Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Following the Rules

I’m a rules guy. I try to follow the rules that help keep our society civilized and expect others to do the same. That’s where my plan fails. By the way, I should state up front that I do break the rules myself sometimes, but I try to do it in a way that doesn’t affect others. For example, I’ll exceed the speed limit by five or ten miles an hour, but I’m not reckless about it. I don’t tailgate or cut people off, but just drive faster than the rules say I should. Since maybe 7 out of 10 drivers do the same, it has become sort of OK to do this, but yes, it is breaking the rules. What bothers me is people who flagrantly break the rules with no regard as to how it affects others. Here are some examples:

Lines: We stand in line for all sorts of things like supermarket checkout, department stores, banks, DMV transactions, etc. Most businesses now use a single queue for multiple cashiers so you don’t get stuck behind the guy who needs the price check or the pinhead who is never ready to order or pay when his turn comes. I also hate people who come to the head of the line and say: “I’ve just got one or two items…is it OK if I cut in?” Am I empowered by all those in line behind me to give permission for this line cut? No. Why can’t the cutters just wait their turn! If I’m alone with a big order, I’ll always let them ahead of me, but I won’t presume it’s OK if other people are waiting as well. The vehicular equivalent is the guy who starts his own exit line after driving around all the other cars waiting to exit. If I thought I could get one, I’d have a bumper-mounted missile launcher on my car to take these selfish bastards out of the gene pool.

Courtesy: Extending simple courtesies to one another is the grease that keeps our society lubricated. Some misguided men decided that the advent of “women’s lib” was an excuse to stop holding doors and giving up their seats on public transportation. Courtesy has nothing to do with gender. Standing so an older or physically challenged person can sit is just common decency. A modern discourtesy that pushes my buttons is loud, inane, never-ending cell phone conversations in public. In New Jersey and Connecticut, drivers stop when there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Some New York drivers step on the gas. People show up in restaurants and hotel lobbies in bare feet. Inconsiderate theater-goers show up 30 minutes after the curtain only because they’re too damned lazy to leave home on time. I could go on. We need to examine our behavior and restore some of the little niceties that were once taken for granted.

Classroom behavior: When I was in grade school, the teachers ruled with an iron fist. People today are horrified by this. They can’t bear the thought of a child being spoken to in a critical tone in school much less physically disciplined. They miss the point entirely. In school, right from first grade, the rules were explained to us. We had two choices: obey them and be left alone, or disobey them and risk the consequences, including maybe a whack or two with a ruler. It didn’t take much to get us to appreciate the wisdom of following the rules. Once we did, the teacher was free from distractions and could focus on teaching. Moreover, we were less inclined to make trouble and could focus on learning. And learn we did. Students today can do as they please and teachers have little recourse. Discipline is non-existent and to make things worse, parents will often defend their children without even hearing the teacher’s side. If you need a reason why students today learn less than those of 50 years ago, look no further: it’s the lack of discipline.

In the workplace: There are rules that apply on the job. Like in school, workers have the rules explained early on and also the consequences for not obeying them. That should be enough but it never is. People come late to work regularly. They abuse sick time. They take risks at work that put themselves and their co-workers in harm’s way. They horse around, harass co-workers, dress inappropriately, defy management and generally behave like babies. One development that works against compliance with the rules on the job is the power of unions. Originally established to fight abuses of workers, unions have seen to it that the shoe is now on the other foot. Like the misguided parent in the classroom, they stand behind their members no matter what the offense. They also press for pay rates and benefits far above what is paid in other countries for the same skills. This has made doing business in America very expensive and unproductive. Ironically, the very jobs unions seek to protect have been driven overseas because of their greedy excesses.

I know I am probably out of step with a lot of people, especially younger ones, in insisting that people obey the rules. Today’s mantra is “Let me do my own thing.” The problem is when your thing conflicts with my thing, who wins? That’s why rules (and laws) are set up…so we all know what we are required to do to avoid anarchy. Is it too much to expect people to obey?

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2 comments:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

Nicely, and truly said.May I add: "Amen!"

The Whiner said...

Like George Costanza said "We're living in a society here!" I hate rudeness, in all forms. And the cell phone-squawkers, the pajamas-in-public people, and the lane-makers should all be evicted from the planet.