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The Text Best Thing: More People Join the Crusade

Our Radical Civility crusade is gaining speed. Even so, some people don't see what the fuss is all about. Witness some of the comments after my column yesterday. I need to keep in touch with the office, one person said. (Don't go to the movies on work time.) Popcorn-munching is more annoying than texting. (No it isn't. And besides, popcorn is sanctioned by the theater.)

Here are just a few of the e-mails I've received:

"Yep, sign me up as a campaigner," wrote R.J. Nicholson of Gaithersburg. "I agree that it is more ignorance than malice that causes so much incivility. We are a self-absorbed, internally focused, indifferent society for the most part. Okay, maybe it is for the minor part as there are lots of wonderful people around. It’s just the few obvious offenders who give us all a bad reputation. Good on ‘ya for launching the campaign and devoting your blog space to trying to make life better for us all."

Effie Oellers sent in her technique for dealing with movie texters:

I'm an avid moviegoer and find it very annoying to see cell phone lights. Most people turn them off, but once the movie starts and a cellphone light is within my vision, I very calmly (and with authority, I think) say, "Cellphone off please." It goes off immediately and I say thank you. No amount of reminders on the screen seem to do the job alone. For the life of me I can't understand why anyone goes to a movie theater to watch a movie and feels the need to keep checking their cells.

Calmly and with authority. Works for me.

Steve Frank said I should add another device to my annoying list: Bluetooth earphones for cell phones on people's ears. "Unlike cell phones which can be partially obscured in a lap and are used only occasionally, these are blinking away on people's ears during the whole movie. Hard to avoid."

I did hear from a reader last week who rerpoted that simply asking the Bluetooth-equipped person to remove the earpiece did wonders. He took it off and apologized. Success!

Jack Lewnes thinks my heart is in the right place, but isn't so sure I will be sucessful:

You are tilting at windmills and barking at the moon. When one bends foreward and says, "Excuse me. The light from you cell phone is extremely distracting. Could you put it away please?" The response...100% of the time...will be, "&%@# you!" Civility in public places is a thing of the past...a generation, at least, gone. And civility, a word derived from the same Latin root as civilization, decreases as the size of the group increases. If you have ever driven in Manhattan during rush hour you have experienced the antithesis of civility. If you want civility you must go to small places. Tiny towns have the kindest people. I have found exceptions to the rule. Spokane, Washington has kind and civil inhabitants as does Portland, Maine. And Erie, Pennsylvania. Civility, if I may, Mr. Kelly, is taught from age one. Civility is simply the consideration of the comfort of others. It allows groups of people to live together comfortably. Mothers and Grandmothers taught civilty and I'm sure that some still try. In the South civility was at one time as sacred as what was taught in church and a breach of civility was punished by the entire community. A gross word spoken in public was an unpardonable breach, especially if spoken in the presence of women. These rules, obviously, have gone by the wayside. I doubt seriously if they can ever be re-enforced. That said, I wish you well with your fruitless as I think it may eventually be.
What do you think? Fruitless? And where are the most polite people? Can they really reside only in Spokane, Portland and Erie? And since we can't end on such a depressing note, I offer this from a reader named Noah Webster, who contacted me after my first column ran a few weeks ago:
I read your article in the Washington Post today, and I was ecstatic to hear that someone was standing up for civility! I’m only 13, but I am more than aware of the world’s crisis in civility. I’ve always tried to be a civil person in my daily life. The simple things you can do every day can really mean something to other people!.... I am all in favor of what you’re doing here, and my dad and I support you all the way. Keep up the good work, and show the world how we can stamp out rudeness and usher in civility! Manners over malice, I say. Maybe that can be the group’s motto.

Good idea, Noah. I'll be announcing a slogan contest in the coming days. In the meantime, please share your experiences -- with rude people or polite ones -- in the comments section below.

By John Kelly  |  June 23, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Radical Civility  | Tags: movies, radical civility, rudeness  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Waiting for the Phone to Ring
Next: The Movie Palace Guard: Anti-Texting Done Right


I think Patti Lupone is already a member of RC!

Posted by: dadada | June 23, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

PS - Noah Webster's "Manners over malice" would be a great slogan.

PPS - Not your fault, but can you pass word on to Tech PTB that Washington Post is helluva difficult site to load (Mac - Safari). Thankx!

Posted by: dadada | June 23, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

You have opened up an entire can of worms. With regard to movie theaters, I was watching The Taking of Pelham 123 last week. Actually, the assault of curse words in the movie was a little appalling, but the fact that there were 3 young children about 5-6 years of age in the theater was beyond belief. The parents seemed oblivous to the words and the effect on their children.

My suggestion for other columns would be the following: how people cannot follow direction signs in parking lots and how many near accidents occur because a driver pulling out of a parking space doesn't see someone coming in the opposite direction and has to stop suddenly to avoid a collision. Another suggestion - people's lack of awareness when walking in public on a sidewalk or in a building. Nine times out of ten they walk on the LEFT side of the sidewalk or will walk with a group of people and take up the entire sidewalk, preventing other people from passing them.

I could go on forever, but I'll stop now. I must be getting cranky as I approach 60. Keep up the good work with your columns - always enjoy reading them.

Posted by: hdknowles1 | June 23, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I teach a class for children in Fairfax County called "Mind Your Manners" and was delighted to read about your radical civility campaign. Many people still associate manners/etiquette with pretentiousness and a set of rules that adults impose on others. Manners aren't made to cramp anyone's style--they are simply a way we show respect for ourselves and others (note that showing respect for others doesn't take away the respect we have for ourselves!). Manners aren't rules, but rather a language that we use to tell people what they can expect from us (e.g., will you be a good friend, do you think only of yourself?). The "me first" voice tells us to take what we want and do what we want (like text in movie theaters!) and has made for many hurt feelings and angry people. Good manners help keep that "me first" voice in check and I'm so pleased that your column is addressing this!

Posted by: LizAquino | June 23, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I stopped going to movie theaters here in DC several years ago - could no longer put up with not just all the yakking going on around me but the overall bad behavior (jumping up & down, shouting, etc.) that often occurred. Ever since,I have enjoyed movies through Netflix on my big TV with its excellent sound system. And, since my chair is so close to the screen as one would expect in a living room setting where the lights are dimmed way down, it's almost like being in a real theater - and so much more enjoyable (and cheaper, too!).

Posted by: peterwolff | June 23, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

@dadada: Thanks for the LuPone tip. Here's the original story from my former Post colleague Joe Brown:

@hdknowles1: The theater owners association spokesperson told me some theaters have started having "no children" screenings. I like that idea.

@LizAquino: Send me an e-mail. I might do a roundup from etiquette experts.

@peterwolff: Sorry to hear you've given up. I think a lot of people have. But there's a difference in going to a real movie in a real theater. Big movies work better there--provided you have a crowd that behaves. That's what we're trying to make happen.

Posted by: JohnFKelly | June 23, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

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