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Have we lost the ability to co-exist?
Twice this weekend I witnessed rather dramatic, inappropriate overreactions to people with unrealistic expectations of privacy in very public places, and it forced me to ponder why we in LA have so much difficulty playing well with others.
Is it the car culture? Spillover of road rage onto walkways and other (rare) public spots in LA? The Interwebs? Whatever is to blame, we strongly suggest this character switch to decaf, save the rage for when the crap REALLY gets serious and/or invests in a set of these.
Incident #1 involved an older Italian man doing sit-ups on the beach (not the private Malibu kind, mind you). While he was squeezing out his ab-work, a man was standing about 10 feet away, talking on his cell phone.
After several minutes, Sit-Up Man burst out in a tirade. "Thanks a lot for making me lose count! How is it you went to college and you're still a moron?"
The argument got so heated and ridiculous I felt sure that either they must be joking or I was being PUNK'D, but after multiple exchanges of "fuck you, moron!" followed by Cell Phone Guy's huffy exit, I realized they were completely serious. (Please note that half of Sit-Up Man's scrotum was hanging out of his shorts, his genitalia can sort of be seen on Malingering's blog - I do not want to dirty LAist with things like wrinkly old man parts).
Incident #2 occurred at Barnes and Noble on the Third Street Promenade. I was standing at the magazine rack, flipping through The Book of the AR-15: America's Rifle which is doing a feature story on Beating the Jihad at Night. This spot is, as most visitors are aware, one of the most bustling sections of the bookstore complete with magazine racks butting right up to the always packed Starbucks. This is the kind of the public"third space"that civilized folks crave to hear other humans, talk with them and generally get a dose of humanity as they disconnnect from the matrix of their isolated lives. Said area has ample foot traffic as well as the ambient noise filtering in through the open front door. There were two people talking at regular volume about a magazine article they'd just looked at about how pregnancy has become a marketing ploy for celebrities. All of the sudden a man, who was sitting in the magazine section reading a book (which he had brought into Barnes and Noble to read; he had not made a purchase nor was he planning to) says, "can you stop YELLING?" He then proceeds to start mumbling and grumbling and calls the people "morons" and mutters insults under his breath for the next 3 minutes.
What's wrong with a culture that has taken road rage to the next level - newsstand rage?! Once upon a time "towns" had "greens" and "commons" where even strangers could exchange pleasantries or at the very least, tolerate normal behavior from one another in public spaces. Now, paranoia and fringe behavior seem to have replaced those interactions, with strangers calling innocent bystanders "morons" and flipping them them off 30 minutes later. C'mon people, let's get a GRIP.
First off, why is the word "moron" so popular with these disgruntled malcontents? I must stop using it. Second, why waste the energy to fight a pointless battle with perfect strangers? Has it ever been productive? I blame this all on a lack of public transportation.
People are in their cars, alone, for hours on end. They live in isolated self-contained little bubbles which require little to no courtesy or interaction with other human life forms. When suddenly their egocentric bliss is punctured by the inevitable situation requiring them to tolerate another person, they blow up and for some unknown reason start calling people morons. (Honestly, moron would not be my insult of choice for someone who I felt was talking in my imagined personal space. Loud, arrogant, self-centered, annoying, obnoxious, asshole, fuckhead, maybe. But there is nothing moronic about speaking, regardless of volume.) Maybe if we were forced to interact with each other, people would actually learn how to put up with each other. Maybe. Either that or put Falling Down on an infinite loop and give up, take your ball home and leave the playground.
Then again, it is highly likely these people are entirely self-important and delusional and no form of desensitization program will cure their ails. Maybe Sit Up Man actually believes that talking is not allowed on the beach, and maybe he buys into the idea that he owns Santa Monica. Maybe Barnes and Noble Grump honestly thought he was in some sort of reading room with and enforceable noise volume law. This would explain his complete disinterest in actually shopping or purchasing anything from the store. Maybe he was off course -- after all, the library is right down the street and it even has free Wi-Fi.
Don't get me wrong. I hate most people, and most of them are morons. I just have a hard time shouting at complete strangers for merely existing. Maybe I'm just a wuss.
P.S. I (Malingering) managed to singlehandedly piss off a third person this weekend, this random woman on the Promenade asking me to donate money to homeless starving children or some cliche charitable organization. So I gave my usual response, "no thank you, I don't like children" which generally confuses the solicitors enough for me to make a clean getaway. But this sarcasm-deficient woman starts screeching, "YOU ARE SO RUDE! I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU!" and then uses this to appeal to the 8 tourists standing in the general vicinity with the "do you know what she just said?" to share my offense with anyone who would listen. Get over yourself, lady. You're a glorified pan-handler and I doubt you give two shits about starving children, otherwise you would actually be doing something productive rather than collecting spare pennies from people as they exit McDonalds.