Marc Hoover:
Has rudeness replaced the art of conversation?

Earlier in the week, I visited a local doctor for a nasty cough and runny nose. Fortunately, I had nothing serious. The attending doctor said I had a virus that would go away on its own. He gave me a prescription for a strong cough medicine which helped. Before the doctor arrived, a medical assistant checked my pulse to make sure I was alive and asked the standard questions about my health. During the pre-exam I saw an interesting sign on the wall.

Marc Hoover

It said the attending doctor will not see patients who are on their phones. This brought up an interesting conversation with the medical assistant. “Isn’t that common sense?” I asked. When the doctor enters the room, you should give him your full attention. Besides, you’re the one paying him. My belief is that if I am paying someone for a service, I want to give this person my undivided attention.

The medical assistant smirked and said, “You would be surprised.” She said they put the sign up because patients would tell the doctor they needed to finish their phone call. I told the assistant I wasn’t surprised. I mentioned how I used to wait tables years ago. I can remember days when customers would put their fingers in my face and shoo me away when I tried to get their order. They acted as if I were being rude for interrupting their phone conversation. I also mentioned how often I saw families spend an entire meal looking at their phones. Some families didn’t even speak to one another. On one occasion, a man opened his laptop and placed it on the table during a meal with family members.

If I ever dine with someone who places his laptop on the table, I am leaving. I won’t eat dinner with someone that engrossed in a computer. It’s bad enough for people to be on their phones during dinner, but to pull out a laptop? Or watch a movie? Yes, I have seen this. The person watching the movie ignored his entire family. Everyone else engaged in a conversation while this knucklehead watched a television program. I can even remember another incident involving a man and woman. I don’t know if they were a couple or friends. The man sat across from the woman and stared at pictures on his phone. I walked past and gazed at his phone to see what was so fascinating. He was staring at pictures of different women. And none of them were of the woman sitting across from him. I am also guessing they weren’t family pictures either.

I have told my sons about life before cell phones and social media. I actually grew up in a time when people spoke to each other. Today, I find notice how uncomfortable people get while trying to engage in a conversation. To them, a conversation is more like taking out the trash or mowing the grass. Although I text people, I will put my cell phone away and turn off the volume if I am with family or friends. I still believe in giving people my undivided attention.

I realize that many younger people have practically had a cell phone glued to their hand since birth. They may not even realize it’s rude to talk on a cell phone while dining with friends or family. Maybe no one ever told them. If you didn’t know, let me tell you that it’s rude. If someone wants to give you their time, then you should reciprocate. Finally, I have heard horror stories about people who answer their cell phones during a job interview. If you have ever done this and wondered why you didn’t get the job, now you know why. The art of conversation hasn’t died. It has just been neglected.

Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page Life with Grandpa and his blog Wise Grandpa.