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Bruce Bialosky

What Happened to Our Civility?

We see an increased level of crime in our country. We see an increased level of negative political discourse. More importantly in our daily actions with the people around us, we see a degradation of human interaction and consideration for people in general. That has been on full display recently in one of my main hobbies – attending concerts.

During the pandemic, the principal thing I missed more than anything else was live musical performances. Most people think of me as a baseball person, but my main activity is music. Music is on at my home, my car, and my office as much as possible. There is nothing like a live performance though for me.

At concerts I have seen the deterioration of people’s behavior over a period of years. It is especially fascinating because the price of concert tickets has soared – due in part because of people’s willingness to pay but also to compensate for the artists’ lost revenue on CD sales. Regardless, one must wonder why people act like they are in their own homes while surrounded by others trying to listen to a performance. Why are they loudly chatting about recent shopping trips instead of listening to the performer they paid so dearly to see.

This has been accelerating for years. I have had to “get in the face” of people during more than one Steely Dan concert to tell them in a not so nice manner to either close their traps or exit. With the return of shows in full force this summer, the bad behavior seems to have stepped up even further.

This all came to a head for me during a recent show at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl. As part of our Friday night series, we had a concert of Boys II Men and TLC. As TLC performed (and they are not a quiet act) you could hear the people in the boxes behind us chattering. As the level of sound increase from the stage, the chatter got even louder. I had been told by the young man in the box beside us that TLC was his favorite musical act of the 1990’s. I felt so bad for him. When Boys II Men came on stage, they sang some traditional Philadelphia soul ballads. I could hear the people behind through each song. I said enough was enough.

The following week the Beautiful Wife and I headed to Lake Tahoe to see one of the few Rock ‘n’ Roll acts she is interested in – Train. Train had a series of hit songs in this century for those not aware and has an outstanding and engaging front man/lead singer in Pat Monahan. Harvey’s Casino built an outdoor facility seating about 7,500. This concert was postponed from a year ago when fires across Northern California spread too close to Tahoe making the concert impossible.

We had a picture-perfect evening after a very soggy day. The opening act was someone I was not aware of by the name of Thunderstorm Artis. He is an acoustical act, just him and his guitar. After a couple of songs, I was beginning to enjoy him. That is when a man and woman came in and sat in the row in front of us. The woman was very loud and got louder when she befriended the person next to her. I leaned over to her and said, “Excuse me, I would like to listen to this performer.” She turned around and instead of saying “I am sorry” and then quieting down she told me “F— Off.” She then proceeded to harangue me with four more versions of that very classless response while the man she was with tried to make peace. Instead of quieting down she was now disrupting everyone around us.
I have become used to over-the-top reactions from young beer-induced males, but now this kind of behavior from grown women has become more common. I thought to myself – “this is why we fought for women’s liberation?” Susan B. Anthony would be so proud.

The Beautiful Wife went to see about relocating our seats as we saw no cure for this obnoxious woman who was bought another alcoholic drink. BW found someone to relocate us to a suitable alternative location. I then sought out the head of operations for the facility.

I gave him a little background on myself. I told him my first concert was The Four Seasons (with all four original members) in 1966. I told him I have been to roughly 1000 live performances. The Beautiful Wife queried me on that. I told her she was not around when I went every weekend to either the Troubadour, The Roxy, or the Whisky A Go-Go. She was not around when my friends and I went to see the Allman Brothers four nights in a row or Jethro Tull three nights in a row. I reminded her I toured with Electric Light Orchestra and saw thirty shows in less than two months. I went on from there.

I spoke to the operations manager about the crowd’s generally degrading behavior. I did not need to sell him from there. He was totally on board. He said “I don’t understand. They pay $100 for a ticket, and they behave like this. Why are they here?” This was “music to my ears” for two reasons. First that he totally got it, and then I was wishing I could pay “just” $100 for tickets for an L.A. show. We agreed that there must be someone who comes on stage and welcomes the crowds, and then states, “Out of respect for the performers and the people around you, please do not talk during the artists’ performance.”

I had the same discussion soon after with the young man who runs the floor of the Bowl every night. He told me of the daily challenges he has because of inconsiderate patrons. The Bowl asks people in their opening recorded statements to remain quiet during the performance, but most people are not paying attention. I suggested they need to have a live person on the stage welcoming the crowd and focusing them and asking them to remain quiet while the artists are performing. He thought it was a good idea and was going to run it up the flagpole and see what the bosses thought. Unfortunately, they did not adopt the new policy.

This was proven out when recently a couple behind me was chattering while Roger Daltrey was singing the lyrics of a Who song at a recent concert. I turned and just gave them a look and the next thing I knew they were knocking on my shoulder and asking what was wrong with me. Of course, they were asking me in the middle of a song.

It is sad we have gotten to this situation in our society. There is little sense of decorum. There is little respect for others. There is little self-awareness. It seems every time you call someone on their ill behavior, you get a rude tongue lashing. Or my favorite is when people are driving, and they flip you the bird after they almost crashed into your car or run you over while you’re in a crosswalk. So graceless. You wonder why the bigger issues of bad behavior are occurring?

The Broken Windows Theory is applied to crime, but it is applicable to our everyday lives. When apparent upstanding members of the community act like this, what would you expect from others?