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What’s Behind Rude Behavior & Bad Manners?

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What's Behind Rude Behavior & Bad Manners?WBZ

Don’t some people flat out aggravate you? That’s what many WBZ viewers say on our Curiosity Web site. So David Wade set out to answer the question, why do people act that way?

A smoker flicking a cigarette butt onto the sidewalk. Drivers not bothering to signal a left turn. Trash guys throwing barrels all over the place. It’s enough to get you to, well, write to us.

Michele asks: “On trash days our barrels are tossed around and broken. Why are they allowed to do this?”

We went to see Michele on trash day.

“They just don’t care about other people’s property,” she says.

She also says she’s had to replace three trash cans over the last year because they were damaged by being left to roll onto the street and were hit by cars. That can get expensive at $25 a pop. And by the way, when the trash truck pulled up to her house, sure enough the guy threw one of her barrels back onto her driveway.

Have you ever looked down while walking downtown? It’s not the dirty snow you’ll notice, but the minefield of cigarette butts.

Cheryl from Marlboro posted a comment about that nasty fact of life on our Curiosity Web site: “It’s so offensive, never mind the smell.”

And don’t even get us started about the infamous Massachusetts driver. What we want to know is “why?”

With all these questions about why some people act the way they do, we figured the best place to go to get some answers was a couch, the psychoanalytic couch, in the office of Dr. Robert Pyles, a psychiatrist on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School.

First topic — the way people drive around here.

“They feel kind of invulnerable in their cars,” says Dr. Pyles. “And they don’t feel they have a responsibility to other people.”

He’s saying that drivers do stuff within the bubble of their car that they’d never do outside of it.

And remember Michele’s complaint about the way her garbage cans are treated?

“Trash collectors feel that they’re basically at the bottom of the social ladder,” says Dr. Pyles. “So I think throwing around the trash barrels is a way of getting even.”

It doesn’t help that they have to work out in the freezing cold on sometimes snow-clogged, icy streets.

And what’s with the cigarette butts?

“When they have to go outside to smoke it makes them feel like even more of a pariah, and even more of an outcast, so they feel entitled, really, to throw butts around and litter,” says Pyles.

We asked him how this type of behavior can be changed.

“The best way to change it is through some sense of group affiliation,” he responded.

And that means we need to remember that in these difficult times, we’re all in this together.

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