law at 3:45 a.m. in the morning

Or, this post could have been called an ethnography of evacuating sociologists.

So over at Scatterplot they are live blogging the ASA (american sociological association) meeting in Boston. I am here in Boston and the 5th floor of the Sheraton Boston had a fire alarm TWICE in the middle of the night. The first time it went on and then off and I called the desk – false alarm. The second time (3:45 a.m.) we had to evacuate. So we did. Being a good evacuator, I left in a hurry and forgot my room key so when we were allowed back in, I had to go to the front desk to have a new key made. While I stood there chatting with James who was unlucky enough to pull the front desk overnight shift no fewer than THREE sociologists came to yell at James (as James said, “It’s like they think I pulled the alarm.”)

Sociological observations about these interactions:

1. All three yellers were white men.

2. All three yellers thought it was OK to walk straight up to the counter and begin their diatribe while James and I were clearly engaged in business (it wasn’t). To the point that I firmly stated back at one of them, “I’d like to get my room key so I can go back to bed and THEN you may have your turn.”

3. None were satisfied by the following arguments made by James — (a) the law requires that the fire department come and that we evacuate you if the alarm is tripped and we must comply with the law (b) the evacuation is for your safety (c) the hotel is investigating why the alarm went off

4. All three yellers though it was OK to yell at the poor guy standing in a suit at the front desk at 4 in the morning (it is not).

Other notes:

1. Most sociologists get dressed before they evacuate (Darling Son and I were in our jammies).
2. James was very calm.
3. I am sleepy today


4 Responses to law at 3:45 a.m. in the morning

  1. vickywoeste says:

    Still can’t post comments here! But if I could, I would say, this is not suprising, as expressions of rudeness go . . .

  2. jeffaregularworkinglawyer says:

    LB — Great post. Do you conclude from your observations that all white males are jerks, or merely that all white male sociologists are jerks?

  3. laurabethnielsen says:

    Ohh jeff, jeff, jeff. . . surely you are just giving me the opportunity to clarify probablility and universality.

    It is not that all white men are anything – or even that all white male sociologists are anything. Rather, these data show that (at least in this situation), white men (sociologists) were more inclined than members of sociologists with other demgraphic characteristics (like a different sex or race) to be willing to complain rudely to someone about something that the person has no control over – both the pulling of the alarm and the legal requirements about what must come next. The complaining rate of all other social groups was zero by my observation.

    Now, this may be a fluke. To test the generalizeability of my observation — white men have a greater tendency to complain to someone (rudely) about something the person has no control over — we would need more field work. Even a quick thought about IRB for such a study makes my head spin – waking people (perhaps even pregnant women, minors or parollees), making them think they are in an emergency, calling the fire department — it would be a mess. Not to mention no one wuld fund it. Or, maybe the economists would because they don’t like we sociologists much. I digress.

    We could theorize about feelings of entitlement and the like as a possible explanation, but for now, I am simply reporting that the complainers were universally from one social group.

  4. jeffaregularworkinglawyer says:

    Right, or as I was going to put it, the difference between anecdotal and empirical observation. I’d really like to see the empirical study. I just want to be in the control group of people who are allowed to sleep through the night.

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