We swear at each other from cars, bark at each other on the TTC and yell into our cellphones. How a supposedly livable city suddenly turned boorish
(Illustration by Kagan McLeod)
I got into a cat fight the other day at the Bolshoi ballet, one of those live satellite transmissions at my local Cineplex, where people arrive an hour early to get a good seat. The orchestra in Moscow hadn’t yet begun warming up when one balletomane barked at me for sitting in her territory, a 10-seat swath ambiguously marked with scattered scarves and hats. “You can’t sit there,” she said, with surprising nastiness. When I chose a seat farther down the row, she snapped, “That’s taken, too.” Steaming, I moved to a third spot and plunked my bag down on the seat beside me, not to save it for anyone, but to ensure zero human contact after being bullied by Lady Ten-Seat.
Rudeness is contagious. When another woman arrived a minute later and needed two seats, I set my jaw. “You’re not going to move your bag?” she asked, incredulous. “Nope,” I replied. We exchanged sharp words. “I’m tired of being pushed around by your friend,” I finally hissed, nodding at Lady Ten-Seat. It turned out not only did they not know one another, but my newfound adversary had just received the same rude treatment. “Now I’m totally edgy, too,” she confessed, suddenly extending her hand. “I’m Jane. Let’s be friends.” Mortified, I shook her hand, apologized and moved my coat. Then we all settled in to watch Giselle.
I wish such hostile encounters were rare, but it’s hard to navigate the city these days without experiencing friction. At least that’s my observation. Perhaps I’m just a magnet for trouble. Perhaps you, on the other hand, float through winter with people politely stepping into snowbanks to let you pass; perhaps you’ve never been held captive to a cellphone user’s inane conversation on a streetcar. But I say civility is on the decline, and the evidence is everywhere.
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