There are two coffee shops and a Subway that I have to choose between when I go on my Bilbo Baggins adventures out into the city hinterlands beyond the banks of my moat. No matter which of these places I might randomly choose to patronize, I always find myself having to listen to a half dozen, or more, deep and personal conversations that have no place in the public discourse. And every time I’m subjected to stories of sexual escapades, bawdy conquests, medical procedures, as – yet unhealed surgical wounds, etc., I am gobsmacked by the general lack of self-awareness or common decency that people have anymore.

What they tell you about some of your senses taking over, in response to the damage or loss of others, is 100% true. In my own case there are a couple of very weird and – in some ways unfortunate – changes in my hearing that began to take shape not too long after I started my visual rehab and recovery. In particular, I began to hear all of the voices around me very clearly and could discern – by unique frequencies I suppose – who was saying what to whom in a roughly 20 foot wide circle all around me.

I can’t “see” which person said what, mind you, or even necessarily which table it originates from, but I can hear it as if they were talking to me directly.

Sounds cool right? Some sort of fucked up “spidy” sense right? Let me assure you.. it might sound really cool on paper but it gets really old incredibly fast.

And so it was that I found myself walking into the coffee shop the other morning to grab my favorite almost – healthy breakfast: Angus beef/bacon/egg/cheese sandwich on an everything bagel…toasted with butter, hash browns / tater tots, and a small hot black hazelnut coffee with a double chocolate donut for dessert.

I know what you’re thinking… that it sounds like a damn fine breakfast.. and it was. Being able to eat it in peace without having to hear a 20-something young lady – to my left – bragging to her two friends about how she had tricked a guy into having sex with her… in gory detail… made the first few bites really difficult to choke down.

About the time I almost had those three tuned out, the senior ladies to my right started cackling about their healthcare. The first one was complaining about how much trouble she was having with her bunions lately, and how disappointed she was with her quack podiatrist not doing enough about it. Not to be outdone, her partner – in – lamentations started in about how hard it had been to keep her oozing diabetes – related sores from getting infected and that she was quite sure her visiting nurse was a complete idiot that shouldn’t be allowed to provide medical care to her cat let alone her poor defenseless legs.

I tried to find my happy place… rocking in silence to a Sting song coming over the piped – in commercial – free local FM radio station… and almost had this sensory overload beaten until a couple of grizzly looking, visibly hungover 30-somethings, walked in.. scoped out the 20-somethings.. and started hitting on them – hard – as if Armageddon was a little over 12 minutes away and they were running out of time.


My appetite was beginning to wane… and it occurred to me that perhaps some of this cultural erosion of common decency and fundamental self – respect could somehow be blamed on the invention of the cell phone. I mean.. think about it.. back in the old days of rotary and push button phones these sorts of conversations more commonly took place in the privacy of your own home and were rarely overheard by random strangers on the streets. In order to know about a person’s sex life, or their oozing legs.. Or even about their mangled and disfigured toes.. you actually had to know the person and have an intimate enough relationship with them to be privy to such private and personal information.

Quickly enough, though, I gave up the folly of trying to find a place to lay blame other than at the feet of the wicked. Inventions, after all, only see a manufacturer’s production floor when there is enough of a demand from the ass hats and morons of the world to make it worth their while to produce.

Lest we forget.. there was that guy years ago that got stupid rich selling pet rocks.

No… this crisis of human decency isn’t about gadgets or baubles or gizmos. This is about generations of bad parenting, generations of shitty educations and shitty schools. And it’s also about generations of people not giving a fuck anymore about anything or anybody but themselves.

Maybe those half-cocked 30-somethings were on the right track.

[Image courtest of Boston Globe]


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