Friday, January 22, 2010

Talking too loudly on the bus

I am a loud person. When I am in a crowd of people I do not know or do not feel comfortable with I speak quietly and politely. But as soon as I have a friend I get loud. I know it is rude and I try to be considerate but sometimes I am so interested in the conversation that I forget about the people around us who may not really want to know about carnivorous tomatoes.

One episode particularly stands out for me. During National Novel Writing Month I talked about my novel a great deal. My roommate and I were on the bus. We were going to a Butcher's shop to buy five quail for a potluck. We were both in good spirits having just attended a talk by a brilliant teacher of mine. But my novel was giving me a bit of trouble. My characters lost motivation and my antagonist was mostly reacting at this point and as such could not himself be a motivation. So I was running through various was in which I could get my novel started again, with intermittent bursts of conversation about the talk on biomedical ethics we had just attended. I had just solved the problem with help from my roommate when a man a few seats away said, 'excuse me, do you realize you are very loud?' He was antagonistic. It is understandable because he had not wanted to hear our conversation. Say 'shush' or 'you're being loud' in a firm, quiet voice.

Understand that I do feel a bit guilty about the following. I do not always react well to people being angry at me and this is definitely an example of a poor reaction.

"I'm sorry," I said, "did something I said bother you?"

Here I learned that my poor reaction was somewhat more understandable. I don't mind people shushing me. I do mind them misjudging me. "Yes," he replied. "You think you are intelligent. But you're not. You're stupid. You are pretending to be intelligence and you are so stupid."

I was a little bewildered at this. "I don't think I'm intelligent," I said. It's true. I have rather low self esteem when it comes down to it. It's something I'm working on. I am happy when I understand something and unsurprised if I don't. But that conversation had not been one of self-awareness. If it had I would have known to keep quieter. As it was I was entirely wrapped up in ethics and stories and had no idea of myself or anything else, except possibly my roommate.

"Then why would you be talking so loudly?" He asked, "Obviously you want everyone to hear you because you think you are so intelligent. But you're just pretentious."

Now what he says has a bit of merit. In first year I had Latin 101 at 9:30am. I lived far away and the bus ride took an hour. Every day my friends and I would give up studying for Latin and have absurd conversations. More than once I was approached when riding alone by people who had heard our conversations, found them interesting, and thought it pleasant to speak with me. I was embarrassed by these encounters but also slightly pleased. So I had good reason to suppose that if people overheard our conversation they would know it to be what it was, two happy university students discussing things they loved.

I muddled the poor man, I think. I kept quiet until I stood up to get off the bus. Then I told him not to be afraid of intelligence, and pointed out that it is only a danger if misused and that ignorance on the other hand should always be feared. He disagreed and informed me that intelligence was dangerous and ignorance right way. He actually said that! I think he was terribly confused at this point or he would not have made such a blunder. I do realize that I was in the wrong, but I also see him as an example of a failed attempt to control the thoughts and speech of others. He felt threatened by me and that was why I responded so poorly. Had he known that he was in the right in asking me to be quiet I would have responded positively. That brings up an disturbing issue of how easy it is to control people with the right attitude and at the right moment.


Elisabeth said...

Good grief, what an amazing story.

I'm not sure that I agree with you about this fellow being in the right in asking you to be quiet, unless you were screaming on top of your lungs and it doesn't sound to me as though you were doing that.

If you were screaming on top of your lungs then I suspect the bus driver might have rightfully intervened.

I thing this man is the 'unintelligent' one, perhaps intimidated by your conversation. His response has the ring of envy about it, someone wanting to spoil another's pleasure because it is beyond them.

I susapect he got under your skin, but I reckon such a comment about you pretending to be intelligent would be enough to get under anyone's skin.

I suppose I feel a need support your right to chatter on public transport if you wish.

Of course there are limits - in the dark, on a plane when everyone's trying to sleep, for instance - but this incident is different.

I'd have been inclined to be far ruder to this chap than you were, but then I wasn't there so who am i to judge.

All I can do is offer you my support. And please, don't lose your enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

Liosis said...

Thank you both very much.