A peevish patron at Peet’s

Calling the kettle black

This post has absolutely nothing to do with content strategy — at least, unless we’re talking how to strategically deliver a verbal smackdown to a self-obsessed jackass in a coffee shop.

No, this post is just a bit of a rant.

This evening, I was working at a local Peet’s…checking email, reviewing copy, and generally just minding my own business. Meanwhile, at the table next to me, a guy is yakking away at full volume with his table companion; the exchange got heated several times, enough so that I’d warily glance over to see if my iced coffee was in any imminent danger from a gesticulating limb.

I suddenly realize I’ve forgotten to set a meeting time with someone. I pull out my phone and make a quick call to take care of that. Seriously, I might have been on the phone for two minutes, three at the outside.

As I go to hang up, I see my chatty neighbor glaring at me. I mean, GLARING. “If looks could kill” glaring.

“I’m sorry, is there a problem?” I ask.

“You should not be using your phone in here!” he barks at me. “No one wants to hear your  conversation!”

I’m stunned. This is the guy who was practically pulling on his boxing gloves about ten minutes earlier. I should just roll my eyes and let this go, but it’s been a long day, and my fuse is short, so I engage.

“Are you kidding me? That was a two-minute call. I’ve been forced to listen to you since I sat down. Are you just annoyed because you couldn’t hear both ends of my conversation?” I respond. (Okay, so that was a snarky thing to say, but still.)

Whereupon he delivers a blistering verbal attack, during which he tells me I’m rude, that someday “you’ll learn better,” that no one should ever use a “god-damned cell phone” in a coffee shop, etc. etc. And I shoot back that I didn’t think coffee shops followed library etiquette, that a quick conversation on a phone is certainly no ruder than a loud harangue with a table companion, and that he’s actually being the rude one in this case since he’s now raising his voice and swearing at me.

Now, I’m the first to acknowledge that there is such a thing as an annoying cell-phone conversation. I’ve heard enough teenagers  yapping with their BFFs about all manner of trivia, usually at top volume, not to accept that there are times you’d want to strangle a mobile user. But I submit that not all cell-phone use is created equal. Seriously. Is my two-minute call really worse than an in-person Jerry Springer presentation? Really?

Anyway, part of this may have been brought on by the fact that this guy was on the older side — probably nearing 60 —  while I was sitting there with my Kindle, iPhone, and netbook. Maybe there’s an age etiquette/resentment thing happening, with him thinking I’m some upstart techie whippersnapper. Maybe he thought I shouldn’t sass back at my elders. Maybe he was just cranky. Who knows?

But all I know that is him chewing me loudly and out in public was probably one of the rudest things he could have done. Was using my phone an etiquette breach? Maybe. I’ll grant you that there’s a fine line. But it was all pretty much the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think?

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