I’m Afraid I’m Going to Have to Ask You to SHUT UP!

Two wrongs don’t make a right. I’m aware of that. My response to what I’m about to describe to you is probably just as wrong as what I’m writing about here. Also, this marks the first time that I’ve titled a blog entry using a bad word. Words in this case. Yeah, I know. There are worse words and phrases than “shut up.” My daughter considers it a bad word, though, and so it is officially a bad word. You see, my wife and I have tried to teach our children that there are words and actions that are impolite and inappropriate. We’re not perfect and neither are our children. I freely acknowledge that. One thing that I think we have done a relatively good job at is teaching them when it is appropriate for them to sit quietly. Among those times would be, of course, church. Movie theaters also fall into this category as do libraries. I’ve sort of always operated under the assumption that this was one of the easier lessons to teach a child. I won’t get into the whole clichéd thing about what happens when we assume but you know what I mean. I’ve apparently assumed incorrectly.

My 5 year-old daughter and I attended my 4th grade son’s awards day ceremony at this school this morning. Mrs. Willis, the principle, welcomed those in attendance. We all clapped and the procession of students began to cross the stage in the student activity center. It was a quiet, respectful ceremony…for about 45 seconds. That was about the time that one, then two, then 7, then too many to count decided it would be a good time to converse with their neighbor. What began as a murmur quickly grew into multiple, practically full-volume conversations between adults. Not children, there was some of that, but mostly adults! I heard no less than three cell phone conversations occurring during the ceremony. These were not conversations occurring right next to me, mind you, but across the room! Come on, people! Certainly you can do better that this. Maybe not, though.

If this were the first time I’ve experienced something like this then I might be inclined to simply write it off as an anomalous occurrence. I’ve attended many events similar in nature over the last couple of years where whatever happening on stage is secondary to socializing with others. Graduations, plays, pageants, and assemblies of all sorts have fallen victim to the maddening din of rudeness. Yep. I said it. It’s rude. It’s also inconsiderate and selfish and most of you should know better. Not everyone was behaving in this manner but those who were made it sound like an unsupervised lunchroom full of second graders on chili crispito day. I caught the glances of several others who were as dumbstruck by this display as I was. We shook our heads and shrugged our shoulders in helpless frustration. Maybe more holders of the microphone, those who are on stage speaking, should employ what we’ll refer to as the Preacher Hankins method of quieting a crowd. I’m not Preacher Hankins but my father is. When I was in 8th or 9th grade, I decided to have a little share time with whatever buddy of mine happened to be sitting next to me in church. My father, his big, booming voice extolling the virtues of a life spent following Christ, stopped cold in his tracks and said, “Thad, you better zip it right now.” I have related that story many times in my life by saying, “You ain’t been called down ’til you’ve been called down from the pulpit by your preacher who also happens to be your father.” It wasn’t pretty or fun. My ears turned red and I was more embarrassed than I ever remember being before or since. A funny thing happened, though. I became more selective about the things I needed to say aloud in church and even when I determined something did need to be said, it was whispered. In fact it was whispered in as whispery a voice as humanly possible so as not to raise the ire of the preacher again.

If principals and teachers and guest speakers and masters of ceremony all over the country would occasionally call a couple of people out and make an example of them by embarrassing them and pointing out the rudeness of their behavior, then maybe others who would behave similarly would think twice before conversing. Maybe not, but it sure would make those of us who try and sit quietly and respectfully feel better! My rant is done and I can now go about my day in relative peace. Thank you for indulging me. Enjoy Foghat.

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