I frequently spend time writing in a coffee shop or a pub. I generally do this when I become too distracted by everything at home. After all, I could do chores or knit or sew or read instead of my daily writing.
Most of the time, because I tend to go in the off hours, the cafe or pub is very quiet and I have the space virtually to myself. But there are those occasions where someone feels the need to speak just a smidgen too loudly about topics that would be better kept quiet or private. Naturally, I shamelessly listen in while appearing to be gazing into space in search of inspiration.
I have heard a couple of older gentlemen compare their nocturnal bathroom habits. I have heard all sorts of reprehensible bigotry expressed. I've heard way too much from young ladies about what they and their boyfriends are up to. And my most recent favorite was a clutch of little old ladies at a nearby table sharing their health difficulties. Who would have known that there were so many gory details to be related about getting one's toenails clipped!
I find some of my eavesdropping to be amusing. Other times I listen in total disbelief at what people will discuss in a public space. And I save up some of the tidbits for later writing projects. All of which makes me wonder whether these folks are assuming that people can't hear them or if they truly have no boundaries. Perhaps they are expecting others to have manners that they seemingly lack themselves.
Some people seem to believe that their physical bubble is somehow also an audio bubble which keeps other people from hearing what they are talking about. Similar to the way some folks think they are invisible in their cars, they think they have a cone of silence between themselves and everyone except the person to whom they are talking.
Or, maybe, they don't realize just how loudly they are talking -- too much life or too much iPod music having nibbled away at their hearing. Then again, it might just be that they permanently misplaced their manners. Perhaps it is different reasons for different people, but whatever it is it seems to be widespread and expanding.
One of the most annoying aspects of this baring it all in public frequently involves a cell phone. Many people seem to be constitutionally unable to lower their voice while talking on their cell phones in public. This is a nuisance because I really don't want to hear about the latest business deal you are making, or having to take your dog to the vet, or the ugly breakup you had with whoever it was that you were sleeping with last. I figure those topics are private business and can't for the life of me understand why anyone would loudly share the details with me. It's not that I don't find human behavior fascinating, because I do; I just don't care to hear a lot about it over food and drink.
I know, I know, one is supposed to ignore, or pretend to ignore, what is said at nearby tables. And I would, given half the chance. I'm a big fan of privacy. But in these cases, the people involved seem determined to make that extremely difficult if not impossible to do. Just a lowering of the volume would go a long way towards keeping your business to yourself. Or, even better, wait until you are in a private place to discuss private matters. And it isn't as though I'm making negative judgments on whatever is going on in someone's life, because I'm not. In fact, while it is distracting, it is also quite amusing sometimes. I just didn't come into the establishment hoping to know that much about strangers.
I realize there's nothing to be done about it. But if anyone ever hears me discussing my toenails, or God knows what else, in a public space please put me out of my, and everyone else's, misery.
Teacher Voices: Kate Bartlett - This is a continuation of my series of interviews with former students who are now teachers. The interview on this page features Kate Bartlett, a teacher ...
2 days ago