Ann Bednarski: Watch what you say
February 23, 2013
Sometimes it is downright difficult to comprehend what people are saying or what they mean with their words. Have you had that experience? I observe a serious lack of basic manners, even with the kids playing in the street. To watch and listen to them infrequently resembles camaraderie.A few weeks ago my friend and I were standing in my driveway talking when up the block there was a nasty verbal exchange going on between a father and daughter that was so loud we could no longer talk in the driveway. My friend left; I was still moving a few things around outside. The father had walked away and started down the street. He was looking straight ahead, clearly not wanting to talk to anyone or hear any comments. The daughter however, screamed at him and then followed him in a dramatic display of theatrics, as she yelled loud and numerous obscenities at her father, culminating with, “And, I hate you, Dad.” She then turned around and headed back toward the spot of the argument. I came back into the house wondering how these two people would communicate again and if it could ever be civil. Many hours later I turned on the TV only to see a similar scene, no doubt an example for this exchange right in the comfort of my own living room. Television serves as a most pathetic role model for some generally poor behavior and in lots of programming the louder and more disgusting the language, the better. It is most disheartening and does nothing but promote animosity and rage.A few days ago I was in a big store but no one was in the department where I was waiting. Suddenly a female clerk came around the corner and shouted, “Whadda ya want?” I was taken aback a bit but told her. I conducted my business and left the store where, in the parking lot a heard a mother say to her child, “Shut the (expletive) up.” I just wanted out of the entire vicinity. I was calmed down when a woman parked near me politely asked directions. She was visiting from California and confused about how to return to her brother’s house. With pleasure, I told her and then said, “Follow me; I will get you on your way.” She thanked me, we smiled and I almost forgot how uncomfortable I was shopping at this store and minding my own business in the parking lot.From there I went to a few other stores. In two of them, few, if anyone else, were shopping but me. That was ominous. I then made a stop at the bank to use the ATM. As I was getting into my car, another car drove up; I was struggling with my seat belt being stuck and still had the car door open; the man in the car next to me, in the 10 seconds it took to untangle the seat belt, managed to call me a nasty name. He scared me. I have never really been sure of what that gross, obscene expression means and do not want to know.It seems to me the general lack of respect and decency is everywhere. I sense a tension in the air almost every time I leave my home. Regularly I hear and observe both parents and children ridiculing and yelling at each other. I see this behavior often on TV too. Is this the new norm? I hope not because it is so unproductive that progress is seriously impeded on all levels. What bothers me is the fear that many parents have of their children, so much so that they hesitate to correct or discipline them. Sometimes I think that people who used drugs regularly in their youth develop a kind of nervousness that sparks a short fuse over very minor things as they grow older. In graduate school I had an excellent script-writing professor; he taught by telling stories with a message. In class, we all critiqued each other’s work. One day one of the young male students read his script which included every obscenity you can imagine and not much action or story line. The professor commented after the reading that if he took out all the foul language there would be “perhaps 20 words left. None of your characters have any, character that is.” I thought that was the best and most succinct of criticisms. Obviously, I never forgot those words.With that said, let’s all try to strengthen our character and live the golden rule. It will not hurt to try, be better for everyone, and certainly encourage more productivity.• Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.