I drove into the gas station in New Jersey, where there are still people who pump the gas for you. I’d been to this particular station many times before, and it happens to be located in a pretty middle-class, quiet suburban town. It’s not like it’s a palace, I mean, it’s still a gas station, but the place is in a very sedate commercial district, not even remotely urban or run-down.
As I drove up, I rolled down the window closest to the pump, preparing to give the attendant my credit card . It was just chilly enough out that I didn’t love having to keep it open the whole time, but if you turn off the engine, the window stays open. It’s the only inconvenient part of the experience…until tonight.
With my window open, I could hear some loud rap music playing, and at first, I assumed it was coming from one of the cars. Kids, I thought to myself. All determined to become deaf before they are 30. If I can hear it this clearly, it must be blisteringly loud inside that car.
This sweet-faced attendant came to the window and smiled at me while asking what I want, and got my card. I entertained myself while the gas was pumping by trying to figure out who was playing the music. I looked at the car next to me, and no, it wasn’t them. Was it the car behind the little booth the attendant sits in when it’s slow? No, it wasn’t coming from there, either.
Then, I started to notice the lyrics. “Wait, did he just say the n-word? And hey, that’s a lot of “bitch” to be throwing around. Is this really necessary?” Now an f-bomb or two, and the one that really got me was the part about how “a dawg’s gotta eat, and where’s that food at, bitch?” Ok, that’s it. That’s about enough for me. I’m starting to get annoyed by the aural assault, but more than that, I am finding that it is really obnoxious to have to listen to it in a public place where I was, at least temporarily, trapped.
At about the same time as the Neanderthal singer was telling his “bitch” to get with the food prep, I realized that this was coming from the little attendant booth. What the…the people working there were playing that? Look, I’m no hot-house flower about cursing, as anyone who has heard our show can attest, but the free-flowing misogyny is offensive, and the cursing should not be playing at a business in quiet suburbia if they intend to keep customers. Not to say that it is acceptable anywhere else either, but I know darn well that it is only a matter of time before someone is going to complain. I wondered if it should be me? I mean, for their own good, really. They are going to annoy/scare away customers with this nasty music.
I was reminded of the time that I was at a touristy but affluent beach town, and wandered into a desolate Build a Bear knock off store. The clerk was playing some music at blasting levels, and the grandmotherly woman and I who were the only customers were not exactly enjoying the shopping music she had chosen. When the lyrics turned to “Eff! Effity EFF! Something about your mother and effing, and EFFFFFFF!”, I told the girl that her musical choice was wildly inappropriate for a fluffy little make your own stuffed animal store. She got the message, but why did I even have to tell her this?
Back at the gas station, I suddenly realized that I was not the only one coming to the same conclusion at the same time, because another middle-aged woman across the gas pump from me was sitting in her car with the window open, with the same astounded look as I am sure was on my face. We made eye contact, and started talking. “Is this for REAL?” I asked her. We were on the same wavelength completely. “Isn’t this lovely? The world is completely going to hell,” she concluded. She caught the attention of one of the attendants, and I didn’t hear what she said, but it prompted him to lower the music to barely audible. After he stepped away, we continued. “What blows me away is that someone had to SAY something,” I offered. “Amazing,” she said. “Maybe we are just getting old,” she pondered. I agreed with her that maybe we were, and wondered if it was a symptom of the crankiness of aging (“You kids get offa my lawn!”), or was it just really inappropriate? It is sad that it took two “Too old to care if you get mad at me for saying this” broads to shut it down, and that someone had to be told that it was not the time or place.
I am leaning towards believing that the world is becoming a less civil, less mannered and considerate place. Manners were never meant to be for us – they are meant for other people. Just like turn signals on a car – they aren’t for you, the driver. You KNOW which way you are going. It’s for the other people driving around you, so that they can plan around your movements. So is the idea of being considerate of others in public. Other people don’t want to hear your blasting music…they might hate what you consider amazing. They don’t want to hear your loud one-sided cell phone calls. Keep a lid on the decibels you are putting out. My pet peeve of all time – no one wants to hear your constant critique and commentary of the music at a venue – they want to listen to the music without hearing you run your inane mouth. No one wants to eat out of the peanut butter jar when you have been dipping your fingers in it. Get a hold of yourselves, world, and realize that there are others sharing the planet who don’t share your enthusiasms or habits. And once you understand that, I won’t have to go around telling you to turn down your Muther Effer music, because you will already know not to play it with customers around in the first place.