Everyday rudeness #1: Bench hogging at the gym

Rudeness isn’t limited to merely inconsiderate behaviour that leads to minor inconvenience. Indeed, thinking of it in such terms only makes it worse. Anti-social behaviour means something and has consequences.

But what is rudeness? I suppose it takes many forms in many different contexts, but one of the most prominent today is assholery. In his book Assholes: A Theory (2012), philosophy professor Aaron James offers up the following definition:

a person counts as an asshole when, and only when, he systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people.

At the gym that I go to the locker room is set up with a single bench surrounded by three rows of lockers. So if you want to sit down to take your shoes off or put them on, bench space can be quite limited depending on the time of day. Despite this, people regularly (and I mean every day) load the bench up with their gym bag, clothes, towels, shoes, etc., thus preventing anyone else from sitting on it (which is, after all, what it’s actually there for).

Several weeks ago one retired fellow went into a very vocal (and profanity-laden) tirade against the “young people” he saw doing this. What I’ve noticed, however, is that older members do this just as often as kids. As much as we may want to shake our heads (or fists) at such egregious displays of youthful  narcissism and entitlement, it isn’t a generational thing.

At times it really gets to be a bit much. My favourite bench assholes are the ones who take all their gear out of their locker, arrange it across half the bench, and then leave to take a shower! Thus preventing anyone from using their bench while they’re not even in the general area. It’s all I can do at such times not to sweep their mess right on to the floor, where it properly belongs (why the hell do your shoes need to be put up on the bench?). And this is not something that I’ve only seen occur once or twice. I see it two or three times a week.

I’ve always wondered what would happen if someone actually confronted such assholes. My guess is that they would be baffled, if not offended. I doubt any of them would think they were doing anything wrong. And yet clearly things would become unmanageable in the locker room if everyone behaved the way they do. They simply take for granted the idea that they have a right to do what other people don’t. They are assholes.

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