27
Oct
11

Hung up on rudeness

An old Asian man talking on a cell phone—I think he was speaking Chinese—entered the 23 bus heading north into Center City. He sat behind a black woman.

The second his cheeks hit the seat, she half-turned, never quite looking at him, and yelled to … I don’t know, the opposite wall, maybe, “I know you ain’t gonna sit behind me yapping into that thing at me!” Her eyes were wide, her lips stern.

Unperturbed, and without a waver in his voice, the man stood up and moved to the back of the bus. She turned to face forward.

Maybe I’m oversensitive, but it seemed like a racist impulse to me. It was something in the way she said “yapping,” and the way she jumped at him instantly, without hesitation, and with an absolute moral certainty. For a moment I was amused to observe a racist action that had nothing to do with a white person.

In fact, when the black woman nodded toward a white woman in the old folks seats to seek agreement and solidarity, the white woman ignored her. (Who knows: That could have been born of racism, too.)

But maybe she wasn’t being racist at all. Cell phones on buses are annoying. (I don’t even answer the phone when I get a call during my ride.) I still don’t like the way she handled it. It didn’t win her any friends on that bus.

The Chinese man’s conversation didn’t actually bother me all that much. I can tune it out if it’s another language, but I think if he were speaking English I would have been more annoyed.

Of course I don’t know if he was offended or not. I doubt it. Maybe he took her words to heart. Maybe he didn’t even hear her words, and he was just trying to get away from a noise as annoying to him as his phone call was to us.

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1 Response to “Hung up on rudeness”


  1. October 31, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Sounds to me like it was pretty rude. Hard to say what her motivations were, but it seems like she has a fair amount to learn about civil discourse. With that said, the guy talking on his phone probably wouldn’t win any awards for etiquette, either.


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