I was sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office yesterday, reading, when the gentleman beside me began watching something on YouTube without headphones.
I assumed that it was a mistake. His browser has opened accidentally. He would quickly close the app and maybe even apologize. But no, he just thought it perfectly fine that he fill this communal space with the sound of his own personal programming.
I was weighing the pros and cons of the polite request versus the direct assault on his character when a nurse called my name and the point became moot. I walked away, leaving the sound of the man's phone in my wake.
This was bad. The fact that these human beings exist is frightening. Even now, I regret the time wasted debating the proper course of action. I should have just leapt into action rather than dithering in my seat like an indecisive Hamlet. I should've launched my missiles. Commenced an all-out assault. Combined public shame with personal outrage to end this behavior forever.
I suspect that I hesitated because I am a teacher who was on his lunch break from work, so part of me felt like I was still operating in teacher-mode. Anything and everything I did was through the lens of an educator. I was mistakenly calculating and overly concerned with the feelings of another.
The responsibilities of my position caused me to falter in a time of need, and for that, I am sorry.
But here is the truly horrific part of this story:
I returned to school and told my fifth graders about this man and his offensive behavior. Of the 21 fifth graders in the room, 17 of them thought the man's decision to listen to his video in a communal space without headphones was perfectly fine.
They thought I was overreacting. They thought I had no right to be offended. They saw nothing wrong with this morally reprehensible behavior.
Please tell me that this faulty logic and failed set of ethics are the result of their blinding, unavoidable youth and not a shifting set of norms that will result in a world polluted by the sound of individuals' content choices.
I shudder to think of what the future will be like if this generation of children become adults who think it's perfectly right and just to listen to audio content in a public space without headphones.
I may never leave the house again.