I have been known to flip someone the proverbial bird. Rarely is this action anything other than jesting with good friends when they’ve said something outrageous. Times they are a changing.
I was sitting in the Washington State Ferry terminal waiting area at Coleman Dock reading USA Today on my iPhone, when I heard a commotion at the ticketing desk. I looked up and saw a man in his early 20s speaking loudly to the ticket seller. I didn’t think much of it and went back to reading sports articles on my iPhone.
Suddenly, my personal space was violated with the young man demanding to use my iPhone. I looked up at him and said politely “No.” He started swearing at me and demanded my iPhone again. I gave him my best silent evil eye maintaining unblinking contact. Soon he gave up and went scurrying off.
A few minutes later my peace was interrupted by the same young man yelling angrily at the nearby ticket taker in obvious frustration. His ferry to Bremerton had departed while he was off doing whatever he was doing.
He turned and made a beeline to me and started yelling at me and calling me an asshole. He proceeded to blame me for missing his ferry. I continued to stare at him with my best evil eye not wanting to get into any kind of a discussion with this rude person. Abruptly, he flipped me a bird with each of his two middle fingers and stalked off.
I had plenty of time to reflect about this incident as I rode the ferry to my home on Bainbridge Island. Several years ago when we had flip “dumb” phones, I would probably have lent the phone to the young man. Today, the iPhone has most of my life and is more precious to me and more valuable than what I have in my wallet. I couldn’t imagine stomping up to somebody and demanding their wallet. Why would somebody think I would even begin to lend them my smart phone.
Normally, I would have muttered about this for a while and shared the story with a few friends and moved on, but this one stuck in my craw.
The event followed a miserable sequence of classes I taught in the UW Foster School MBA program where several of the 20 year old masters and mistresses of the universe very aggressively told me I was an idiot and a terrible teacher. Not one on one, but in the midst of our evening classes.
I don’t mind being challenged in class. It is what makes teaching graduate school such an enjoyable intellectual experience. It was the attacking uncivil manner in which the behavior occurred. The experience was completely out of place and uncalled for. Very uncivil.
While I would like to think that these were isolated events or a sign of the generation gap between the baby boomer generation and the millenials, I am beginning to think it might be a pattern.
Where has civility gone with this coming generation and where is the extraordinary respect we should have for each other.
What can each of us do today to make the world a more civil place?
Give civility a chance.
Practice random kindness.