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The Terrible Ten: P.M. Forni's Top Rudenesses. And Yours?

Earlier today I blogged about P.M. Forni, the Johns Hopkins professor who for the last decade has devoted himself to the cause of civility. In his latest book, "The Civility Solution," Dr. Forni tries to offer advice on defusing rude situations. To decide what those situations include, he surveyed people on what most bothered them. Here are what he calls "The Terrible Ten":

  1. Discriminating in an employment situation
  2. Driving in an erratic or aggressive way that endangers others
  3. Taking credit for someone else's work
  4. Treating service providers as inferiors
  5. Making jokes or remarks that mock another's race, gender, age, disability, sexual preference or religion
  6. Behaving aggressively toward other children or bullying them
  7. Littering (including trash, spit and pet waste)
  8. Misusing handicapped privileges
  9. Smoking in nonsmoking places or smoking in front of nonsmokers without first asking
  10. Using cell phones or text messaging during conversations or during an appointment or meeting

Which of these most bother you? What's missing entirely from this list? What would be on your personal Terrible Ten? Rank your least favorite in the Comments section below.

For starters, here's mine:

  1. Talking on a cell phone or texting during a movie, play or "serious" concert.

  2. Letting your dog poop on a neighbor's lawn. Not picking up your dog's poop. Picking up your dog's poop, bagging it, then sticking it in someone else's trash can.

  3. Speeding up when you see someone put his turn signal on, thus denying him the ability to merge in front of you.

  4. Taking up more than one seat on a bus or Metro train.

  5. Not giving up your seat to someone in obvious need.

  6. Throwing a loud party and not informing/inviting the neighbors.

  7. Soiling a communal kitchen (as at work) and not cleaning it up.

  8. Taking the shaving cream to your bathroom to shave your legs when you know your father needs it to shave his face, you unthinking spawn.

  9. Parking badly.

  10. Ignoring your children while they disrupt others in a public place or at a public event.

Agree? Disagree?

By John Kelly  |  July 27, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Radical Civility  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Meet Howard County's Mr. Nice Guy
Next: Can Kindness Be Mandated? Howard County's Civility Experiment


1. People who answer their landline or cell phone when busy and tell me "I can't talk now! I'm busy!" I say: Don't pick up the phone if you're busy! (Maybe trying to make an innocent caller feel like a schmuck is a form of "reverse rudeness?")

2. Cashiers who ignore me the whole time during a transaction while laughing and joking with fellow employees.

3. Cashiers who don't say 'thank you' when giving me my receipt and expect ME to say 'thank you' for giving them my money for a purchase. (I simply say "You're welcome" in response to their rude silence.)

4. Cashiers who refuse to quote the price of what I'm buying when ringing me up. I've actually had some remain mute while pointing to a display panel when I ask for the price.

5. People who race to the front door of our secured apartment building to try and sneak in when I am loaded down with packages and am struggling to wave my electronic key in front of the lock.

6. Drunken citizens who feel it is their "right" to scream and yell in the alley outside our apartment in the middle of the night, just because we live near a bar. (One inebriated patron even screamed her derision at our request to be quiet by saying "Don't live next to a bar, you stupid (expletive)!"

7. Refusing to buy me a drink when I have bought countless drinks over the years for a friend or associate.

8. People who don't return calls or emails after expressing a strong interest in a project I've proposed.

9. Drivers who take advantage of my being courteous (or following the law) in order to wedge themselves in front of me when the space I made was clearly intended for another driver.

10. People who spit on the sidewalk.

11. People who don't flush.

Posted by: gregorybrian | July 27, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

PS: Sorry for going over the limit by one. I was just on a roll!

Posted by: gregorybrian | July 27, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

1. Chronic interrupters.

2. Gross table manners.

3. Drivers who honk while driving only to "wave" at a friend. I hate that split second when I frantically whip my head around looking for a car that is really *warning* someone of an impending accident.

4. Loud, crinkly, snack packages in movie theaters... and the snackers who are oblivious to the loud noises they make.

5. Tailgaters who end up blocking-the-box, and then an ambulance can't get through.

6. Shoppers who abuse express checkouts: more items than the limit and *then* wait until the cashier tells them the amount of the transaction and they ask to write a check.

7. Expectorating anything on the sidewalk, or out a car window, or [fill in the blank].

8. Yelling across the room rather than moving a few steps closer which would not require speaking so loudly.

9. The incorrect use of the word "irony", and the phrase "I could care less" when what is meant is "I could *not* care less".

10. People who look over my shoulder when I am typing/working.

Posted by: tkdrew | July 27, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the smoking near non-smokers bothers me. I mean, ask people. Or, if you want to smoke and NOT ask, do not sit two feet away from me and thus force me to breathe in your cigarette smoke. Ew.

Posted by: choirgirl04 | July 27, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Why is putting a bag of dog poop in someone else's trash can uncivil? Are trash cans now private places? Better in a can than to leave the bag on the street.

Posted by: jimward21 | July 27, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Several of those items on the original list aren't necessarily rudenesses, they're illegal (driving recklessly, discriminating in employment). Anything related to the cell phones/texting twits are at the top of my list (walking down the sidewalk staring at your phone with no awareness of who's behind or in front of you).

Posted by: capsfan77 | July 27, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

@jimward21: A man's home is his castle. A A man's trash is his castle. If you've got your own trash can back at home, why not carry the poop with you and dispose of it there? Those stinky poop bags sometimes fall down in the can and don't get tossed in the truck with the bigger bags. There they sit, fermenting. It's bad enough when it's your own dog. Why should I provide my trash can as a poop fermenter for a strange dog?

The best is to train your dog to poop before you get to a public trash can along a public walking trail and to dispose of it there.

Posted by: JohnFKelly | July 27, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

"Picking up your dog's poop, bagging it, then sticking it in someone else's trash can."

I don't have a dog. I do have a trash can. I don't get why this bothers people. It's a trash can!

Also, you got the positioning wrong. #10 on your list should ABSOLUTELY be #1.

Posted by: SAF_dc | July 27, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Back about a decade ago I had handicap handtag in my car for hauling my mom aorund since she didn't drive. I had just dropped her off in front of Nordstrom's and was parking in the parking gargage at Tyson's in a handicap spot. I was immediately accosted by some overpaid well dressed attorney. He berated me about not appearing handicapped and quoted the VA code I was violating.

I calmly explained to the fool I had just been released from prison and the nice judge had mandated that I have a handicap spot along with counseling for anger management issues. I went on saying I did 5 years 4 months and 3 days for seriously injuring and maiming a man in a parking lot
in a dispute over a parking spot and the men was still in convalscent home taking his meals through a straw. Punk lawyer beat feet out of there. Later saw his sorry
butt in Men's shoes at Nordstrom's trying to buy some shoes. Stared at him and made faces and he left w/o purchasing the six pairs of shoes he had tried on. D*mn lawyers are dumb!

Posted by: sheepherder | July 28, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

And it is perfectly acceptable make fun of all alwyers and members of the mainstream media.

Posted by: sheepherder | July 28, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

And idiots like me who can't spell.

Posted by: sheepherder | July 28, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

1. Pardon me for bringing up something gross, but number one on my list, by a long shot, is women who dribble on toilet seats and don't clean up after themselves. It is by far the grossest thing I ever have had to encounter. I do not understand how it is possible to A: Do it in the first place, and B: Not clean it up.
2. Also bathroom related: People who let their kids crawl under stall doors/walls.
3. People who use a paper towel to open the bathroom door when exiting, and then either leave it in the door handle or drop it on the ground.
(Public restroom rudeness tops my list because it is already sort of ick in that its a bathroom, and we should try not to make it worse.)
4. Left lane squatters.
5. People who write in or otherwise desecrate library books.
6. People who write checks in the express checkout lane.
7. Anyone who talks with their mouth full.
8. People who loudly snap their chewing gum.
9. Eating while on the phone. Even if you're not talking with your mouth full, I can hear the chewing sound.
10. People who use their car's remote alarm to find where they parked. Particularly in a garage, where it's even louder and echos.

Posted by: falltillfly | July 28, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

For my 3 cents, I suggest there are categories of Civility that are being banded about:

1. Ethical violations which are borderline illegal, like discrimination, or taking credit for someone else's work.

2. Abuse of a common resource, like writing in library books or dribbling on the toilet seat.

3. Bad personal manners, like talking with your mouth full, or snapping your chewing gum.

I think Radical Civility should focus on category 2. Category 1 has the whiff of legal action, and people get angry once you threaten to bring in an authority. Category 3 can be rejoined with "Don't be so uptight, chill out.". Category 2 can be answered with "This is what you did wrong, and it hurts everybody".

Posted by: jimward21 | July 29, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Number 6 on P.M. Forni's list has one word too many. It should be: "Behaving aggressively toward children or bullying them," applying it to adults as well as children. A lot of the reason many youngsters don't show common courtesy toward others is they have never received it themselves. (My nephew and niece began using "Please" and "Thank you" before they could pronounce the words clearly, just from hearing it said to them.

Posted by: opinionatedreader | July 29, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

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