Perspective: Navigating the Perils of Politeness: Tales from Bloomington’s Unforgiving Streets


Bloomington, Indiana – November 10, 2023

In the heart of downtown Bloomington, a routine trip to Bloomingfoods turned into an unexpected lesson on the waning virtues of politeness in our post-Covid society. As the prices of everyday items skyrocket, the value of a dozen eggs became painfully evident during a seemingly harmless encounter at the grocery store.

Imagine this scenario: a conscientious shopper, juggling an array of food items, including the delicate cargo of a dozen eggs. Opting to forego a bag for the sake of environmental friendliness, little did they know that a seemingly chivalrous gesture at the exit would quickly devolve into an incident leaving both physical and metaphorical marks.

A seemingly well-intentioned young man in his 20s, eager to assist, swung open the door. However, what started as a courteous act swiftly turned chaotic as the heavy metal door, propelled when the man let it go in the other shopper’s face, and it collided with the shopper’s arm. In that fleeting moment, a decision loomed – sacrifice the eggs or endure the discomfort of the door’s unforgiving edge digging into their forearm. Reflective of the current economic climate, the choice was clear: the eggs were saved, but not without an unexpected cost.

The impact left an immediate, inch-wide and eight-inch-long white scratch on the shopper’s forearm. The brief physical pain served as a poignant reminder of the current societal shift, where basic manners and situational awareness appear to be on the decline, or worse, entirely absent.

The young man, oblivious to the havoc he had caused, continued on without offering an apology or acknowledging the shopper’s plight. This incident prompts contemplation on the state of our society, raising questions about whether the pandemic has eroded once-common courtesies or if such callousness was always present.

As stories of encounters with rudeness in our post-pandemic world multiply, it becomes apparent that navigating daily life now demands a level of self-preservation that transcends the decision to skip a bag or trust someone to hold a door.

This incident, however, is not an isolated case. Just last week near the Monroe County Public Library, another episode unfolded as a driver stopped to parallel park, only to have another driver pull into the spot front-first, accompanied by laughter and jokes. The lack of acknowledgment or remorse from the offending driver paints a bleak picture of a society where basic decency seems elusive.

Bloomington, a city grappling with homelessness and societal indifference, a skyrocketing cost of living, and a housing shortage for working people, is witnessing a shift towards an “everyone for themselves” mentality. Whether it’s older adults’ online shaming of those without homes, someone with a fake Facebook profile name-calling people who die on the sidewalks of the city, or various other callous behavior towards those facing various other issues, the cityscape is increasingly becoming a harsher terrain.

It’s tempting to attribute these incidents to the youth, but as reggae artist Peter Tosh wisely noted decades ago, “You can’t blame the youth.”

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