Invading My Auditory Space

Yah, I’m at CVS now. Why don’t you go ahead and call that guy. No, tell him I’d rather meet tomorrow. On and on the one-sided conversation went, about two feet from the back of my head. Was he talking to me? No, of course not. He was on his cell phone, but you would have thought he was talking to someone on the other side of the store. Don’t people realize how loud they are when they’re on their cell phones? Meanwhile, I’m trying to hear what the clerk is saying to me, as we discussed whether or not I could use my coupon on an item that was on sale. I literally could not hear him because of the broadcast that was going on behind me in line. The disturbing truth is that conflicting noises confuse my brain and trick me to not being able to concentrate on either one.

I’ve been noticing that there are other times, not just people on cell phones, that I am annoyed by loud voices. One evening last week, I was having dinner with a friend at Bob Evans. I had to lean in to hear what she was saying, which is unusual for the normally pleasant ambiance of that family restaurant. But on this night, a woman at a nearby table was making her conversation with her daughter a public announcement. Everybody within 50 feet was included in the discussion of how good pumpkin bread could be, which crayons to use for the picture, and what they were going to do after dinner. It was a pleasant enough conversation, but did she really have to share it with the whole section of the restaurant? Did she think we would be impressed with her parenting skills? I don’t think so. I wanted to walk over there and tell her to pipe down for Goodness sakes. To me, she was being not the model parent she considered herself, but a public nuisance. She was interrupting my enjoyment of a dinner with a companion.

My all time number one complaint is the intrusion of an inconsiderate mother and her brood of clueless, albeit sweet and innocent, children at an outdoor classical music concert. I had the misfortune of sitting in the middle of the audience at a lovely setting at Franklin Park Conservatory, for a promising evening of chamber music, when this woman, with 6 children under the age of 8 set up camp just inches behind my chair. She immediately started doling out snacks and coloring books barking out orders to be quiet. She seemed to be totally unaware that there was a concert going on and that nobody else in the whole place was speaking. Certainly the children were completely oblivious to the music or to other people who might be trying to listen to it. Not once did she point out that her charges might want to pay attention to what was going on up on the stage. Instead, we all were treated to reminders to put our shoes in the wagon, that she only brought water, no juice, that yes we could all go to the bathroom now, and it would be time to go soon. It was incredibly rude. I had come to listen to Mozart and Chopin, not a harried mother in charge of her children and their friends.

In all three of these examples, it was the same as if someone had jumped up and down in my line of vision. Would that have been acceptable? No. But each time, someone had jumped up and down in my line of hearing, which is every bit as important, if not moreso, to me.

On one trip I took on a Grey Hound bus, the guy sitting behind me began a heated and loud argument with someone on his cell phone. The driver, enforcing the rule that cell phone conversations must be kept at a normal volume, actually pulled the bus over and threatened to throw the guy off if he didn’t end the call. Well hurrah for Grey Hound! I’m glad somebody recognizes that loud talking, obnoxiously loud music, or any other uncomfortably loud sounds are an intrusion of my space.

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