By JIM AND CLAIRE CASTAGNERA

tneditor@tnonline.com

Jim:

By and large the younger generation is rude.

For instance, they don't flush. At least the young men who use the gym, where I work out, don't. I ask you: how hard is it to give a courtesy flush? Perhaps they don't see the handles. Maybe they think all public toilets and urinals have electric eyes and handle that little task automatically. Wrong! The worst part is that, because these jerks are almost all stronger and in better shape than I am, I have to grin and bear.

And they all have cell phones permanently attached to their ears. The other night, on my way to teach my seminar class, I stopped by the Java City on campus. I served myself a large coffee, then took it to the cashier, who appeared to be a student. He was jabbering away on his cell phone. He glanced at the cup in front of him and rang up the tab.

"Do you mind if I give you a twenty?" I inquired, when I discovered that's all I had on me.

"Aw, c'mon. Don't be like that," he muttered.

"I'm sorry. It's all I've got," I apologized.

"Well, if that's how you feel about it, maybe you should find somebody else to be your boy-toy."

Not sure I had heard him correctly, I retorted, "I'm not propositioning you. I just want this darn cup of coffee."

That came out a little louder than I expected. I glanced around sheepishly. The three students in line behind me all took two steps back. One girl actually put her cup of coffee back on the counter and half-walked, half-ran into the nearest classroom.

"Hey, I love you too," said the cashier. "You know I think you have the cutest butt on campus. It's just that I want you to show me a little respect."

"That's it," I exclaimed even more loudly. "You can keep the damn coffee."

The two guys who were still in line took another couple of steps away from me. They eyed my fanny skeptically, as I turned and stomped off.

As I clopped away, I heard one of the two students ask the other, "Did you hear that old dude?"

"Yeah, what a perv," the other one answered.

I rest my case.

Claire:

People are constantly complaining about kids and their annoying devotion to cell phones, but you know what? I'm here to show the other side of the coin. Because in my experience, middle-aged women are by far the worst offenders when it comes to poor cell phone etiquette, and to public decorum in general. I'm sorry to make such a sweeping generalization, but I have to fight fire with fire here.

Take the other day for example. As I waited in line at Starbuck's, a woman in her mid-forties stood in front of me, chattering away obnoxiously on her cell phone. Now, I'm willing to overlook a little chit-chat while standing in line; though I think it's annoying and inconsiderate to noisily broadcast your conversation to an entire room of strangers, it's certainly not the worst transgression one could commit. But what I could not understand, or excuse, was the fact that she kept talking on her phone while she ordered her coffee. She completely ignored the cashier and his questions (because of course the woman's order was more complicated than a rocket launch), and basically treated the cashier like a servant, rather than a fellow human being.

I may be young and in love with my cell phone, but at least I know how to be discreet about my inflated sense of entitlement.

And then there are the middle-aged women at movie theaters. I swear, they're worse than the kids - and at least kids have the excuse that they're, well, kids. These women seem to have absolutely no self-awareness; either that, or they simply don't care that their discussion of last week's PTA meeting is drowning out the movie they supposedly came to the theater to watch.

Add to that the women who check out entire grocery orders at the self-checkout line (I know it's allowed, but seriously?), and I've had it up to here with middle-aged women.

Of course, middle-aged men aren't without their faults, either. If I have to witness one more man throwing a fit at the bank when asked for a second form of identification - because he's "been going to this bank for thirty years, dammit!" - I might lose it. You're so set in your ways, old man - learn to take your driver's license out before you get to the counter! It's not that hard!

I know, I know - you're not all the same! You don't all run around in your tracksuits and oversized sunglasses, budging in line as if your errands are more important than curing cancer. You're not all so set in your ways that you can't learn some new tricks. Really, I'm making some fairly unflattering generalizations here.

And now you know how it feels!