Friday, May 28, 2010

The Inside Voice

While sitting in the comfy chairs at Starbucks this morning, my oldest son and I had our conversation involuntarily altered by injecting a lot of what did you say? and can you repeat? Across the room sat a lady who apparently was capable of using her inside voice to converse with her companion suddenly deemed it essential that she needed to speak loudly on her cell phone. Really loudly. It is doubtful that this person ever realizes that her speaking volume is no way associated to her hearing volume?  I was reminded of days of those nice Koss stereo headphones my less astute family members would use while attempting to talk resulting only in raising their own voice apparently for my benefit. A curious reaction to music in their own ears.  So is loud cell use an involuntary reflex of sensory bombardment or simple rude behaviour of the person perhaps presuming that no one cares about being forced to hear their side of a conversation? There may be something else. That is habit.

Often times the excitement of the conversation is driving this need to be louder than what is is considered customary or reasonable for the immediate environment. The person engaged in this one half of conversation is unaware of their action because the other half of the conversation is not there to provide real time visual feedback.  Since cell phone technology is digital, it does not make the signal any better if you are almost yelling or holding it like Captain Kirk talking but without the ability to hear. A bad connection full of incomplete words cannot be remedied by this technique.

Maybe the solution to break this bad habit for the benefit of everyone in earshot is to simply look at the person and clue the clueless by your sudden notice. If that fails, there is always the option to relocate your conversation to their proximity, increase your own volume, and work in the subject of human behaviour and civility. Of course, one could get up and just walk away. But why impact yourself unnecessarily from the burden imposed by others?  One could ask who are you to do this to just confront a social bully? Well, Captain Kirk would argue Who do I have to be? I think the key to civility is expectations and managing these appropriately.  If the offender get mad, you can always say, What? in your loudest non-yell voice.

Of course, you could end up with hot coffee in your face if you live in Brooklyn for making such demands on a person, so there are risks. Ah...stereotypes and archetypes. Where would we be without them!

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