I’m thinking of all the times I’ve confronted what I consider to be rude behavior and how little good it’s probably done. The over-loud cell phone conversations I’ve interrupted, the smokers I’ve asked not to smoke in non-smoking areas, the parents I’ve asked to calm their crying infants in movie theaters and restaurants. While I do more often than not accomplish short-term local change, I doubt seriously that I’ve made the world a better place for anybody but me, and then only for a few minutes or hours. Still, as automatically as I’d straighten a picture frame hanging crooked on the wall, I’ll rise from my chair to cross a room where I’ll hear myself begin, “Excuse me, but …” and the knot tightens in anticipation of the rebuttal or the blank stare.
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