Boorish behavior can be trying

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What behavior do you find most offensive?

Staff illustration  Nate Owens/Staff
Nate Owens/Staff
Staff illustration

Twerps talking on a cell phone or talking with friends through a movie

Idiots holding loud, very personal cell phone conversations at the store checkout line

Obscenity-spewing cell phone blabbers anywhere in public

Unruly children at a restaurant

Boors who talk through a music or live stage performance

Loud music from a neighboring car at the gas station or at a red light

Changing a diaper in public

Breast-feeding in public


Sure, you've all seen or heard it, and probably been affected by it. The guy talking loudly in the movies. The woman holding a long cell-phone conversation in a theater or other improper setting. The rowdy, disruptive child screaming and running rampant in a restaurant.

There are many such intrusions every day into your personal space, but you can take steps to restore your bubble. Most of the time, you can get relief by politely telling the offenders that their behavior is intrusive, according to Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert and a contributor to Fox News and other media outlets.

Here are some common situations, and some tips on how to cope:

Noise in public

While dining out, Monte Collier, of North Augusta, is grossed out and loses his appetite "right when I'm about to eat the good part" when people at a nearby table blow their noses.

Unruly children in restaurants also burn him up.

"People won't control their kids. They'll just be running all over the place," he said. "I was eating at a Red Lobster once, and this kid kept acting up. All his mom did was threaten him with timeout; he was crying for 10 minutes. That's aggravating when I'm trying to enjoy my meal."

Two approaches can be taken to handle this, Mr. Wanis said: Talk to the parents or to the waiter.

"Try to relate to the parents, saying something like, 'Children sure do have a lot of energy, don't they? I wonder what it would take for them to calm down a little?'

"It's not what you say; it's how you say it. I know you'll feel frustrated, but this is a very sensitive topic. There's no easy answer. Some parents freak out about their children - be prepared for that."

Sometimes it's easier to have the waiter handle the situation, he said.

Movie chatter

People talking in movie theaters annoy Derek Character, but he does not go ballistic in handling the situation, he said.

"If I'm in a movie and people are talking, I'll turn around and tell them to be quiet,'' he said. ''You just nicely say, 'Hey, I'm trying to watch the movie; can you hold it down a bit?' I'm not going to miss out on my movie."

Mr. Character, who was visiting from Memphis, Tenn., said mildly admonishing the offenders is the best approach because many people are unaware of their behavior.

"There's some rude people, but I think a lot of it is that they don't think," he said. "It's like when people are talking loud on their cell phones - they don't realize it. I think the majority of people don't realize what they're doing because they're selfish or not thinking of others, but when you bring it to their attention, they say, 'Oh, I didn't realize that.'"

Mr. Wanis agreed that offenders might not realize what's happening, but sometimes they just want attention, he said; politely asking them to quiet down is the best approach.

"What's more important than what you say is your tone of voice. Try to say it in a soft, gentle manner, asking a question," he said. "Don't attack the person, then you'll create an argument because the person will be embarrassed already."

After the second or third request, be stern, he said, and if the chatter continues, have an attendant handle it.

Cell-phone chatter

Edgefield, S.C., resident Crystal Simpkins hates it when people use cell phones in inappropriate times and places and "have the nerve to be shopping and have their phone on speaker talking to someone using vulgar language," she said.

She especially doesn't like when she's in line at a checkout counter in a store behind someone who is so wrapped up in a phone conversation that she's not paying attention when the cashier is ready to conduct business.

"It's annoying. When in public, I feel people should use their cell phones when they're needed to be used, not just for pleasure. But when you're in any store in line, you should focus on what you're doing," said Mrs. Simpkins, 26. "It's holding me up, especially when I'm in a rush. And they'll look at you and act as if nothing is wrong."

Mr. Wanis said this relates to the Me Generation. What can be done here is to politely make the person aware that the clerk is ready or let the clerk handle it.

Tune it out

Loud music coming from a car at a stop light is something people should not get bent out of shape about, Mr. Wanis said.

"When people are playing their music so loud, they're saying, 'Look at me.' They're trying to prove something to you, trying to get noticed," he said. "I just put up my window.

"You're at the light for a minute at most. Be patient; you don't want to create a situation. So if there's a way you can avoid any sort of confrontation, I'd simply put the window up and let it go."

Changing a baby's diaper in public is sometimes unavoidable, but it should be done in a private area, he said. He feels there is nothing wrong with breast-feeding in public so long as the feeding is covered up with a blanket,

"Try and make whatever you do as private as possible,'" he said, "so it's as least offensive as possible."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or


Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert and a contributor to Fox News and other media outlets, gives his views on rude behavior:

What is personal space? The space where you feel comfortable, usually about a 3-foot distance around you. This also relates to auditory space, the few feet around you where you would like it to be relatively quiet in order to have a conversation.

Who's rude? The Me Generation - people who are self-absorbed and inconsiderate of their surroundings and who want to take more than give.

Who's at fault? Younger people are generally the perpetrators of this behavior, but it's being reinforced by parents who are not instilling in their children the concept of caring about other people and giving back.

What can be done? A simple return to morals, values and ethics, including respect for self and others.

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Robin 07/31/07 - 09:49 am
I visited Augusta for the

I visited Augusta for the first time last week and was dismayed to come across this article in the local paper. How did a woman feeding her child come to rest on a list of "boorish" behaviors? There is nothing disgusting about breastfeeding, my disgust lies only with those who have so sexualized breasts that they cannot think of them as anything but a bedroom toy.

In the article Wanis deigns to permit breastfeeding as long as it is "covered up with a blanket". When Mr. Wanis begins eating all his meals with a blanket over his head then I will subject my child to the same.

SDoo 08/02/07 - 02:46 pm
The behavior that I find most

The behavior that I find most offensive isn't listed. I find your article and its ignorance about breastfeeding most offensive. I have never seen a woman breastfeeding her child in a way that was anything but private, even without a blanket. In fact, I see less skin showing from a breastfeeding mother than I do from at least half of our population of young women walking around town. With our hot Southern summers, why should I make my child sweat under a blanket just to make you more comfortable?

Victoria 08/02/07 - 03:49 pm
Okay it can be offensive to

Okay it can be offensive to see someone:

*Talking through a movie, musical, or live performance

*Holding loud, obscenity-spewing, and/or very personal cell phone conversations in the open

Nowadays honestly I'll have to give or take to someone:

*Playing music too loud, cause if may song comes on the radio, I can't help myself either

*With unruly children cause I have a 2-year child myself and people complaining needs to understand and know this isn't always easy to handle. And it gets harder these days to discipline your kids when someone may call the police on you for doing so.

What is the big deal with changing a diaper in public?

*People walk around exposing their breast, butt, throngs, chest, stomach and other body parts we care not to see all the time. And you mean to tell me people get offended when an innocent baby is getting its diaper changed around you! We don't care to see alot of things, but we have too. And why should someone have to walk far out of YOUR view to change their child. Whomever this offends must not have or cared for babies.

Victoria 08/02/07 - 04:22 pm
Serious Talk Now:

Serious Talk Now: Breastfeeding in public? WHY IS THIS EVEN ON THIS LIST? The most nourishing, natural, responsible, and loving way possible that is MEANT for out babies is seen as RUDE and OFFENSIVE if done in public. You mean to tell me nursing moms should go to the restroom, hide in a corner out of public view, and/or stay at home if we are breastfeeding? Why the all the shame & would you want to eat your meal on a toilet stall or in a little corner? Where are these mothers whipping their breast out all in public exposing themselves when they are breastfeeding? Now where are the women with their breast out in public view for no useful reason at all like flaunting a cute top or tatoo, selling beer, wings, clothes, bras and etc, and last but not least for a man's satisfaction? I see that more than I see women nursing in public. When did naturally feeding your child become an eyesore? This society is so twisted about the true use of a woman's breast. Offended people learn that it is 4 OUR BABY'S NOURISHMENT, HEALTH, AND GROWTH. Get it right?

My Basis Rule: Don't stare & if you don't like what you see turn your head the other way, it'll be all over before you know it.

FallingLeaves 08/02/07 - 06:34 pm
I cannot believe

I cannot believe breastfeeding a baby in public is on the list. God made woman to breastfeed her babies. Breastfeeding is one of the most important priorities in a child's life. It is not offensive. But butt-crawling tight short shorts, breasts straining out of too-tight and revealing tank tops for no reason except immodesty and poor taste, noisy accident-prone flip flops, gum-snapping and smacking, cell-phone yakking in auditoriums, theatres and churches during performances, spewing obscenities in front of minors, droopy drawers and crotch grabbing, ear busting booming bass in cars and homes, now those should be on the list as offensive to eyes and ears. Oh, and if you have long and/or painted nails and you touch me, my food, plate or handle my groceries, I'm canceling my order and I won't be back. You can't possibly get them clean enough for my standards and I don't want fingernail polish or germs adulterating anything I eat or drink. If you are a cashier and don't greet me, count my change back, and thank me for my business, I won't be back and there WILL be a complaint to customer service. Especially when you've switched on the Personality chatting up the guy behind me.

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