When Zoraida Iglesias visited Miami four months ago, what impressed her most were not the beaches, the Wynwood graffiti or the Art Deco buildings in South Beach.
Rude drivers and their traffic violations, and indifferent waiters and the high noise levels in restaurants where people talk loudly on cellphones left the tourist from Boston very “upset.”
Although many Miami residents share Iglesias’ complaints, these are not the only annoyances.
“Many people don’t give the right of way and don’t respect the speed limit. I am sorry, but that’s the harsh reality,” Cary Manzur wrote during a forum on bad manners hosted on el Nuevo Herald’s Facebook page.
Another participant, who identified herself as Aby, wrote about a driver who leaned on his horn because an elderly lady, carrying a package, was taking too long to cross a street.
“He also insulted her with swear words in Spanish,” wrote Aby, who said she was “surprised by such abuse.”
Complaints mentioned during the forum also focused on store clerks who must tell each other what they did the previous day before turning their attention to customers.
They also mentioned “inconsiderate” neighbors who don’t pick up after their pets.
Danilo Fernández, whose job often takes him to concerts and theatrical productions, said his pet peeve is inappropriate cellphone use.
“I’ve seen people using the telephone during theater concerts. They talk in a low voice, but they are incapable of disconnecting until the intermission,” he said. “People of all kinds, not just young people. And they get upset when you tell them to shut them off.”
Adi Prieto said she was bothered by people at the beach “with speakers turned up at full volume.”
“What makes them think that we like their music? If you want to listen to music, put on ear phones or do it at a low, decent volume, and respect the silence that many people want in nature,” Prieto said.
She described such behavior as “a lack of civic education.”
A University of Connecticut study defined civic behavior as treating other people with dignity, respecting their opinions and maintaining social norms in order to achieve mutual respect.
A rude city
“Living here is an odyssey. You have to pass a survival course. You have to be a Navy SEAL,” said Edgar Ballestero, a Miami resident who expressed that he was tired of the rudeness.
But is it really so much worse in Miami? Or is such behavior part of the modern world that has nothing to do with geography?
A report by the American Automobile Association in February showed that 80 percent of all drivers in the United States have been involved in a road rage incident. In 2016, 95 million drivers across the country admitted to shouting at another driver.
Although it’s not an exclusively local phenomenon, the increasingly longer commutes are adding to the complexities of traffic in Miami. Miami drivers now spend an average of 65 hours per year in traffic jams.
“If one person is angry, that has repercussions for the partner, their children, people at work. We are not islands, but human beings who interact with those around us,” said Miami psychologist Yusimí Sijó, who wrote about what she described as a a domino effect that eventually impacts “the fragile social fabric.”
Mercedes Sandoval, a retired professor at Miami Dade College, said a lack of time contributes to aggressive behavior.
“As we acquire modern culture, which is more suburban, we have less free time,” said Sandoval, comparing the Miami of the 1960s, when the city was relatively more compact, with the urban sprawl of today.
El Nuevo Herald columnist and life strategist Ismael Cala singled out impatience as one of the key factors that keep people from responding reasonably to stressful situations.
“The wrong use of technology has made people more impatient,” he said. “They have the illusion that everything must be achieved quickly.”
Sijó agreed that people have become accustomed to getting an immediate reply and gratification, and that, therefore, their level of tolerance has diminished.
“They can deal better with a machine than with a person,” she added.
“We want to be interdependent, not codependent, but to create interdependency there must be respect, patience, tolerance, empathy and compassion, which happens when I recognize the intrinsic dignity of the other person,” Sijó said.
Sijó also agreed with Sandoval that the shortage of time in modern life affects the family, which plays a fundamental role in preventing aggressive behavior.
“There’s more value placed on what can be materially offered to the child than to the ethical, civic legacy,” said the psychologist. She added that one solution is to “rescue the ethical values, to make the parents understand that it’s beneficial to do that educational work.”
Cala noted that the “hybrid identity” of Miami — where people bring “the best and worst of where they come from” — also influences the lack of respect for traffic laws and the new country’s norms.
“They have a new highway, but the way they drive is not new. I believe in inclusion and diversity, but that doesn’t mean anyone can come and do whatever they want,” he said.
Cala underlined the news media’s responsibility to report on the situation, so that people become aware that there must be a change in what has become the new norm.
“The local government could even carry out a campaign, with some humor, to make people understand that these kinds of actions are invasive and show a lack of respect for the other,” he concluded.
Follow Sarah Moreno on Twitter: @SarahMorenoENH.