I’m sorry! Was that rude?

Image of a turtle crossing a roadThis morning, I read a post about the rude things people do in, with, and via email. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was going to offer some helpful email etiquette tips along the lines of, “Always include a salutation, rather than just diving into your message.”

Instead, it was a mild rant about a whole list of things the poster finds annoying.

What I learned from reading it is that people have become oblivious to the things they do that are truly rude, and instead classify petty annoyances and eccentricities as impolite. There’s a gigantic difference.

One item on the list was “Using the read-receipt function.” Having worked for some really large companies, I can say the read receipt is a function that has its place. Yes, I’ve had people send me emails with read-receipt enabled and thought it was weird, but I’d never classify it as rude. Did it infringe on any of my personal, Constitutionally endowed freedoms? No. Did it insult me? No. Was it in any way inconsiderate? No. Was it odd? Yes. Did it irritate me? Maybe. Okay — so it was annoying, not rude.

So let’s talk about some things that are actually rude:

  • Using the express line at the grocery store when you have more than the maximum number of items in your basket. Why? Because, by doing so, you are asserting that your time is more valuable than that of the other people waiting behind you. It’s not. Everyone’s time is of equal value. Get into one of the regular lines and wait your turn like everyone else. It’s how people behave when they want to live among other people. If you don’t want to play by the rules, go off the grid.
    Still of George Costanza (Jason Alexander) in "Seinfeld."
  • Returning an item to a store after you’ve opened it, used it, bent it, written in it, worn it, eaten it, etc. That’s called stealing, and it’s extremely rude. Work for it, or go without it.
  • Not stopping your car to move a turtle off the road. Come on. Is where you’re going more important than the life of that poor little dude on the road? If you’re not driving someone to the ER (someone who legitimately needs an ER; as in, they’re bleeding to death), PULL OVER AND MOVE THE TURTLE. (Even then, I’d ask you to consider carefully whether you’re doing a real service to society by choosing your passenger over the turtle. Your decision will probably depend on how well you know him, whether he’s a relative or friend, etc.) 
  • Not covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Who didn’t learn this by age four?
  • Using the last of the water in the Keurig brewer and not refilling it. This is just uncivilized.

All rude behavior is annoying. But not everything that is annoying can rightfully be classified as rude. To call it so is akin to crying wolf, and it makes the crier look like a whiny brat.

Share the roads! Move the turtle.