Last night, I was a hypocrite.
At the beginning of the semester, I wrote a column about witnessing the drunken escapades of a group of college students on a late night T ride. I still believe college students should learn how to function in the presence of alcohol in a controlled setting, such as a class or something, before being allowed to go out in public. However, Saturday changed my previously unalterable perspective.
I was enjoying myself on the commuter rail from Providence to Boston, especially because about 10 of the people in my group had struck up an animated conversation about the concept of feminist pornography. Would there be any audience whatsoever? Should it exist purely for its social value? I was duly amused — who wouldn’t be riveted by such a debate? Most people, apparently.
I took a look around our group and noticed the random people who had been caught in the undertow of our conversation. A young woman huddled in her window seat, seemingly holding onto her ear buds for dear life. A much older woman would occasionally glance behind her in horror depending on our topic of conversation. Various – gasp! — actual commuters on the commuter rail seemed to exude passive frustration. The conductor also looked annoyed, but I don’t think he should count in this story because he just looked like an angry person in general.
While these people made no active attempts to stop our undoubtedly compelling conversation, they were obviously less than thrilled. And I realized that, of course, every attitude depends on perspective.
When you’re alone or with a small group of relatively quiet people, it’s much easier to be aware of your surroundings and conscious of your actions. However, once you’re in a larger group, everyone almost naturally gets caught up in each other’s energy. The result? A whole bunch of angry passersby.
But the thing is, we’re all those fuming passersby sometimes and we’re all also the semi-rowdy people. There are those on the extreme ends of the spectrum: only focused on the negative things happening around them or only focused on making bad things happen around them (there are times when I’m positive those people exist). But for most of us, it’s inevitable that we’ll end up being both the annoyed and the annoying.
In theory, that should mean we’d all be more kind and conscientious in either of the aforementioned positions. In practice, I’m not so sure that it means anything — but isn’t it interesting to think about?
Obviously, there are limits to this idea. In general, people should be responsible for their actions. However, we’d all end up being a little less angry if we recognized that everyone gets more rambunctious in a group than we would find acceptable if we were watching the situation from an outside perspective. Then we’d learn to cut other people some slack.
Except for those drunken college kids I wrote about in September. They were just too awful.
Jessica Depies is a freshman in the College of Communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.