Tonight I was in a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a guy was there wearing flip-flops. As we walked down the hall he flapped loudly along, drawing our attention down to floor level, and we all got to admire his feet.
Call me a crank, but I think a guy wearing flip flops in a hospital at night is unforgivably impolite. I don’t mind people of both sexes wearing flip flops at a pool, or on the beach, or at an informal backyard barbecue on a hot summer night. I give kids a pass, too. But there is a time and a place for everything, and a grown man wearing flip flops in a public building when the temperature is about 56 degrees outside is just not right. When you add in the fact that it’s a hospital it seems even more inappropriate.
I know we’ve gotten increasingly informal in our society and become accepting of things that once would have been unthinkable. I’m old enough to remember when people actually got dressed up for airplane flights; now when you board a plane you often feel like you’ve intruded upon an over-sized sweatpants modeling convention. We’ve become a society of appalling slobs.
I recognize that, in the grand scheme of things, a guy wearing flip-flops in a hospital at night isn’t the worst offense a person can commit — but I also believe in the “broken windows” theory that holds that little things, if left uncorrected, can lead to social disorder. A guy wearing flip-flops is a harbinger of chaos. This is where we need to draw the line.
According to news reports, there’s a new, sick, violent “game” that has taken hold in some large cities. It’s one of those cultural tales that makes you hope that the uproar is overblown — because if the stories are true, you have to shake your head and wonder about the future of things.
The practice is called “knockout.” (I say “practice” because calling it a “game” diminishes what is actually the crime of assault and battery.) Young kids find an unwary person, sneak up on them, and then throw a sucker punch, hoping to land a knockout. It’s happened in Brooklyn, Hoboken, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis — as well as London, England. In some cases, the victims are Jewish, but other targeted people seem to have been picked purely at random. One victim was a 78-year-old woman. Many of the individuals who have been preyed upon have suffered serious injuries, and some have died.
Have we really reached the point where some teenagers have become so disassociated from society, and so divorced from normal behavior, that they can viciously attack an entirely innocent person as part of a cruel “game”? How could anyone with normal human feelings attack a 78-year-old woman laden with shopping bags? What kind of upbringing and home life have these kids had? (Don’t get me wrong — I’m not absolving the criminal attacker of blame, but I am wondering what kind of conditions could have caused an innocent child to grow into a monster who thinks it’s funny to cold-cock and seriously harm a random stranger.)
Just what we need — another bit of senselessness to worry about as we walk down a public street and pass a group of young kids.