Public etiquette

I was recently engaged in a conversation with friends about the concept of public space.

Their argument was that public space is just that, ‘public’, and as a result they should not be restricted by the rules imposed upon them within a private space.

Their argument continued with the idea that because it is public space, others should be more tolerant of their behaviour. For example that they should be allowed to play their music loud, because it is a public space;  or they should be allowed to speak loudly on the phone, because it is a public space; Eat smelly foods, because it is a public space; smoke, because it is a public space; and the list goes on.

My personal stance is very different.

I believe that general etiquette should be employed because it is a public space. The onus should be on the individual to have minimal impact on their public environment, rather that on others to be tolerant of the intrusive behaviour of neighbours.

If I am on the bus I will keep my mobile phone private conversations brief, quiet and private. If I am on the train I will keep my personal music personal, and if I am in the park, I will ensure that my behaviour has as little impact on other users as possible.

I do not see these common courtesies as an imposition on my enjoyment or a restriction on my way of life. I see it as a way of ensuring my enjoyment and that everybody’s public standard of interaction is a pleasant one, or at the very least, that my public behaviour and actions do not have a negative impact on others.

In other countries this public etiquette goes without saying, however there are supposedly civilised countries where this most basic of etiquettes is not generally employed.

There are a generation of people that believe that it is their right to allow their private predicaments to impose upon a public arena.

They seem to think that I am interested in their phone calls, or that I must want to be part of a conversation that is much too loud on the train. Yet were I to engage them in their conversation or comment on their now public broadcast, they would be offended and tell me to mind my own business. Of course, to this my answer is always, “You have made it my business my broadcasting it publicly”

The emphasis should be on an individual to have a negative impact on their public environment, and not on the public to be tolerant of inconsiderate behaviour.

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~ by jeditopcat on 27 December, 2009.

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