Tuesday, 28 July 2009

LIBERTARIAN SUS: Speaking of incivility ...

“There is one unmistakable sign of the collapse of good manners: dirty public washrooms.”
- Robert Anson Heinlein

susanryder I can’t stand bad manners. “Please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” remain the simple fundamentals of civil behaviour. People brought up to use these terms are (psychopaths excepted) generally decent souls who treat others in a similar fashion. In my experience, most people I encounter are decent people.

But what of the others? Why do banks have to now display notices asking customers to remove headwear, muddy footwear and sunglasses? When did retail outlets have to publicly prohibit the consumption of food and drink on their premises? Once upon a time people just knew those things having been taught from an early age. And who in their right mind would operate a cellphone inside a theatre during the film?

Littering also drives me nuts. Driving through our countryside, the rubbish lining the roadsides is a shocker. Travellers are treated to a succession of fast-food refuse, bottles, cans and cigarette packets, all tossed by erstwhile clean, green, anti-nuclear, sustainable, carbon-reducing, planet-worshipping Kiwis. I imagine the offenders would take umbrage at rubbish dumped on their property, but for some reason they feel free to pollute the countryside.

And then there are the creatures who dump truckloads of household rubbish in rural areas. Real gems, they are. Princes among men.

Do you think they might be the same people who misuse public toilet facilities? I’ve never understood people who do that, either. When travelling long distance, I normally avoid public toilets like the plague. The blessings of seven-day trading and the profusion of cafes that provide restrooms allows me that luxury, but every so often I find myself having to use a public facility. I generally wrinkle my nose and take care of business as quickly as possible. A supply of tissues and hand-sanitiser in the glovebox doesn’t just come in handy. They are necessities.

I had to use one en route to the Bay of Plenty over the weekend. It was in surprisingly good condition, had just been cleaned and was stocked with adequate supplies of soap and toilet paper. However, I shook my head at a large notice on the wall (of both cubicles – I checked) that read: Please do not stand on the toilet seats. It came with a large illustration under the text depicting a person standing on the toilet seat with a big cross through it.

What kind of arse (if you will) would even think of doing that, much less do it? And what of the diagram? According to Literacy Aotearoa, some 25% of school-leavers are functionally illiterate – yay, state education! – but decent people practise basic hygiene whether they can read or not and children young enough to not be able to read shouldn’t be going into public toilets alone in the first place. However, the signs were there so presumably the practise had occurred. There’s a comforting thought.

On my return, I needed the loo and stopped at a café. The facilities were nice and clean, even going so far as to provide a baby changing table with complimentary wipes. In addition to paper towels, there was a pile of fresh facecloths for hand-drying, with a basket for the used ones. Next to the linen was a notice requesting that people not use them for baby wipes. Once again I wondered the same thing: Who would do that and, further, leave the evidence? Answer: the same morons who flush things down the toilet that are not designed to be flushed; the same morons who stood on public toilet seats before they moved on to procreation. Another pleasant thought.

Back inside the café there were notices at every table regarding the Swine Flu, accompanied by boxes of tissues. Patrons were asked to sneeze into the complimentary tissues to minimise the spread of the virus, in line with Ministry of Health guidelines. There was also a separate small table displaying a large container of hand-sanitiser which patrons were also encouraged to use. I was disappointed. There were no instructions as to the preferred method of disposal for the used, sneezed-in tissues. What was one to do in the absence of any official notification – leave them lying around? After all, the rubbish bin wasn’t specifically marked for their use and I wouldn’t want to upset the official applecart.

The café-owner seemed a sweet lady and ran a pleasant business. I’m sure she thought she was doing the right thing and it goes without saying that she can please herself anyway; her property, her rules and all that. But it screamed of official overkill; of complying with regulations-cum-guidelines or whatever they are and then some. Of taking up the charge and falling into line like a good little comrade, Comrade. Or maybe she’d just given up and found it simpler to assume that everybody was going to bugger up the facecloths.

Incivility takes many forms, all of which are unpleasant and stem from inconsideration. People brought up to practise basic good manners do not generally wander into stores while eating, let alone misuse or vandalise public facilities. Minor littering remains annoying, inconsiderate and an ongoing public expense.

There are two issues here: poor standards of behaviour and the ramifications thereof. The existing public signage is a sorry indication of the cretins already out there and, worse, serves to taint everybody by association. And it seems to me that the more the official interference to address problems, the more they increase as a result. I used to joke that one day I’d receive a government leaflet in the mail advising as to how many times a day I should wipe my bum.

Don’t roll your eyes. They’re already telling you not to stand on toilet seats.

* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *


  1. It is a common practice amongst Chinese migrants. They've never seen a real toilet before, having been trained from childhood to stand over a shit into a hole in the ground.

    Helen Clark encouraged hordes of these primitives to migrate here.

  2. Should read '....stand over and shit into.....

  3. Hi Sus,

    The sign isn't there to admonish rude, illiterate teenagers. It's because of the standard way of going to the bathroom in many Asian countries, where squat toilets are the norm.


    When Westerners travel to those countries they often use the toilets incorrectly as well. Hence squat toilets overseas have similar signs instructing people on how to use and not use the toilet

    For instance, they sometimes have signs "One step forward please" because if you don't shuffle to the front as much as possible, you can end up shitting on the floor behind the toilet.

    The signs probably look strange to people brought up over there too. :-)

  4. "Don't stand on the seat the crabs can jump six feet"

  5. In regards to lack of manners and civility, other increasingly prevalent behaviours which I cannot understand and which I find disconcerting include:

    - the alarming number of people who do not wash their hands after going to the toilet;

    - the increasing number of people -adults - who visit the supermarket in their pajamas ... in the middle of the afternoon(!);

    - the number of people I phone (business customers) whose voice mail messages are completely unintelligable or downright rude (like "yeaaaah" [beep] or "what the fuck you want? Just leave a message" [beep] or "[name] speaking. Yes ... who? ... sorry can you repeat that? Ha ha ha!!! sucker!!! you're speaking to an answerphone. ha ha ha..." [beep]. (sigh...)

    - the number of adolescent girls who wear pants or skirts designed to be worn around the hips so low that either their knickers are on display, or worse, their pubes are showing;

    And I could go on...

    All I can think of is: I wonder what the next rung down the ladder will be?

  6. Terry, welcome to the world of Libertarians. There is no coercion involved at all regarding those things you described.

  7. Thanks for that, Luke - and AF (I think!). That thought never occurred to me ... largely because I've had the displeasure of the delightful squat'n'drops in different places over the years and there were certainly no signs for westerners.

    Not that I expected any: it was pretty bloody obvious what you had to do! Besides, there was bugger all light, for which I was most thankful. The odour was bad enough ... having full possession of all my senses would have been too much for this little black duck! :)

    Hey, there's a column: the worst loo you've ever come across. Mine was, without a doubt, a squattie on the wait for it .. Bulgarian/Turkish border.

    Then again, maybe not.

    ps: Thanks for the by-line quote, PC. Perfect!

  8. What's your point, ACT Youth?

  9. Adolf demonstrates another variety of incivility: the incivility of the bigot.

  10. "And then there are the creatures who dump truckloads of household rubbish in rural areas. Real gems, they are."
    True enough. But there's another side to this.
    Our localcouncil has just raised their city dump charges by a considerable amount. We live about twenty minutes from town and we have a local dump out this way that's open for four hours a week--now the council is going to close it down, which will force residents to transport their waste into town at their own expense.
    This, despite the fact that we get no water supply, sewage or garbage collection here in return for rates which we're told are going to increase by at least 6% per year.
    Well, I for one will take a ute load of gib board and old wood and assorted hard rubbish and dump it in the most public and prominent place I can find and leave the effing council to clean it up.
    We pay them. They have a responsibility to provide a convenient means to dispose of it.

  11. Thing is, KG, the theme of the post was incivility, especially relating to inconsideration. While I feel your pain with regard to the parasites, it's not just the council who will be inconvenienced by your actions. Not the best form of protest really.

  12. ACT Youth,

    I fully realise that there is no initiation of force involved with the behaviours I list, and so would not support or advocate legislation of any kind, but the spirit of Sus' post was one of showing indignation and contempt toward's the growing trend of incivility and lack of manners in society in general, and since I empathise with her sentiments I thought I would share some of my own experiences. That's all.

    If dirty public washrooms are the unmistakable sign of the collapse of good manners, I contend that a collapse of good manners is the unmistakable sign of a collapse in respect, which in turn is the unmistakable sign of a collapse of goodwill. And so I ask you: from where does crime and coercion breed from?

  13. Point taken Grieg but there's more than one form of incivility. And certainly a multitude of forms of inconsideration.
    Councils themselves are responsible for encouraging illegal dumping when they charge a fee per user to leave stuff at the dump -when those users already pay rates- and when they make the legal dumping of rubbish inconvenient.
    As for protests, I'm less interested in what's the 'best form' than in what will actually work. Have you ever tried to get a straight answer from your local council? It's simple--if the council is going to rip me off and make disposing of rubbish difficult and expensive, then I'll dump it where they can't miss it and ignore it. They've stopped local farmers from doing what they've done for 100 years around here--using sites on their own properties as landfill, with no apparent ill-effects.
    It's reached the point where these people have to be reined in and their abuse of power and property rights is an incivility (in the true meaning of the word) that dwarfs most others.
    A few cigarette packets and food wrappers on the side of the road are an untidy eyesore. Council policies which actively encourage illegal rubbish dumping are a scandal.

  14. We'll have to disagree on that one KG. I do understand though, dealing with bureaucracy in NZ is certainly a frustrating experience. It does have to stop.

  15. Adolf: You're Xenophobic git! These 'primitives' as you call them, happen to be some of the most productive people there are, with some of the best manners I've encountered; simply wanting a better life away from the likes of you.

  16. Councils themselves are responsible for encouraging illegal dumping when they charge a fee per user to leave stuff at the dump -when those users already pay rates- and when they make the legal dumping of rubbish inconvenient.

    It sounds like your main gripe is that the dump is only open 4 hours a week, which does sounds quite poor.

    But charging per load or even per kilogram, and charging different rates for different types of waste is not an 'inconvenience'. It's an instance of free market concepts helping the council to run the dumps more efficiently, and, I dare say, charging in this way would no doubt continue under a free market dump.

    Yes, you have to pay rates without getting the same services as town dwellers do, which is unjust, but it doesn't mean that the council should expend all of it's time and resources supplying you personally with the luxurious services you require (a competely free rubbish dump open 24/7 with a truck that comes and gets your waste, apparently). I would argue that having the council charge less rates and charge more per load at the dump is an improvement from what you seem to want: an increased rates take and a gold-plated rubbish disposal system.

    You dumping a whole load of non-organic rubbish at the side of the road instead of storing it neatly on your own property until you can get it to the dump (or pay to have someone else take it there) is a perfect example of the kind of rude "nobody else in the world matters, it's all about me" attitude that Sus was talking about.

  17. Hi KG .. like Greig, I can certainly empathise with insane council decisions and the virtual impossibility in seeking redress or making any headway, etc. Join the club; no argument.

    But no amount of council mismanagement would see me illegally dump refuse in the countryside. The councils -- as much as I despise their power -- are not "responsible" for arseholes' behaviour. Their madness might encourage it, but it's the cretins who do the actual dumping and therefore (should) bear the responsibility thereof. No excuses. Two wrongs don't make a right.

    Indeed up here, those same arseholes drive *out* to rural areas to dump. They drive past their local dumps because they don't want to pay any fee, period & to hell with the consequences.

    Not that I'm actively promoting it, but a much better protest might be to, er, 'place' your uteload on your local council civic premises, don't you think?

    That would certainly cause a stir. :)

  18. There was a farmer in England when I was there who would visit the council offices every year to complain about huge rate increases. He would always take along his muckspreader on these visits, and conclude his argument by spraying the entire front wall of the council building with muck from said spreader.

    THAT, my friends, is civil treatment of uncivil servants.

  19. Sus, you should contribute more often than weekly. You sure stir em up.

  20. Very kind of you Shane, but PC would be guaranteed to balk at my rates. ;)

    PC: I know it's been a while since you lived in England, but I'm off to track down that farmer and marry him -- in spite of his age.

    A man who knows how to man up. Very sexy. :)

  21. Luke H. you're wrong on so many counts it's hard to know where to begin, but I'll give it a go.
    No, my main gripe is not that the dump is only open four hours a week. I could live with that.
    Free market concepts suit me just fine--what I can't abide is a council using it's position to constantly raise rates, spend money on non-core 'services' and then charge me so-called 'market rates' for a service.(Perhaps they could charge the unemployed yobs infesting the local library 'market rates' for internet access?)
    How about you show me where I suggested the council should "expend all of it's time and resources supplying you personally with the luxurious services you require (a competely free rubbish dump open 24/7 with a truck that comes and gets your waste, apparently)." I said no such thing and if you're going to argue, at least true doing it with a degree of honesty.
    If you think what I want is "an increased rates take and a gold-plated rubbish disposal system."
    then you simply failed to read what I wrote. Or again, you're being dishonest in the way you argue.
    "You dumping a whole load of non-organic rubbish at the side of the road instead of storing it neatly on your own property until you can get it to the dump (or pay to have someone else take it there) is a perfect example of the kind of rude "nobody else in the world matters, it's all about me" attitude that Sus was talking about."
    No it isn't. It's me (and not a few other country people) being sick and fucking tired of councils which charge us for services which realistically are only enjoyed by those who live in town while they simultaneously raise our rates and provide fewer and fewer services. If you think rolling over and behaving like a good little compliant comrade in the face of that, then you're as much part of the problem as bureaucracy in NZ is.

  22. "Two wrongs don't make a right."
    But the second wrong may fix the problem Sus. ;-)
    Compliance with bad laws doesn't fix anything either and caving in to petty bureaucrats just encourages the bastards.

  23. "Compliance with bad laws doesn't fix anything either and caving in to petty bureaucrats just encourages the bastards."

    Definitely, KG. (You do remember what blog this is, don't you!) ;)

    But I fail to see how your illegal dumping of rubbish in rural areas is a valid protest. All you'd do is either:

    a) violate private property rights by dumping on privately-owned land, or

    b) create an eyesore for the local rural dwellers by dumping on the sides of the (state-owned) rural land

    I can tell you first-hand that it's crapful to see some shithead's old fridge dumped.

    If you're going to make a point -- as has been previously suggested -- pick your spot ...

  24. I already picked it Sus and it's land owned by the council. :-) They use it as a road metal depot.

  25. No, no, no, no! Don't put it on council land. Never, ever do that.

    Dump it on the councillors' homes or, if you like, use some unctious council employee's place as the dump. If you can find an open window, so much the better. Do it while they are at "work." They are YOUR representatives after all.


  26. Joggers spitting is one thing that I abhor. Somehow, because you are in your running shorts, it's alright to spit on the footpath. It is also something that is quite common in China - I saw patrons in restaurants doing it and even a waiter once, big phlegmy gobs on the restaurant floor.

    Another pet hate I have is how people at supermarkets will put things back on the wrong shelves, like frozen meat with the cereals, because they are too lazy to walk back to the freezers. This seems suprisingly stupid.

  27. Yes, bad manners in all forms mentioned, and more are inexcusable in society. I am becoming quite a cantankerous lass these days when faced with these types of people. There seems to be more incivility than good manners, which probably explains why I am becoming more of a recluse. Another thing that annoys the hell out of me, and it is the young ones that are most guilty of this, is when they hog the footpath, and don't move out of the way so you can either pass, or continue on your way, should you be coming in the opposite direction. It normally ends up where one has to step onto the road. Terribly frustrating.

    Another great post Sus.


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