse to give her any money. But I never say or do anything about it–until last week.

To keep reading, click here: How to Be Polite by Telling a Jerk to Stop Being Rude

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23 thoughts on “How to Be Polite by Telling a Jerk to Stop Being Rude

  1. Mum and I got to the cafe at the Phillips Collection because it’s near where she lives and usually quiet so she can hear.

    One day, all was well, people were quietly chatting – until a group of five people noisily burst in and totally changed the atmosphere. (Side note – this is why Americans have a reputation for being loud in Europe – they don’t take the temperature of the the atmosphere and adjust accordingly).

    They sat down and continued in their ‘outside voices’. It wasn’t that they were shouting, it was that they were the only ones being loud and boisterous.

    I got up asked them to do me a favor – my mum was hard of hearing and they might have noticed no-one else was talking loudly. Could they take it down a notch or two so the mum and I could chat?

    They sheepishly apologized and adjusted their volume. I don’t think they meant to be rude – they were clueless. In situations like this, and when someone is ‘queue barging’ adapting, a ‘you portably didn’t notice’ is a helpful tone, and a face saver. Sometimes people are trying it on and sometimes they just have a poor ’emotional quotient’ and wouldn’t wish to inconvenience you.

  2. What is “rude” is somewhat subjective. I agree that a person holding up their phone — and blocking the view of those behind them — is rude. In fact, much of people’s love affairs with their electronic devices — to the exclusion of the live humans in their presence — strikes me as rude. However, I would not consider someone singing on public transit to be rude, unless they got right up in my face, or were singing way too loud, or the lyrics were offensive, etc. The Swiss are probably more well-behaved than Americans, and certainly live more-regimented lives. Few American public-transit riders would consider it rude for someone to be singing on board, or even — for that matter — asking for money, neither of which are illegal in America.

    1. I would consider it rude. When you are crammed together physically, you need to create psychic space. That is, you make sure you are not bothering the people around you in other ways.

      And it might be illegal. It is against the rules to play music that others can hear on our city buses – the regulation might be against making a lot of noise, period.

    2. “Few American public-transit riders would consider it rude for someone to be singing on board, or even — for that matter — asking for money, neither of which are illegal in America.”

      Whoah there. Having been stuck on public transit with folks showing absolutely no consideration for their fellow riders, including loud singing and talking, and literally hearing cheers when those people get off, I think it’s a stretch to say that “few” people would consider it rude. And that’s what Suzanne is talking about. In fact, by stating that the Swiss are more “well-behaved” than Americans, aren’t you implying that Americans are therefore more rude?

      1. Well, since I am an American, I cannot be “implying that Americans are…more rude,” since whether something is “rude” is a subjective value judgment largely based on societal mores that I share with other Americans. However, it appears that the Swiss might well consider “Americans…more rude,” since we do allow people to sing on public transit and, further, recognize that people have a Constitutional right to solicit alms from strangers.

          1. Ok, I was wrong! Courts have said that begging is protected by the First Amendment, which I do not get at all, as begging is not political speech.

            However, panhandling is illegal in some cities.

        1. Alms? Seriously? This is an archaic term that referred to begging for money for food – that was done in ancient socieities before things like welfare and social services were societal concepts.

          It’s no longer “alms” but “panhandling,” which is illegal in most communities – since either the government or non-profits now exist to provide basic needs for the poor.

          It is rude to create noise in a public place. Suzanne’s point is that it’s NOT rude to ask them to stop.

          1. Most “beggars,” “panhandlers,” “alms solicitors” or whatever else ones wishes to call them, do not have the financial means to legally challenge criminal prosecutions against them for doing so. However, in cases in which such prosecutions have been challenged, the courts have held that begging is Constitutionally-protected. Savvy jurisdictions have now enacted statutes attempting to criminalize begging by coupling it with other conduct, such as begging that obstructs passage on a public sidewalk or roadway, so-called “aggressive panhandling,” etc., but, simply asking strangers for money is still Constitutionally-permissible in areas accessible to the public in America.

    3. Do you actually use public transportation on a regular basis? Yes, it is rude to sing, play music or shout in an enclosed area. Especially when the next stop is far away and others cannot get away from the noise.

      On one recent ride the driver asked a person not to play their music and got no response. That is indeed rude. In addition to being rude to the fellow passengers, it can be distracting to a bus driver.

      1. Yes, I do use public transit on a regular basis, and I agree that it is rude to shout — absent an emergency — or to loudly sing, play music, talk, use foul or obscene language, smoke, “man spread,” put feet on the seats, litter, or otherwise disturb others on public transit.

    4. Singing on the DC metro rail or metro bus is illegal, as is asking for money on the train or the bus.

  3. Working in education means I sometimes correct people’s manners (without even thinking twice about it) and I use kid-speak to do it.

    “Don’t be a skipper!”
    “Don’t yuck her yum!”
    “It IS very crowded – but we all still need to wait our turn!”

    It’s amazing how a quick reminder of the manners we learned in kindergarten delivered by someone using their mom/teacher voice can snap some adults back into line.
    Again, I’m not purposely addressing adults as children – it’s a reflex because of my profession. But gosh does it work!

    1. What’s a “skipper”? I’m presuming kids aren’t lecturing agemates trying to steer ships :-).

      1. I’m thinking that refers to cutting in front of someone already in line, sometimes referred to as “line skipping.”

        1. Oh, okay! In my neck of the woods that’s “cutting.” Funny how it didn’t even cross my mind that that wasn’t universal.

    1. LJL – It means if I’m about to eat food that I enjoy, don’t do things like point at my plate and say “Ewwwww! How can you eat that?” or make some kind of other negative judgement about what I am clearly enjoying.

      It can also refer to any situation in which one person is in the middle of enjoying something and another person comes along to ruin the experience with criticism.

      (“Yuck” is an American expression of disdain, for those not from the States, while “Yum” is an expression of pleasure.)

  4. My mother taught me how to have good manners. My father taught when to not use them.

    Many people consider good manners and politeness to be a goal in and of itself. I do not. It’s a social tool. It is, really, the single most useful social tool. The overwhelming majority of the time, it costs nothing to be polite, even to someone who is being rude to you, and the return on investment is almost always positive. Being *extremely* polite to someone who is being rude will often shame them into realizing they’re being a dick, and acting better.

    But some people rely on most people’s innate politeness, or aversion to confrontation, to take advantage. They *know* they’re being rude, and are doing it on purpose, to get something they have no reasonable claim to. High pressure sales (or begging), making demands in a store that would require the employee to do something that would get them fired, that sort of thing. These people not only do no deserve politeness, they deserve rudeness, to be driven away.

  5. Yes, it is rude to play music, sing, or blast a boom box in many subways, busses, etc. Because those who have to endure your noise are a captive audience and cannot easily move away from you.

    And, yes, it is panhandling which in many US cities is illegal. That the police don’t have the time (or more likely the inclination as they would be charged with “brutality” by many on the left) and so it goes “unnoticed” except for those of us who have to endure their nonsense.

    I did once ask someone to not play his guitar as it was only one stop away (Times Square to Grand Central shuttle) and he got very nasty to the point that many moved to the next car. (including myself)

    So, yea, it would be nice if people weren’t rude to begin with; it would be just as nice if they didn’t go squid-lips crazy when asked to not be rude.

    Kudos to you, Suzanne, for being “brave” to say something.

  6. In the boonie days I was a manager at a customer service call centre for a mail order company that not only sold small shippable items but furniture that needed delivery.

    So from my middle of the bottom of the hierarchy Amazon not only screwed up but missed the number one rule of customer service, make it right, make it better.

    In a case like this not only would the replacement have been shipped fastest way we had at our cost, we would have refunded any original shipping charges (not applicable with Prime in this case, but there should have been a discount offered for the mistake, 10% is usual.) But ALSO more critically the make it better part would probably have in this case, especially if I was told it was a child who had saved their money a $25 credit in Amazon books/media for the Fire so they could “have the fun of filling up their new tablet.” Such an item is literally no cost to a giant like Amazon.

    Amazon blew this not only because they messed up the customer service but because their customer service doesn’t automatically have a policy of make right, make better, especially on the SECOND mistake. It’s okay to just fix an error, but when the fix fails or is done incorrectly or in this case is not done at all, the voluntary make it better principle makes customers blog about how great you are not how messed up you are.

    They don’t need a post like this right after their E Suite screw ups.

    1. how in heck did this get here instead of on the amazon thing ? My computer is weird I’m sorry.

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