Surely you’ve picked up your copy of Everyone’s Advice Is Wrong . . . Including Mine (available on Amazon). And surely you’ve read one of my first posts on this blog, No One Listens to the Professor. Undoubtedly, you recall my post Elevator Etiquette, Pushing Your Floor Number. If you have and enjoyed them then you probably are a polite person who respects wood. If you have not or did not enjoy them, consider purchasing my upcoming book: The Etiquette of Things: Things You Didn’t Know Were Things.
The book is a modern take on etiquette. It is appropriate for travelers and for anyone who interacts with the general public. Today’s entry focuses on the developing trend of people not respecting the personal space of others. I see it all the time at airport lounges where guests think that the entire lounge is their own office (see An American Douche in Tokyo Lounge). I witness it in hotel lounges where parents don’t care to monitor their unruly children (see Should Kids Be Allowed in The Hotel Lounge?). And today, I dealt with it in the jacuzzi at a beach resort. Here’s how it unfolded:
After going down the slide in the family pool, I retreated to the adults only pool for some R&R. My moment of peace was interrupted by an individual who came to the hot tub with his bluetooth speaker to play some R&B. Without asking if I minded, he synced his phone and started streaming music. The music wasn’t over-the-top loud, but I could hear it well enough to sing along to Rihanna’s greatest hits. I had three options:
- Leave and not say anything.
- Stay and not say anything.
- Say something.
Obviously, I went with option 3. I broached the subject by asking, “Do you think it is polite to play music in public without asking others first?” Immediately and expectedly, he took offense to the question. He said if I wanted the music turned down that I should ask for that instead of this passive way of voicing my displeasure with him playing music. That very answer, I said, shows how oblivious he was with the premise of my question. The point of my question was to convey that there isn’t an acceptable volume for someone to play their personal music in public places. The idea that someone has to listen to someone else’s music just because that person has the capability to play shows no respect for common courtesy.
Regarding his statement, I believe it would have been more impolite to ask him to turn his music off. Saying, “Do you mind turning that off?” would not make for a comfortable time. If he said he didn’t mind, we’d be sitting there in awkwardness. If he said he did mind and kept it on, imagine how fun that would be. Furthermore, if someone is truly sensitive to etiquette, that person should not ask if he can play his music in public to begin with. Simply asking that question creates a lose-lose situation. If I say no I don’t mind, it’s because I am being polite and wouldn’t want to infringe on someone’s good time. By acquiescing, I’d be stuck listening to Only Girl in the World. If I say I do mind, then that person might be upset by my hard-line stance.
My brash question did not lead to fisticuffs. It led to a thoughtful discussion on the what people should expect regarding the invasion of their personal space. I pointed out that I object to people who speak on Facetime in public just as much as I object to people who watch movies on airplanes without headphones. The erosion for the respect that society has for personal space will create a situation that is untenable. If it becomes acceptable to play music on a small personal speaker, what’s to stop the next person from playing his/her music on a speaker that is bigger than that speaker. And so on and so forth.
What would you have done if you were me? What would you have done if you were he? Drowning TPOL is impossible. I swim like a fish.