Service of You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me

August 24th, 2015

Categories: Chutzpah, Manners, Theatre, Unconscious

Bus with Selfish Passenger

This post is similar to “Service of Chutzpah” that I wrote this winter: In spite of the greatly improved weather and beautiful long summer days, the clueless, thoughtless bug is still in the air.

Bus Stop

I was on a bus when an able woman in her 40s entered with a marketing cart bulging with purchases. I empathize: I don’t have a marketing basket but after a visit to Trader Joe I often carry two heavy shopping bags. On the style of bus we were on that day, I’d head for the connecting area between the two sections where there’s plenty of room to stash bags, suitcases or a marketing cart—on the metal floor in the photo above.  

If you look carefully, you can see her shopping cart hogging the aisle in the front of the bus. The subsequent logjam resulted in frazzled nerves and delays. When the bus driver asked her to move the cart, she didn’t budge until she got out four stops later.

I don’t have that kind of nerve.

The Show Must Go On

Here are two early July head-slapping examples involving members of NY theatre audiences.

Patti LuPone ripped the phone out of a woman’s hand without missing a beat as she played a diva, Irene, in “Shows for Days.” She’d been texting throughout the star’s performance at Lincoln Center. According to Beckie Strum in the New York Post, her co-star Michael Urie said her performance, “…was good and it didn’t disrupt the momentum of the play.” Lupone told Playbill that the LED smartphone screen disrupts audience members and actors alike. She was particularly annoyed because earlier that day the matinee performance was punctuated by ringtones and the screech of a faulty hearing aid.

Before a performance of “Hand to God” at the Booth Theatre another audience member jumped on stage to try to charge his cell phone on what turned out to be a prop that wasn’t plugged into an outlet. Robert Viagas wrote on, “It’s nice that people feel at home at Broadway theatres — but perhaps they shouldn’t feel this at home.”

Behind the Curtain

And in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Pia Catton wrote “Phones Rankle Offstage, Too.” In just one example she described a typical incident. “Opera singer Jennifer Rowley, who performs at the Metropolitan Opera and London’s Covent Garden, said she once auditioned for a director who, exasperated by her chosen song, started out barely paying attention. ‘He immediately pulled out his phone and starting texting while I was singing,’ said the soprano, whose high notes ultimately proved more captivating than his screen. ‘When it got interesting, he stopped.'”

I can’t tell if these people—none of whom are kids–are stupid, feel entitled, are unconscious, suffer from extreme selfishness or come from a different planet. And you? Have you noticed or read about other such incidents of late?

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12 Responses to “Service of You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me”

  1. ghg Said:

    In mulling over the phenomena you describe, I’m not sure it’s sporadic chutzpah that is the problem. Rather, I think it is the consequence of demographic changes.

    The world is rapidly becoming overcrowded. There is less to go around and more of us to consume what there is. Population migrations are becoming uncontrollable as people try to seek a better life. The young are turning to violent, virulently aggressive religions. Overcrowding causes friction, and people are becoming increasingly belligerent towards one another. In this country, the answer used to be Horace Greely’s “Go West young man,” to escape. Now, the West is full up and ravaged by drought and fire. There is nowhere to escape to.

    I once worked for an extremely fair and competent German, and had as my deputy, another exceptionally capable and loyal German. The latter told be in confidence (and with exceptional candor) of a conversation he had had with the former, also a good friend of his, about me. They had both questioned whether, as an American, had I worked in Germany, I would have had a thick enough skin to survive the vertical brutality of the boss/subordinate business structure typical in the German business model.

    As our population changes, so does the way we treat one another. I’m afraid we will never live to see President Bush Senior’s “kinder, gentler world.”

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    New York City, where I grew up, was always crowded. Most of us lived one on top of the other in apartment houses as we do now. Streets, subways and busses were crowded at rush hour for certain. There were unwritten rules: natives knew how to negotiate the crowds without crashing into one another and were more aware of each other’s space. So crowds are nothing new to us: Courtesy was the lubricant that helped it work.

    When subways weren’t air conditioned, I’d dread the rides to and from work. Crammed next to other sweaty people was horrific. [It was probably then that I developed the habit of working late, so I wouldn’t have to touch other hot arms and legs with another benefit of getting a leg up on the next day’s deadlines.] On one such train a woman fainted–it probably happened all the time then–and the other commuters were caring of her. I lived in Brooklyn at the time, a borough known for its diversity.

    I can’t speak about the woman on the bus in the photo I took but anyone who can afford to go to the theatre has hefty disposable income given the price of Broadway tickets these days. I can assume that members of the audience are not disadvantaged. [Nor was the director who auditioned the opera singer.] As people were educated at one time to be more solicitous of one another, I’d like to believe that we can do it again. As populations explode in some parts of the world and their citizens leak into other countries, as they are now doing in Europe, I would hope that people remember–or are reminded–of how courtesy goes a long way for making sardine-like living more bearable.

  3. EAM Said:

    Jerry Seinfeld wrote a book once “On Civility.” I think NYers have lost their way. Always, the first to get the cab, get on the bus, on the subway, cross the street, get a seat. In my younger years, my wise-cracking self would’ve made a comment, now I just wait until it affects me directly. I don’t understand why people aren’t self-aware enough to realize their behavior is AFFECTING OTHERS! And yes, people do feel very entitled and self-centered.

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    What appears to be “chutzpah” and/or “balls” or plain old lack of consideration to some is ordinary behavior to others. Life is way too short to be bothered over most of these antics. However:

    The bus driver might have won the hearts of his passengers had he stalled the bus and forced the shopping cart lady to where she belonged. Chances are she wouldn’t have tried that again!

    Three cheers for Lupine’s phone snatch, with one dumb woman hopefully getting a lifelong lesson.

    Either rudeness is inherent in the director, or he was dealing with an emergency. His behavior is up to interpretation. Did the lady get the part? In either case, her lack of silence is both indiscreet and unwise assuming Monsieur le Directeur has a good memory along with the power to make or break careers.

  5. jmbyington Said:


    She got that and many other parts. I’d like to think the director had an emergency.

    I wonder who determines what’s correct these days.

  6. Hank Goldman Said:

    Great topic.
    Great blog.
    I get annoyed at far lesser “log jams” and thoughtless people.
    Joanie, my wife, thinks morons are best just forgotten.
    I’m trying to learn her technique.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I, too, wish I could be more like Joanie. I find if I write about morons, it’s easier to forget them. A cleansing!

  8. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: Too many people feel “the rules” don’t apply to them. We recently saw Gordon Lightfoot in concert, (fantastic show by a living legend!)and people were taking flash photos and videos throughout the performance…even though the theater staff came on stage before the show, asking people to respect the performers. It was REALLY annoying, because the screens light up and distract everyone. Cretins!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Those selfish people are the same as folks who toss their garbage in the street or on country roads. Their convenience is the only important thing.

  10. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: Agreed! In all honesty, I took my camera, too. I turned off the flash and set it to “night scenery” setting. I got a somewhat-blurry photo of Gordon Lightfoot on stage. I came home, and downloaded a much better, NON-blurry photo off his website, to go into the scrapbook with my ticket stubs. And I didn’t disturb anyone around me in the process…..

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    These selfish people are no different than those who pick flowers in public or private gardens for no other reason than they want them.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I thought it was New Yorkers, alone, who had lost their way but the last time I was in Paris, I noticed that even women of a certain age would bump into me and not apologize. No, they weren’t pickpockets! This incivility seems to be contagious, one of the negatives of a global economy. If we could only imitate only the best of one another…Dream on!

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