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Civil City Cards

06 Mar 2003 by Matthew Linderman

Cellphone closetalkers, 2-seat taking train riders, and line cutters beware, Civil City is out to nab you.

Wanting to give the 40% of Americans who ignore rude situations a means to get involved, we devised the CivilCity Card. Simply handing someone a CivilCity Card allows the dialogue about rudeness to take place on the safety of this Web site rather than in the emotionally charged moment of offense. Through this method of “passive confrontation,” people of all degrees of assertiveness can address people behaving badly.

29 comments so far (Post a Comment)

06 Mar 2003 | Eamon said...

Nice idea, but the "one card fits all" is a little too non-specific for me. If I'm a rude person (perish the thought) and someone's handed me a card, am I really going to go to a web site to see what I was doing wrong? I doubt it. I imagine I'd simply chase the giver down and punch him or her repeatedly until I get an explanation.

How about a series of checkboxes or perforated punch-outs on the back so the issuer can clearly indicate the offense, much like a parking ticket? Or perhaps a card with tabs matching the major categories ("Behavior Towards Others", "Cell Phones", "Cleanliness") so the giver can tear off the irrelevant behaviors?

06 Mar 2003 | Don Schenck said...

The wimpification of America continues. *sigh*

Whatever happened to just *saying* something?

06 Mar 2003 | scott said...

Well Don it sounds like we're all winps cuz people like Eamon would "chase the giver down and punch him or her repeatedly until I get an explanation"

07 Mar 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Scott, you miss my point. Non-wimpiness is not just being aggressive, it's also being thick-skinned so when someone says "Hey! You did such-and-such", you suck it up and say "I'm sorry, I made a mistake" and then correct it.

Instead, people are afraid to say anything, and we live in this "Oh, you offended me" culture. People have a *right* to be offended.


07 Mar 2003 | fajalar said...

Don, I agree people have the right to be offended, and angry. But most people do not know how to handle themselves in that situation. They get pissed off because they want to show the other person that they are serious.

But I have found that most rude people don't even know they are being rude, and more often than not, do not wish to been seen as rude.

Here at work, it's all smiles to the face, but kives in the back. The company tried something a couple of years ago. Tried to teach us to say things like, "It was my assessment that you were talking down to me. Was that your intent?" Which, while a bit cheesy, does work. Not that most people took to it. Too much of that Midwest "niceness" in the culture.

This is one thing I miss about Alaska. Everybody left everyone alone. If you pissed them off, you knew about it immediately. And if you needed help, you got it immediately. I miss the honesty.

07 Mar 2003 | fajalar said...


07 Mar 2003 | Toby said...

Does the other side of the card say "Please Break My Nose"?

It doesn't?

Hmmmm...Might as well.

07 Mar 2003 | Don Schenck said...

I guess one of the things that comes with ageing -- yes, I'm older than you -- is that you finally reach the point where you really, truely, honestly do not care what people think about you. It's liberating.

07 Mar 2003 | fajalar said...

Probably because when you get older you come to an honest understanding of who you are. As opposed to spending the young years constantly comparing yourself to people.

Or not.

07 Mar 2003 | CK said...

Yes, Don! It also empowers us to engage in all kinds of rude behaviour, too!

07 Mar 2003 | Don Schenck said...

CK -- ha ha ... oh yeah.

07 Mar 2003 | ek said...

I'm with Don on this, whatever happened to talking to people?

07 Mar 2003 | scott said...

While I was trying to be sarcastic and point out that speak ing out can get your ass kicked, I am one of those that would probably say something and don't need a card to do it for me.

08 Mar 2003 | dmr said...

Upon receiving one of those cards, I would promptly break rule number 5. Honestly, there really isn't enough bad language in public. More people ought to recognize bad service or impolite gestures with namecalling. May I suggest 'horsefucker' and 'quimster'.

09 Mar 2003 | H said...

DMR: the thing is, _fuck_ doesn't have the same punch it did in years past. We need a new epoch of profanity. Sure, we've all heard the George Carlin rants about _fuck_ and _shit_. And it's entirely too entrenched in the nose-candy era of the 1980s. We live in vulgar times, wholly lacking in proper displays of public profanity.

I'm with you competely. So long as profanity is exceptionally vile and creative, I'm all for it. But too many people, teens and young adults in particular, banter about with "fuck this fuck that fuck him fuck her fuck that shit" etc... What's the fun in that?

My personal favorite is the new F-bomb: cunt. That gets heads turned. Toss a _cunt_ out, and you might as well be spraying urine into the room. Heads will turn. Conversations will end. All eyes on you.

But _fuck_ isn't out completely. Take something like this:
"Rule number 5? I broke Rule #5? Listen here you shit stuccoed twatfuck!" Or: "My phone bothered you? Well pardon me, friend. I should have known that a pussfucked shit blister was within ear shot and had a bit more respect."

Little cards are for the library. I'll be blunt: have the balls to say something. I respect that. A card I resent. It's the easy way out.

09 Mar 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Example: I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, and went to Hugo's Frog Bar to eat. Afterwards, my friend and I retired to the bar, getting a little table by the window.

The good folks at Hugo's sell cigars, so I grabbed a Romeo Y Julieta Churchill (a mild, complex cigar with chocolate overtones) and decided to enjoy my after-dinner wine.

Before I lit up, however, and knowing I had every right to light up without asking, I turned and asked the guy at the table next to us if he minded. He informed me that smoke bothered him, and he's waiting for some. I surveyed the situation and we worked out a solution; he moved to the other side of his table (little, round bar table) and I made sure my back was to him, and I blew my smoke in the direction of the ventilation system.

About 15 minutes later, I turned and asked him how it was going. "No problem, none whatsoever".

Civil. Polite. No government, no cards, no fists.

Remember that stuff folks?????? THAT IS WHAT IS CALLED "Civil Society".

09 Mar 2003 | Civilrella said...

I am so interested to see your lively discussion about, and that my Web site is making people think about what it means to be civil. That's my ultimate goal, of course, not to be some sissy, Miss Manners police type.

I'm with most of you who are not afraid to talk to people directly, but unfortunately only 20% of Americans are comfortable with this approach (according to a Public Agenda study last year,) so CivilCity Cards offer an alternative.

I thought about doing some category printing along the lines of Eamon's suggestion, but then I realized it made the card seem too much like a ticket, and nobody likes getting a ticket.

I've been able to avoid violence, even so much as a nasty comment, by giving out the cards in a gentle, non-confrontational manner. I also give people a head's up about why they are getting a card: "Here's a Web site about not littering. Thanks." Something simple like that. (It also probably doesn't hurt that I'm nine months pregnant!) Most people are confused, then sheepish, some even apologetic. At least they stop for a moment and think about what they are doing, even if they decide they are right. I'm guessing, though, that a lot of recipients change their behavior as a result of getting a card, because many people are just guilty of obliviousness.

I'd like to encourage you all to try it before being so sure that it won't work, because it does work in my experience.

There's a bulletin board on, if you'd like to post anything there:

10 Mar 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Civilrella, to be sure, I've NO problem with what you are doing, and my comments are in no way directed at you.

I guess it goes back to upbringing ... would that we could all be Bluebloods.

13 Mar 2003 | el said...

Dear Civilrella: I was tickled when I read about the CivilCity project in the NYT today. For years I have toyed with the idea of handing people discreet notes or cards calling attention to their rude behavior. My pet peeve is people who talk excessively loudly in restaurants, especially those using profanity. Just recently I was seated next to several boors whose noisy conversation (stupid, too) actually inspired me to write them a note asking them to pipe down.

Writing the note was therapeutic but I stopped short of delivering it to them. I tend to think, with Eamon, that such an action is more likely to lead to an argument or fistfight than to stop the offensive behavior. It is far better to address the offenders politely and discreetly. My husband handled such a situation beautifully one time - two guys seated near us whose profanity would make a sailor blush. He approached their table, said very quietly that we were hoping to enjoy a quiet evening out and their bad language was making us very embarrassed; could they please hold back the swearing? They were very apologetic and ashamed, and I suspect they minded their manners long after that particular evening.

Unfortunately, not everyone has my husband's air of quiet authority (like me). For those of us who are nonconfrontational, a civility card might just work. I like the idea of posting my comments to the offenders on this website, which they could read and perhaps respond to. Only problem: I'm still too timid to deliver the card!

14 Mar 2003 | Don Schenck said...

el -- Your husband handled it perfectly, as a solid but quiet gentleman! Kudos to him.

20 Nov 2003 | aaa insurance said...

has anyone done this successfully?

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