Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Calling All Metro Etiquette Vigilantes

This morning, I had the pleasure of taking my Metro ride with a young man who had his iPod set to “stun.” They aren’t called everybodyPods, so really only one person should be able to hear the music. I spent a few stops being assaulted by thudding bass, emphatic shrieking, and repeated use of the words, “bitch” and “ho.”

Normally, I glower at the everybodyPodder, change seats, and sulk. But today was different. I can’t blithely ignore misogyny before I’ve had my coffee, even if it does have a catchy beat. So I used my Brain Scrambler technique.

The Brain Scrambler is a method I use to get my way. I tell the person to knock off whatever behavior is annoying me, but am so cheerful and pleasant that the person becomes confused and instantly complies.

“Excuse me, could you turn your music down? It’s really very loud!”

He shot me a momentary look of confusion, then fiddled with a few knobs and reduced the sound to a dull roar. (“Dull roar” means that I am now officially my mother.) I spent the next few stops in blissful near-silence.

He stood up at Metro Center, and cranked the music right back up as soon as he was five feet away from me. This caused a few chuckles among nearby passengers.

I spent the next few stops chatting with a man a few seats away, who was amazed the everybodyPodder had heard me in the first place. (I had contemplated making a little sign saying, “Your music is too loud!” if he hadn’t heard my initial request.) We discussed not wanting to pay for that young man’s hearing aids in ten years, and that more people should speak up when they encounter rudeness on the Metro.

So, readers, I have deputized myself to be a Metro Etiquette Vigilante. Care to join me? Or, you could be a You Kids, Get Off My Lawn Metro Rider, or a Tsk Tsk Shame On You Metro Rider. The Metro needs more people who are obnoxious enough to correct the rudeness of others. Please practice the following phrases:

“Your music is really very loud, could you please turn it down?”
“Could you please not lean against the pole? Other people need to use it.”
“Excuse me, could you please stand up so I don’t have to climb over you to exit the train?”
“Excuse me, could you please not block the door?”
“Hi! Welcome to DC! The left side is the passing lane, it’s for people who prefer to walk up the escalators. Thanks!”

But use the Brain Scrambler technique when you do it. The idea is to be cheerful, not at all imperious, and completely polite as you tell people that the world does not in fact revolve around them. Don't argue, don't engage, simply make your request.

Metro is already unpleasant, with the hiked-up fares, endless delays, and “sick passengers.” We can’t do anything about the passengers who are sick, but we can do something about the ones who suck.

Who’s in?


suicide_blond said...

i momentarily thought about riding the metro...when i heard about "no pants day" ...but..umm no.. i just dont like people enough... and doesnt go where i go.. but get the point..

Shannon said...

But Blondie, think of how much fun you'd have on the Metro! "Accidental" touching from strangers alone would make it worth the trip!

dcnative said...

count me in!

lemmonex said...

Yesterday, the man sitting next to me on the metro took out his blood sugar kit, opened the little needle, and proceeded to test his glucose level. I was stunned. I wanted to say something, but honestly, didn't even know how to phrase it. "Could you please not extract bodily fluid on the train? M'Kay?"

Shannon said...

Welcome to the team, dcnative!

Actually, lemmonex, that's EXACTLY how you should have phrased it.

Kristen S. said...

I prefer the passive-aggressive approach. For instance, when someone is leaning on the pole, I grab hold of the pole and point my knuckles into the person's body.

Arjewtino said...

I actually have my own passive-aggressive equivalents for two of your suggested phrases:

(when blocking the door) "That's really a great spot there, why don't you just stay there?"

(when blocking the left side of an escalator) "MOVE!"

Works every time.

Shannon said...

Do I need a Passive Agressive Squad, to fight the truly intractably rude people?

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog, love this post. But I am ALWAYS the person at Farragut North shouting "Please move in people! There's tons of room at the center!" and no matter HOW nicely I say it I always get glares and even rude comments in return! Why?

Domo El Mono Loco said...

count me in, I can stand people who are so oblivious to what is going on around you. 1. If i can hear ur music over my music, turn it the hell down. 2. There will be plenty of time to get off the train when you get to your station, move away from the damn door cause if you dont my shoulder is sure to "accidentally" hit you. 3.If I am waiting on the platform for the train please do not come stand directly in front of me, cause I just might push you in front of the train.

Shannon said...

Anon, if more people speak up, maybe your requests will get heard. Once it becomes the norm to call people on rude behavior, perhaps we will see less of it.

Ah, Transit Utopia!

carrie m said...

nice job, agent Vigilante! Quasi-related, a guy was trying to sit down in the interior seat and the woman sitting in the aisle seat asked him what was his stop so she could determine if she should move in or he should get the interior seat. He said "none of your business" and just stood there waiting for her to move. I wanted to kick him for being such an ass.

Then there was the obnoxious gum chewing guy and the older gentleman who practically pushed his way in front of me to get on the train first. Can't I just throw things at them?

AM said...

Honestly, just saying "excuse me" would make me happy. I hate it when the person in the interior seat just stares at you instead of saying something. I always stand up to let people out but I will pretend not to notice until I hear an "excuse me." Does that make me bitchy? Oh well, then I'm bitchy.

Shannon said...

AM, the "could you please stand up" is for when you're in the interior seat, you say "excuse me, this is my stop," and the person daintily twists their legs to one side and basically demands that you clamber over them.

Golden Silence said...

I dread riding Metro. The rudeness on it never ceases to amaze me. Listening to gangsta rap at 8 in the morning annoys the mess out of me, people who won't move when I kindly say "excuse me" get to me, and the throngs of rowdy kids that board the train with "n***a," "bitch," and other expletives give me a headache.

Another Metro offense: Standing next to a seat as opposed to sitting in it, blocking the way for someone who would actually want to, you know, sit down.

Anonymous said...

poor thing that you had to be bothered by other human beings in a public space. let me guess... you were the type of roommate that left post-it notes in every fucking place in the house... "please please clean the crumbs from the toaster when you toast bread. they dont clean themselves!"

part hippie... right

Shannon said...

Poor me that I have to deal with oh-so-brave anonymous human beings that post f-bombs and insults on my blog.

Eh, I guess it comes with the territory.

Actually, I was the roommate who took down the passive-aggressive Post-its and asked that folks talk things out and not be so nitpicky. The point of the original post was that folks nicely request that their fellow passengers not act like jerks vs. sit there and seethe (the passive aggressive "Post-it" method).

I don't think there's anything wrong with hoping that even city folks develop some basic manners. But thanks for reading and commenting!

ListenToLeon said...

Lots of things annoy me about Metro, but the one that almost never fails to irritate the hell out of me, is when it's rush hour, and some person walking ahead of me suddenly just stops in the middle of the crowd, causing people to try their best to avoid bumping into each other.

I also saw a guy the other day on the platform wearing headphones, loudly rhyming along to his profanity-laced hip hop...And messing up the words at that! All I could think was, not only is this man obnoxious, but HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW THE WORDS TO THE SONG THAT HE'S SINGING!!

I didn't bother to approach him. I just got on a separate car.

DCMovieGirl said...

People are generally decent folks.

Most every "rudeness" problem on Metro comes from our ever increasingly self-absorbed culture.

We're all too distracted about our own stuff to realize or care about others around us.

My go-to strategy has always been and strong "Excuse me" with a smile.

If the person doesn't move, I do.

lou said...

I came to your site from DC Blogs. On the other hand, I said "excuse me" too softly to a woman holding a pole by the handicapped seats as I passed her to go stand in the middle of the row -- as you're supposed to do. She didn't hear me and yelled at me for not saying excuse me. I was so discombobulated that I didn't think of the retort until much later. (Well, if you were standing in the middle of the aisle instead of near the door, I wouldn't have had to brush by you.)

So there can be unfair vigilantism.

Marissa said...

Interesting... and here I thought punching people in the face was the way to go...

Thank God I don't ride the metro too often, no?

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