David Placher

I know I am! Many people sit silently, reading their daily newspapers, monthly magazines, or office memorandums on the commuter train. Just because, however, someone sits reading, does not mean their ears do not act as satellites, trying to listen to the first interesting conversation. “Every time I go to clubs, men want to put their hands all over me. I can’t keep them off me. I tell them I’m married, but they still want me; Grinding on me, bumping on me—like beasts in heat.” This is one conversation I trespassed upon, listening to a young woman describing her ventures at dance clubs; it was one conversation I was unwilling to tune-out. My opinion of her was forming as she talked: attention-seeker.

On a separate incident, I was at the Center Bar in Union Station, drinking a beer, and suddenly, this middle aged woman sits beside me. While on the phone she says, “Well, he told me he loved me and that he was going to leave his wife.” We all know where this is going. She was just an adult game piece to a married man, his words keeping her in the game and his marriage keeping him out. Without even knowing the circumstances, I could have turned to her and simply told her the truth. He was not leaving his wife for her—if he was, he would have already. My opinion of her: gullible, home-wrecker, and trashy.

Finally, I happened to be standing at Starbucks, and the lady next to me—while also on the phone—says, “Tell me you love me.” Unless she is taking to a child, if she has to remind a person to tell her he or she loves her, than they probably don’t.

There can also be visual entertainment accompanying words, erupting spontaneously and without warning. “Sir, please have a seat. You cannot stand on the stairs while the train is in motion” the train ticket-taker politely and softly says. The man that is inappropriately standing roars back with a high authoritative voice, “No! Are you going to go in the next car and tell them they need to sit down? You can see them from this car! Look at them!” As other passengers sit uncomfortably on the stiff train seats, they were probably thinking, “what an immature tattletale, just go find a seat.” If others were not thinking that, I was.

Advertising your personal business to strangers or acting difficult in public can be equally dangerous because you set yourself up –fairly or unfairly—for other people to judge. Often, I talk on my cell phone with complete disregard for others that sit near- by when I am on the train or bus. Lately, I discuss my condo association problems with a fellow board member. My language can be very colorful and my accurate description of events can be both amusing and shocking. People listening are probably thinking, “He must be in a condo association from hell.” The time I am available to talk about such matters is limited; my schedule must trump my worries of what others’ think. Could I complain, therefore, if by some random chance a co-worker or potential employer overhears my conversations and starts to alter or form an opinion of me? Could I cry foul– if by some Godforsaken chance—someone overhears my conversations, and is a friend of someone I describe, and repeats it to that person?

When we draw attention to ourselves, purposefully or not, we set ourselves up for unintended and unfortunate consequences. Eavesdropping and letting people eavesdrop on your conversations — by avoiding privacy–is a formula for disaster because you become vulnerable to the harsh weather of reality: the information people learn can lead to an everlasting life storm, destroying everything in its path. So, the next time you are on your cell phone, mindlessly blabbing away, ask yourself the following question: Would I disclose this information and talk like this if my imaginative perfect boss was present?

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