Silence may be golden, but its recent pursuit in a New York City gym has set off a loud debate about entitlement and personal responsibility.
It started in a spin class, when a 49-year-old Wall Street investment partner named Stuart Sugarman began yelling and grunting comments like "You go, girl!" and "Good burn!" as he cycled.
Another participant in the class--45-year-old stockbroker Christopher Carter--was offended by the loud outbursts. He twice asked gym instructors to silence Mr. Sugarman, who continued to shout his self-encouragements.
Mr. Carter exchanged words with Mr. Sugarman, whose retort, "Make me" struck Mr. Carter as a call to arms—and biceps, triceps, pectorals, and deltoids. He grabbed Mr. Sugarman’s handlebars, tipped the bike backwards, and sent the grunter into a wall.
Mr. Sugarman was hospitalized for two weeks with neck and back pain. Mr. Carter was charged with assault.
But while the injured Mr. Sugarman awaited his day in court, the court of public opinion issued a surprising verdict in favor of Mr. Carter. "Don’t know Chris Carter, but can we give him a medal?" was typical of the comments left on a blog and a newspaper website.
Another backer of the alleged assault-er over the assault-ee sized up the situation as "a small part of a much larger issue," explaining his theory in a comment to _The New York Times_: "Many Americans have an increasing sense of entitlement. That is, what they want to do is more important than anyone else."
A Times columnist picked up on the "outsize sense of entitlement," calling it a phenomenon that helps explain "ballpark loudmouths" who don’t care who their drunken swearing offends, people who answer their cellphones in movie theaters, and "dog walkers who block sidewalks with their long-stretched leashes."
Did a jury agree? Mr. Carter was found not guilty of assault after jurors expressed reasonable doubt that he had caused Mr. Sugarman’s neck and back trouble. One juror made a point of commenting on Mr. Sugarman’s gym etiquette: "I was like, why must he be obnoxious and disrespectful to the others?"
Tell us what you think: Was justice served? What’s the responsible way to deal with annoying behavior at the gym, the ballpark, the movie theater, or any other public place?