Scene 1-A commuter bus on a weekday morning about 8:30 am. Two men and a woman have been talking and laughing for approximately twenty minutes. Woman sitting by herself in black leather jacket has turned around and lightly glared  and turned back to face front. The second time she turns around and says “keep it down please.”  One of the three replies “sorry” and the conversation ends.

Scene 2-A commuter train on the same day about 10:30 am. Woman on train carries on continuous audible for at least three seats in either direction conversation for twenty minutes plus.  Woman behind her and other passengers say nothing.

[Full disclosure: in scene 1, i am one of the three conversants; in scene 2, I am woman behind]

Both of these scenes are common, banal and definite “let it go” candidates. But I keep wondering if the woman in the black leather jacket was entitled under the rules of etiquette to tell us to “keep it down.” The woman wasn’t the bus driver or an authority figure. A bus isn’t a library or a cultural event. And etiquette is about norms, not personal preferences. Because scene 2 didn’t fit into these rules and because I’ve noticed that people get confrontational when told by strangers to do/not do something, I thought etiquette required me to be tolerant of behavior that was annoying but not impolite.

Maybe because interaction with personal devices is silent, the norm about talking has changed. Or is it assumed that people full of stress commuting to work need a quiet zone to prepare for their days.  [….space here for beating myself up]I can’t help thinking the woman in the black leather jacket was just in a pissy mood and was being rude.

What do you think?

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