For the past week, I think I’ve had excess estrogen in my body — I’ve been super irritable around other people. Boston University, which has a mix of students with varied personalities, can do this to a person from time to time.
After I graduated high school, I thought I’d no longer have to deal with loud, impolite people, but the opposite has happened since I came to Boston. Whether I’m in the library or at a party, there are always at least a few people who either can’t seem to follow the rules of social etiquette, or are just simply incompetent.
There have been two aggravating examples of obnoxious people in the past week, including fellow students in class, tourists and library-goers.
I gave a small presentation on some classics-related research I’ve been doing in front of a class filled mainly with another species of major. I won’t say specifically what this major is, but let’s just say anyone who can read the language this column is in would be a qualified concentrator.
Having dealt with them in my Core humanities classes, I normally disregard these people as irrelevant, but on this particular day I had to field questions from everyone. I talked briefly about a straightforward subject and explained a few simple terms that related to my project.
It’s funny how some people can be so pseudo-intellectual at one time only to prove themselves thoroughly ignorant at another time (I’m referring to a past column I wrote on pretentious question-askers in class). As soon as something new is presented to them, it becomes threatening because it uses technical terms and accredited sources, leaving minimal space for follow-up comments that begin with “I feel that the lines actually mean…” or “It seems to me so profound that…”
So with five minutes remaining in said class, these very people (they must have read my column!) gave my presentation vainly critical feedback — vain because it was clear to me that instead of listening to my short talk, they had latched their “Downton Abbey” pea-brains onto minor points they had misinterpreted.
But I made sure I was very polite in responding to the questions without being overly pedantic, because that is pretty insulting, and they probably didn’t mean to be so rude.
I give museum tours each week – I obviously won’t say where – but I really love doing this because I get to see all kinds of people each time and teach them totally random facts. But the last time I was giving a tour several members of the group were talking the entire time in French. Normally this would be fine, except that I work in what is essentially an echo chamber, so everyone else in the group was having trouble hearing me over the background noise.
But I’m too much of a wimp to tell people to please not talk, so I just went on reciting facts for the next few minutes until the tour was over. I can’t convey how awkward it is to continue talking while other people are clearly not paying attention, so now I have sympathy for all of my middle school teachers (and high school teachers, and college professors, come to think of it). The French tourists came up to ask me questions after we were through, and they turned out to be really nice people.
So again, I’m glad that I was nice to them because they were obviously just oblivious.
In the second situation, it was once again best to be kind and just ignore the noise.
Sometimes I’m so annoyed with other people that I’m amazed when they can’t actually hear the mean comments I’m thinking about them, but it’s important to just try to be nice to everyone because you never know who might just turn out to be your new best friend.
But I do like to avoid awkward hallway encounters where it’s just you and someone you don’t like coming from different directions. Is there a term for that?
Sydney L. Shea is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.