Just as ‘long covid’ symptoms still exist for some medical patients who developed the virus, so does the bad behavior that seemed to erupt during those first long months of deprivation and isolation. The pandemic revealed the underbelly of societal selfishness which was always hovering just below the surface of our world and has now spread to almost every corner of it.
Case in point.
Out for an early dinner in swanky and seemingly safe Palm Beach with my elderly Mom and a friend I saw a parking space about to open up. So I pulled in front of the exiting vehicle with my blinker on and let my passengers out of the car as the driver inhabiting the parking spot sorted himself out. As my guests got out of my car another pulled up behind my intended spot with its blinker on. The space is mine, I thought to myself and got back in the car to pull into said spot when the other driver beat me to it. I stared at the intruder disbelievingly and then backed up to begin what can only be described as an infuriating exchange with a person absent of all politeness but replete with bitter self righteousness.
“You know that space was mine?” I asked her.
“You were letting people off. I saw you,” she said.
Like that justified her poor form even though my intention was clear.
Although civility may not have been in her wheelhouse some facts outweigh others. I was there first. And she knew it. I stood my ground along with my car which was now blocking her path to a perfect parking job and tried to reason with her.
“You know what you’ve done is wrong,” I said in a measured tone.
Ignoring me, she pushed on with her efforts to fully maneuver her car more securely into the stolen spot even though my car was ever so close to hers. And then she did the unthinkable.
“You hit my car,” I exclaimed.
“Then you should have moved it,” she answered nonplussed. Had this been an action film I could have admired her cool demeanor in the face of conflict but all I could think of in the moment was, Am I dealing with a sociopath?
Then to add insult to injury, after seeing my license plate, she issues an order. “Go back to Massachusetts.” Why she chose to fan the flames of an already hostile exchange is beyond me especially given her clear victory in the parking spot challenge. Had she never heard the phrase, “Humble In Victory?” We are a nation of immigrants and cross border travelers so to behave so ignorantly by suggesting I return to “where I came from” just wreaked of an age old racist rant. To clarify, we were both white and female and of a similar age. Hard to tell what her upbringing was, but from my perspective, it was certainly lacking.
As an aside, despite her unnecessarily belligerent and crude behavior I must add that she was a beautiful woman. I mention that only because I was surprised that such a lovely looking person could behave in such an ugly way. Then again, the serial killer Ted Bundy was good looking too despite his profoundly perverted personality defects.
I then suddenly thought, Steady now. I was no match for her. If someone would go to these lengths to seize a paltry parking prize with no guilt at all, what else was she capable of. (Cue Mr. Bundy).
I took a picture of her license plate as a memento of society’s ills and started to walk back to my car just as a man who had been watching the whole scene asked,
“What was that about?”
“We disagreed about whose parking space that was and she decided to hit me,” I said.
He just shook his head and walked away.
I felt the same disappointment as he did. At how unkindly we can be to each other. It just felt sad. Later, after dinner when I went to retrieve my car which had been parked behind a truck with a trailer attached to it, I noticed all of its tires were flat. Two police cruisers appeared next to the truck’s owner.
“Did someone slash your tires,” I asked him incredulously. “Yes,” he said, looking as shocked as he did crestfallen.
“Aren’t people just behaving worse than ever since Covid,” I asked one of the officers. “You can’t believe what we see,” he said without going into detail but with a look on his face that said this is what he had come to expect from people.
According to Walk the Ridge, which is a website advocating civil behavior, “93% of Americans identify incivility as a problem – 68% consider it a major problem.”And, furthermore, the site added, “Among Americans who have experienced incivility, they report receiving 10.2 incivilities per week. Slightly more than 50% in-person, and the remaining portion in online/digital interactions.”
Ten incivilities a week!
This trend is nature’s strange gift to humanity, according to some. Dr. Hans Steiner was Professor Emeritus of Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, which studied Anger and Aggression during Covid and beyond.
He said “Anger is part of everyone’s emotional compass, helping us navigate the contingencies of life,” he wrote. “Anger signals that we are being threatened, injured, deprived, robbed of rewards and expectancies. We must stand up and take care of ourselves and those we love. The Coronavirus pandemic with its extreme disruption of normal daily life and uncertainty for the future, compounded by several other crises (economic distress, racial tension, social inequities, political and ideological conflicts) puts us all to the test: we find ourselves immersed in a pool of negative emotions: fear, sadness, contempt, and yes, anger.”
That explains my unhappiness over what happened, but how do you explain her behavior. I get the concept that my parking space thief might have been feeling those very emotions as well during the Covid crisis and may have felt that she had already given up so much, that she was going to be damned if she was going to relinquish this spot as well. The kill or be killed mentality, eh? Or maybe this was just a selfish act by a selfish person whose unattractive character was simply exacerbated by the stresses of our current culture. To me it clearly represented ‘entitlement syndrome’ run amuck.
All of us can be curt, sometimes downright rude and dismissive as well, but those behaviors are nothing to be proud of. We are certainly more talented than that and should rage against our baser instincts, right? But I still couldn’t shake my angry feelings about the incident until I read something that made me understand why I was reacting like this.
According to an article on entitlement written by The Society for Personality and Social Psychology, which is the world’s largest organization of social and personality psychologists, researchers said “not surprisingly, other people often have difficulty dealing with entitled individuals.” Well, that is an understatement. “In fact, interacting with highly entitled people can lower your well-being.” Yes! “People with a sense of entitlement are more likely to create conflict, behave dishonestly, and act selfishly. In one study, entitled individuals were even more likely to take candy from children!”
Since that incident I have read several more articles discussing how to deal with entitled people. Some experts suggest that people who do hurtful things were hurt themselves somewhere along the line. They don’t feel badly about their behavior either, because according to the site, aconsciousrethink.com.“they feel like they deserve what they’re after, so there’s no reason for them to play fair in their mind.” One piece of advice to remedy altercations with selfish people, they say, is to confront them so they recognize their behavior is unacceptable. Well, I tried that to no avail. And there were other suggestions as well but they all expected me to be the better person, by acting with compassion, kindness and humor. Fine. Let’s all behave a bit better, okay? But I think I am more inclined to follow another wise recommendation made not only by many of these sites but by friends as well.
“Just avoid them at all costs.”
(Photo Courtesy of The Harvard Business Review)
3 thoughts on “INCIVILITY RULES”
Dear Darlene, Thank You so much for your sincere and insightful article. Unfortunately as you stated , it is a most common and disturbing part of lives everywhere. Although we can not fully explain how Covid has negatively impacted us in a myriad of ways, we are all suffering the hurtful kinds of hateful, selfish and unkind actions!! Perhaps spreading awareness and sharing our feelings will in some small way help us regain a kinder , more generous attitude!! We can only TRY harder, because we know it is the right way!
Thanks for sharing – so well written!
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