I had an odd experience at a memorial service on Sunday. The service was for a man that I didn’t know well but had worked with and admired. He was one of those people who was spectacularly successful in business, but also a fine person to boot — kind, curious, humorous, supportive, and a great lover of fun and adventure. I wanted to be at his memorial service to pay my respects to someone who had inspired me, as well as lend support to his friends and family. I also wanted to be there to learn a little more about him. He had died suddenly and I was regretting I would not get to know him better.
I went into the sanctuary early, to have some reflective time. Soon after, a man came and sat down beside me. He immediately pulled out his Blackberry and started scrolling through his emails. I thought that was a little odd, but not so unusual in this day and age. I mean, it was a Sunday, so presumeably he would be slightly less likely to need to check his work emails, but who knows? Maybe he was an attorney crafting a deal. Maybe he was a real estate agent fine-tuning an offer on a property. Maybe…maybe…
Maybe he was just kind of a jerk. Because when the service started, and the deceased’s grown son stood up to speak and all of us in the audience leaned forward attentively, the man next to me continued to work on his emails. And when the deceased’s widow stood up and began talking about what her husband had meant to her, the man next to me continued to work on his emails. And as colleagues, friends, and other family members stood up to speak — sometimes telling funny anecdotes, sometimes breaking down in tears — the Apparently Very Important Fellow next to me continued working on his emails.
I was deeply offended. As I see it, even if you’re only at a memorial service for show — even if it’s pure mercenary “I need to be there because it’s good for business,” you need to act appropriately. Sit up straight. Pay attention. Behave in a reserved and respectful manner. Express your condolences. Say something nice about the deceased.
Playing with your Blackberry? Not appropriate.
Next up: More Blackberry rules.